This is Part 5 of a multi-part article by Pam Garcy. Each week Cultivate Life! Magazine will bring the next section until the article is complete.
I might surprise you with the first thing I'm going to say--I'm sure most of you are not expecting me to go here. But, here it is: Critical thinking is a great skill! It helps you to determine what is right or wrong for your life. It helps you to decipher which information is potentially useful, and which may become detrimental. It keeps you on your toes! Ironically, this is actually part of the problem...
You see, we have learned to trust critical thinking, because often it saves us from harm and often steers us in the right direction. Think about when Mom or Dad told you that you were too close to the fire--this information kept you from getting burnt. If they told you that you were staying up too late, that you were eating too much, that you weren't studying enough, what did you do? You might have changed your behavior and gotten better results, leading you to buy into the idea that criticism is helpful. Indeed, criticism in these examples often stemmed from love.
That part is fine. The unfortunate thing is that some of you have actually become complacent and even lazy when it comes to critical thinking. You go only half way with it. You decide that the first critical thoughts that come to you must be right, simply because they're critical. Then, you choose to accept some half-baked critical thoughts as accurate when they may not be at all! CRITICAL has become confused with COMFORTABLe.
This is especially true when it comes to the "self". Self-criticism is often steeped in half-baked thought.
An example: Starra looked in the mirror and decided she was ugly--she had a pimple on her nose. She accepted this half-baked thought and went about her day, carrying herself as though she were defiling the environment around her.
So, if Starra were in therapy, what would we do to create growth?
We might help Starra by asking her to finish "baking" her idea. How do we finish baking this idea? One way is to finish what she started--CRITICIZE THE CRITICISM! If the criticism holds up, then maybe it is well founded. Often, it folds easily with a little perseverance.
Starra is probably focusing in on one aspect of herself, and is totally ignoring all the other aspects. So, Starra could start by saying, "Just because I have a pimple on my nose, it doesn't mean that I'm ugly. I have many other appealing aspects to my external beauty--and more importantly, to my internal beauty. A pimple is probably only a sign that my body is ridding itself of toxins, and it is normal for people to have these at times."
(If Starra were really courageous, she could go even deeper and address the premise of her "musts" regarding ugliness and beauty. She may be holding a deep belief that she must always appear beautiful. When she is ready, she could ask herself, "What law is there that I must be pretty all the time or ever? Who says I must look one way or another in order to fulfill "beauty" and how do they arrive at that definition? Who shall I allow to define beauty for myself? What is the cost of calling myself ugly? What is the benefit? Is there any other way to look at this pimple on my face?").
When it comes to yourself, do you decide that your critical thoughts are accurate, before even looking at any alternatives? Do you ever challenge your self-criticism? Or, do you think it must be right because it is critical, and critical is comfortable? Do you ever ask yourself if it is true? Do you determine whether it is serving you to hold onto half-baked ideas?
So, I'm not telling you to shut your voice up. Just finish the thinking. The plan is to enact critical thinking not just critical!
Resignation: "I never get anywhere, so why try?".
There are days in which you might believe that you never get anywhere. You want to give up. You want to throw in the towel. All that you notice on those days are the things that haven't worked, and it seems like nothing ever works.
Unfortunately, some of you take these days far too seriously. You use them as an excuse not to try anymore. You give up on yourself, and then you quit.
Quitting can take many forms, not just giving up.
Sometimes, it can take the form of hiding. You hide from others and even from yourself, burying yourself in other tasks that prevent you from looking yourself in the eye.
Other times, it can take the form of engaging in self-destructive behaviors; out of self-hatred, you might do things to punish or hurt yourself.
Still other times, it can take the form of self-sabotaging; you take actions which ultimately undermine yourself because you've decided that you're no good & don't deserve to succeed.
These behaviors are forms of what psychologists call avoidance responses, because they alleviate the anxiety that comes up for you when you start taking risks. Avoidance responses are behaviors that alleviate anxiety as you avoid the task that challenges you.
THE TRUTH DOESN'T ERASE...
The deal with quitting and other avoidance responses is that they are temporary fixes. You temporarily feel better when you do them. Over time, when you avoid doing what matters, guess what happens? Do you think that you erase what matters? You know the answer, but I'll write it anyway--you don't.
You really can't run away from it. It still pops up for you, sometimes as thoughts in your head and sometimes as feelings in your heart. (And if you're really out of tune, it'll pop up as reactions in your body.).
You know when you're being untrue to yourself and your greater purpose, because the truth doesn't erase.
So, if you're considering the resignation path, I have a question for you. Think about any times you've given up in the past, and ask yourself: Is it harder to do what matters to you and sometimes encounter fear, growing pains, and resistance--or is it harder to avoid doing what matters to you & continuing to deny your personal truth?
When you really stop and look at it, you might find that despite the sacrifices, it is actually easier in the long-run to do what matters than to avoid it. The cost of avoiding it is pretty steep and you pay for it every day.
LITTLE BUDS LEAD TO BIG FLOWERS...
"Okay," you say, "But I feel so discouraged that I'm not seeing the final results of my efforts, so why keep working at it?".
Why try: 1. You'll feel better about yourself when you're working at it. 2. The most effective way to see results is to keep working at it over time--if you give up, you probably won't see results. 3. You might be forgetting about the little results that you've already attained. Can you think back over the past few weeks? What growth have you seen in yourself? What have you already accomplished, even if you think it is only little? Are you appreciating yourself for what you've already done?
Perhaps these little results are actually the first signs of bigger things to come, much like little buds that eventually bloom into big and beautiful flowers!
Keep on keepin' on! There's only one you and you're meant to bloom!
You can learn more about tuning into yourself. Look for The Power of Inner Guidance: Seven Steps to Tune In and Turn On by Dr. Pam Garcy.
PhD is a Psychologist and Coach in Dallas, Texas. If you'd like a
partner in reaching your goals and overcoming the obstacles that seem
to stand in your way, please contact Dr. Pam for coaching at
email@example.com. Dr. Garcy offers a special 10% coaching discount to
all valued subscribers of Cultivate Life and to customers of
Trans4mind.com. Dr. Pam's best-selling books - including the
bestsellers The Power of Inner Guidance: Seven Steps to Tune In and
Turn On and Wake Up Moments of Inspiration