Inner Demons? More Like Allies.
The inner critic is sneaky, often mistaken as a voice of reason who knows what’s best for you. For a long time I was under the illusion that my own inner critic–the barrage of “shoulds” running through my head, covered in guilty sauce–was me. I identified with its thoughts, reacting to the shame-inducing knot in my stomach as a sign that I’m on the path to wrongful decay and failure. To this day I’m still untangling these thoughts from my true Self–the inner leader who knows I’m worthy and perfect no matter what.
Once on Christmas Day–the biggest day of self-indulgence ever–I spiraled into incessant mental and physical activity, because I didn’t feel comfortable allowing myself to “waste” a whole day relaxing. I reorganized my bookshelf, anxiously looked for something to clean, and ended up just feeling like a miserable sack of garbage.
I’ve learned that my inner critic fears I’ll become lazy, unfocused, and out of control if I don’t restrain and discipline myself. Pleasure, rest, and stillness have historically felt threatening to my body.
But I’m not here to throw shade on the inner critic–because it’s just doing its job to keep me safe. It’s a protector whose voice was programmed to keep me busy, productive, and ultimately successful.
I’ve learned to separate my Self from the inner critic, so I can choose how I want to respond to that voice. Choice is gold. Sometimes I listen to it to better understand its positive intentions (without giving in to its whims). But ultimately, I lovingly tell it, “no thank you” and I refocus on how I want to show up instead.
I’m not battling inner demons. I’m befriending my allies.
The inner critic is a key player for women who have a tendency to control themselves.
Assuming you’re not an overprivileged nepo baby who’s conditioned to believe you can have everything you want whenever you want it, then you most likely resemble the rest of us–women who’re unconsciously harboring patriarchal beliefs that you’re never enough and you must always do more to be worthy.
Self-restraint is a highly revered quality. So naturally, clients ask me how to change their pleasure-seeking habits. They berate themselves for wasting time on social media, procrastinating, or not getting out of bed early enough (because 7am is too late, apparently?). These are clients who are extremely hard-working, highly educated, and very successful.
But guess what?
They don’t need more self-discipline.
They don’t need more self-control.
They need to gift themselves with radical, life-changing permission to be in their pleasure.
If you’re an overachieving perfectionist, you don’t need to be more stingy with yourself, whether it’s sleeping in, playing with your vibrator, or taking time off work.
That doesn’t mean you need to continue compulsively indulging in your habits. The difference is choice.
Many women find pleasure of all kinds to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in their body. Not surprisingly, opposing qualities like productivity and self-restraint feel much “safer” instead, so they white-knuckle their way through urges and impulses to such an extreme that their body rebels against this military-style agenda–which leads them to “self sabotage.” Because here’s the truth: your body does not respond well to do-or-die self-discipline routines.
Allow me to put the spotlight on this concept of self-sabotage for a moment.
I’m asking you to get out your microscope to dissect this idea with me.
Sabotage is to destroy something, right? Think of the last time you showed up a certain way that you would describe as self-sabotaging. Personally, I think of the day I sabotaged Christmas with my relentless need to stay busy. Now notice how it feels to say to yourself, “I sabotaged myself. I destroyed that situation.” Observe how it feels to blame yourself. Do you feel shame for not “knowing better”? Do you feel guilty because you couldn’t control it?
This idea that we’re supposed to be 100% in control of how we show up is… how do I put it?
A flat-out lie.
THIS is Self-Love
I’m a huge believer in personal responsibility. We’re absolutely responsible for our behavior, but not in the prevailing way that was fed to us in school, at church, etc.
Procrastination isn’t a sign that you’re a bad human. Relapsing into old habits isn’t an indication that you’re broken. Teeter tottering between indulgent activities and self-sacrificing restraint isn’t your fault.
We all have habits and tendencies that aren’t “healthy” and don’t reflect our best self. I’m all in favor of change-work and transforming patterns through integration and rewiring your brain and nervous system. However, every habit has a positive intention underneath it, because your body’s wisdom is always at play.
Ninety-five percent of your cognitive activity is unconscious. The unconscious mind is in charge of your emotions as well as your impulses and many of your beliefs and actions.
What I’m saying is, be less surprised when you don’t show up perfectly put together. Be more lovingly curious why that is.
If you prevent yourself from consciously choosing pleasure (whether it’s passively resting or actively indulging), then your body’s gonna “act out” against your conscious, over controlled behaviors. It may be the case that a part of you needs to be seen and heard so it hijacks your conscious efforts to be perfect. These “self-sabotaging” tendencies can reflect myriad inner needs that are trying to get your attention.
So how does it benefit you to think of your less-than-ideal behaviors as “self-sabotaging”? What if you reframed these tendencies as self-protecting? Self-preserving? Self-proclaiming?
When you get comfortable allowing yourself to rest–despite everything that’s unfinished–you won’t need to resort to self-controlling tactics to show up as your best self. You can let go of your inner critic’s death-grip on trying to over control yourself and your environment. It will start to feel so much easier and natural to be your amazing true Self.
When you practice: being in your pleasure + de-shaming your habits + tools to change your brain = you get to reclaim the truth of your mind, body, and soul.
Yes, you can change your compulsive habits and practice being in your pleasure and still slay every day. You don’t have to choose one or the other. Get used to the paradoxical life.
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