Perhaps it was the early morning workout in a new city or maybe I was having a blonde moment. Either way, I was stuck in a parking lot exit terminal at the Garden Walk in Anaheim, California after finishing up a workout. I was trying to insert my ticket into the machine so that the bar would lift and I could move on with my day. I kept trying to shove the parking ticket in the slot but it wasn’t working for me- it kept rejecting it.
I considered going in reverse and changing lanes to exit; thinking the machine must be broken. But before I did, I happened to look in front of me and felt pretty embarrassed – the bar had been lifted the entire time; parking was free until noon. I was trying to pay for something I didn’t owe.
What is keeping you stuck in an exit stall? What is preventing you from seeing that the bar is wide open for you to leave?
Many people live with destructive habits of self-criticism and self-judgment. This mindset tells us we are unworthy and not good enough. Hence we believe we are unworthy and not good enough. If we listen long enough, our subconscious mind has no other recourse but to accept these thoughts as truth and live accordingly. We live our lives trying to pay fines we don’t owe.
The Cost of Self-Criticism
So how are you paying for this fine you don’t owe? Some payment options include:
- Sleepless nights
- Tormenting fear
- Ailing health
- Feelings of unworthiness
- People pleasing
- The inability to move forward
Put the Bow on 2017
It’s time to put the bow on 2017 and abandon unhealthy thoughts that cause you to release toxic hormones and as a result make poor choices; choices based on negative feelings rather than healthy reasoning.
Research from neuroscience suggests that self-criticism is extremely destructive. It actually shifts our brains into a state of self-punishment that triggers damaging thoughts, causing us to have poor self-esteem and abandon our goals.
Let’s look at 4 ways to exit the parking lot and halt unhealthy thinking habits.
1. Reflective Intelligence
Practice Reflective Intelligence. Reflective Intelligence is an innate ability to allow yourself to be able to notice what is going on inside your body; to feel your emotional reactions so you can shift your emotions to the present. This awareness gives you the capability to stand apart from yourself and examine your emotions and the impact they are having on you so you can choose the emotions you want to feel.
Marcia Reynolds, PsyD and Master Certified Coach, recommends:
- Periodically during the day, observe where in your body you are experiencing the negative emotions
- Create a habit to catch these negative emotions before you act on them
- Shift to a positive emotion such as gratitude or self-compassion
2. Watch Your Mouth
When I was a little girl, my mom never allowed me to use the “S” word. I could never say the word stupid; that was the swear word of all swear words. How often do you call yourself or your actions stupid? Learn to speak a different language to yourself. Think back to what you looked like at age 5 or 6. Visually see yourself talking to that 5 year old you. How would you speak to your younger self? Would you criticize and condemn? Would you speak harshly and belittle that child?
Speak to your younger self with:
- The intent to understand
3. Live in the Present
Do you live in the world of the shoulds: I should have, I shouldn’t have, I should know better?
Shoulds live in the past. No one has a magic wand to change the past so living there is futile. Stop shoulding all over yourself. This only makes the self-criticism and condemnation worse. We were intended to live fully in the present and learn from our past, not vice versa.
A meaningful life is just the sum of meaningful moments. Live in every moment. -Brendon Burchard
4. Choose an Empowering Emotion or Feeling
When you find yourself in a judgment mode and criticizing yourself, assess the situation and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is this mindset costing you?
- What could you do if you did not to have this feeling?
- How is this holding you back?
Then choose an empowering feeling or emotion; one that will give you energy and get you out of self-judgment. The Reflective Intelligence exercise mentioned above, allows you to be aware of emotions that are self-limiting and gives you the power of choice; the ability to choose the emotions you want to have.
Some examples of empowering feelings and emotions are: confidence, brave, alert, prepared, healthy, energized, and creative. Choose ones that resonate with who you truly are and what you want to feel.
It hit me pretty hard that day in the parking garage exit of how much of life is wasted living with unhealthy thoughts of guilt, self-criticism, self-judgment and condemnation. Life is very short, don’t stay in the exit line trying to pay for the ticket -.drive away and enjoy your day because every day is a great one filled with hope and purpose.