Most of these emails come from conversations I’m having with my people… virtual or gym clients, friends, the Mistress group. Sometimes it can be a one-time remark that results in my brain and heart going deeper with a topic.
But not this week.
I started a new cycle of programming with my personal training clients, which means doing totally new exercises. My philosophy is to be challenging, but not frustrating.
This week there was a lot of consternation and tension around not being able to master a single leg kettle bell deadlift, yoga push up or heels-elevated front cyclist squat on the first try. I heard many disparaging comments about not being able to “get it.”
Would you yell at a baby learning to walk?
I know we’ve all seen babies moving into toddler-hood, drunk-footed, trying to figure out where to put their legs and how to balance as they take those first steps.
Do we look at those little ones doing something totally new and frown at them in angry impatience — “WHY CAN’T YOU FIGURE THIS OUT??? Everyone else can do this! What is wrong with you? Just do better!!!!”
I know you’re picturing that right now! It’s awful, right? Could you yell at that cute face above?? (btw, that is my youngest son, Cash on his 1st birthday!!! 🥰)
Typically, we smile and say encouragingly, “You’ve got this! Keep trying! It takes practice.”
Can you feel the energetic difference?
What’s more motivating??
Being mean or kindness?
Several times this week I would watch my clients’ faces and posture and breath and I would make them stop, then ask — “Are you yelling at the baby?”
Self-Attack is Not Allowed
One of my missions is to call bullshit on insidious self-attack. I’m not the bossy type. Based on leaderships tests I’ve done, I’m much more democratic. But I’m going to be militant about this (and I am with my clients) — no more self attack. I simply don’t allow it in my sessions or in my own brain (and this is always a work in progress).
It is impossible to be joyful and judge yourself at the same time. Would you agree? If you live in a perpetual state of self-attack, when will you be able to feel joy and hope and be proud of yourself?
This isn’t about sunshine and rainbows and toxic positivity — I don’t want you to you keep re-framing and “finding a silver lining” and not being honest with yourself. There are times when more work needs to be done; form isn’t right or decisions were made that didn’t serve what you want or what’s in your heart.
My point is — you’re much more likely to get where you want to be, if you’re not beating yourself up. Plus, then you get to experience what you’re doing in a way that’s actually fun and joyful and more in flow.
I realize (and hope) that you’re not actually yelling, but what are the ways that you discount yourself and minimize your power?
Self-attack usually is in the form:
I should be farther along.
Why haven’t I figured this out yet?
This isn’t good enough.
This is so much easier for everyone else.
I should be or should have…
Why didn’t I…
When you let go of self-attack, you can be more present and happy in the experience of your life.
A Learner’s Mind
I’m not sure what happens when we reach our 30s. We stop looking at life as a chance to learn and start seeing it as “self-help” and we’ve somehow internalized this really shitty message about rugged individualism. Throughout childhood and through our 20s, life is about community and growth and experimenting.
And then most people have kids and our worlds get more “nuclear” and there’s this sense that we need to have “it” figured out. (If someone could tell me what “it” is, I’d appreciate it… I think that means “doing life” in a way that results in a certain amount of money, size house, children and vacation time and the “certain amount” depends on matching the socio-economic status of those around you… and if that happens then clearly, you’re successful and can be done figuring out stuff).
Anyway, my point is, how come we don’t approach things after our 30s with the same kind of openness to learning that we’re encouraged to have before that time?
Things are allowed to be new and unfamiliar no matter how old you are.
You’re allowed to feel wobbly and unsure and take those first steps.
You’re allowed to ask for help. (can we please also get rid of martyrdom, too?? men, you don’t have to solve every f*cking problem and women, rigid independence only makes you lonely and tired).
You’re allowed to say, I’ve never done this before, but I have what it takes.
And mostly, you’re allowed to experience things without yelling at yourself.
Go through the next few days after you read this and when something comes up try out different ways of talking to yourself.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but go ahead and “yell at the baby”… Be as mean as you want to yourself. Let the criticism fly in your mind. Berate, invite name calling, go ahead. I give you permission. (I’m cringing as I write this because self-flagellation makes me incredibly sad…)
I want you to notice how this feels in your body, below your neck. Do your shoulders sag? Do you get a stomach ache? Are you motivated to keep going? Are you emotionally drained?
Now, try the opposite. Be ridiculously positive to yourself! (this might be a challenge in and of itself…). Look in the mirror and smile – “hey sweetie, you’re fantastic.” Channel your inner Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live!!
Play around with what is easier for you — self attack or actually being nice to yourself. I’m guessing that it will be telling yourself about all the ways you could do something better.
This is not an argument for cheesy affirmations. This is an argument for awareness and recognition of all the times you are self-attacking.
Start with simply recognizing when it’s happening, especially the little things.
I call this the Villain’s Voice (aka How to Feel Like Sh!t Forever). Guess what, you don’t have to listen.
We are taught we need to harden up and hustle and push and struggle to get what we want. But I can tell you without a doubt — because I make a living having people move and do things — if the effort is coming from an ugly place, your body and heart will not follow through for you.
You may go through the motions, but the true beauty, the flow, the power, the strength you have inside of you will be capped. I see this happen in real time with my clients. I ask them to relax their faces, take a breath. I tell them, they’re more-than-trying, they’re doing it. When they let this settle in and stop self attacking, something amazing happens… the body takes over and the movement becomes smoother and more powerful. Belief and confidence bubbles up. It’s so freaking cool to watch!!!
I’ll concede that some people are motivated by naysayers because they feel like they have something to prove to others; that isn’t what I’m talking about here. This is about what you are saying to yourself.
Most of us would never yell at a baby learning how to do something. So, why do we do it to ourselves?
Could it be that we are more motivated when we’re kind to ourselves, have a learner’s mind and call bullshit on the Villain’s voice?
How to Fix It
I’m not a fan of top 10 lists for self-improvement. It’s a total crock. Resiliency, strength and wisdom come from living and introspection, not from reading shiny, “do this and your life will be perfect!” social media posts.
It’s always, always a process and an unfurling… just like how the baby learns to walk. Who knows how long it will take and everyone is different. But ultimately, the steadiness will come if you’re willing to face it instead of numbing.
What I personally do is spend time re-connecting to myself to filter out the noise. I pay close attention to when I’m self-attacking and if it is happening, I ask myself where it’s coming from (almost always because of fear).
The biggest thing that made a difference for me wasn’t affirmations, it has been celebrating wins big and small, gratitude for being alive and seeking joy in small moments. No day goes by for me that I don’t acknowledge something beautiful and meaningful to me, and it could be as simple as the way my plant is growing all crazy. My first sip of coffee in the morning. The generosity of my body when I ask it to work hard. The hug from someone in my family I love.
… it is impossible to feel judgment and joy in the same moment.
Let me know how it goes with your experiment of not yelling at the baby. Was it easy? Hard? Where there any themes or times you noticed it happened more?
I’d love to celebrate wins with you, so write me back with three things you’re proud of yourself for this past week.
May you stop self-attack. May you have a learner’s mind. May you seek the steadiness.
P.S. I’m doing a bear hold challenge with my clients, if you want to join along! Here’s a facebook video with some details. This is a perfect time to take part in something new and let yourself get better at it without self-attack.
P.P.S. If you’re still reading, thank you for your time and attention… I know both are so valuable and I appreciate you.