My inner critic was loud, mean, and way more persistent than any voice in my head really has a right to be -- until a little conversation with my son helped me figure out how to overpower its megaphone.
My son came home from school one afternoon and shared that in his PE class they were learning to run. As someone who would rather lie on a bed of nails than force my feet to circle a track, I tried to soften my wince as I turned toward him.
"We're gonna to be able to run a mile or more by the end of the year! Our coach says that if you get tired and you're not at the finish line, you can cheer yourself on."
Well. If you can cheer yourself on, that changes everything.
It's true -- one of the hardest things for me about running is carrying the inner critic, who simultaneously drags her heels into the soft tar and yells in my ear, "Hurry, what's the hold up?" At other times in my life the inner critic felt like the crowd at the Roman arena, hordes of stinky thousands throwing insults and offal, all rooting for me to become the lion's appetizer at the feast.
What if that crowd was cheering for me instead of against me?
What if, when I'm lying with my face in the sand, the crowd knows just what to say to remind me that it's not over, that I am more powerful than I know, that the moment my legs stumble and shake is when I will find within me exactly what I need to leap up and keep going?
It's what I needed all along: a cheering section. Cheering myself on was exactly the opposite of what usually happened when life hurled moldy lemons at me. I had to transform the default mode of letting my inner critic rant about my flaws into drowning out my inner critic with a chorus of voices who wanted to see me smile.
My inner cheering section shouts things like, "Your body is worthy of love no matter what! You're doing a good job! This obstacle you just ran into head first is hard, but you can do it!" I know, they sound like the worst cheerleading chants ever. But they inspire me to dig deep when I've run out of shovels, and that's what matters.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in an arena where the crowd is cheering wildly for you.
They want to see you succeed. They gasp when you fall, and encourage you to wipe the sweat off your brow and not give up. They believe in you, utterly. The crowd even knows that your worthiness doesn't depend on the outcome of any one battle -- win or lose, you will be wiser for it. The crowd loves you no matter what; they don't care if you rip the seat of your pants or flub the most important speech of your life.
You are their hero.
What words does your cheering section shout? What could they say to you that would inspire you most when taking the next step seems pointless? Give your cheering section exactly the words you most need to hear. Imagine your crowd, hear their voices, and let yourself take in their praises, their confidence in you. Let the crowd inspire you to remember who you really are.
When I fall on my face, my inner cheering section makes all the difference in being able to pick myself up, dust myself off, be kind about my pratfall, and get ready for whatever comes next.
This post is adapted from a chapter of Kimber's book 52 Ways to Love Your Body (release date Jan 1 2016).
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