“I'm 51 I should have this sh*t sorted out by now!”
“Why am I here again?”
“I'm still doing this after all the work I’ve done on myself???”
Anybody else have this conversation with themselves?? Add the next layer in and it’s even more judgemental…
“AND I'm a coach!”
I have found myself going through patches of this type of self-judgement and recently experienced a cracker of one! I was looking at my past almost like I’d painted over all the good bits. Blanked out all the progress that I've made in terms of my own personal development, the achievements, the extraordinary experiences.
In my case it’s often about my relationship with food, or exercise, my personal relationships or my parenting. There are patterns that I seem to keep repeating that can appear to keep me stuck in that little revolving door of “I should be better at this” or “I should be more together, more sorted.” “I should know the true core of me and I should be behaving in congruence with that all the time.”
Writing these I realise what enormous expectations I’m landing on myself and how negative my self talk can be. I also recognise that this is almost completely done subconsciously – I am unaware I’m doing it the vast majority of the time. I love this quote from the Welsh minister and doctor David Martyn Lloyd Jones:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”
That subtle difference between listening and talking to yourself, in my opinion, is all about being more aware of what we are saying to ourselves and bringing this type of thinking into the light. By shining the light on it, it seems to lose it’s power (a bit like a vampire in sunlight!). This is not to say it won’t come back and bite us again… it is often an ingrained pattern, hence it’s called ‘habitual thinking’.
Habitual thinking is absolutely part of being human. Our brains are wired to conserve energy. One of the last things it wants to do is make new patterns of thinking when the old ones have been perfectly adequate…. We’re still here aren’t we?? Why expend energy when we might just need that energy to get out of a life and death situation?? That’s why it takes awareness and effort and repetition to make changes to the way we think AND to recognise the changes that we HAVE made.
So… through a culmination of conversations, journalling and general self observation I am trying a different story out in my head. It goes like this…
“I am not back where I started. Yes, it's a repeating pattern. Yes, it's familiar. But when I circle back, I'm in a different place. I am a different person. I have moved on. It's inevitable. I am older, stuff has happened. I am more experienced. I have shifted even if it is ever so slightly I HAVE changed.“
This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus:
“No person ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and they’re not the same person.”
My work, for now, is to recognise the changes I have made. The tiniest of shifts in behaviour, thinking and outlook. Like grains of sand in the river constantly shifting with the flow. We are never truly stuck. What difference will simply recognising this make? You are not where you were before, the pattern maybe familiar; it's not the same.
Here are some questions that maybe useful to reflect on if any of the above resonated for you:
As ever I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and experiences, feel free to get in touch via my email or book a cuppa call!!
AUTHOR: ANNIE LEE
Annie is a coach, coach supervisor & coach adventurer! Warmth, depth & joy sum her approach up in a nutshell!