Tags: breaking old habits to create new habits, failure, inner critic, London Marathon training, perfectionism, The No Contact Rule, why can't I stay no contact?

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Since the start of this year, I’ve been training for the London Marathon. In order to push myself beyond my own expectations of what I could do (I hadn’t done any long-distance running before), I’ve utilised my own teachings about No Contact, inner critics and perfectionism. A key lesson I’ve learned is: don’t let your inner critic convince you that what you did was a fluke.

When you step out of your comfort zone (the place where your inner critic likes to keep you so that it doesn’t have to be afraid and it can remain in control), your inner critic changes tack. With its contrary ways, it goes from scaring the bejaysus out of you about failure, humiliation, abandonment and other disasters that will befall you, to now acknowledging that you can do [whatever it is]… but claiming it was “luck”.

I started from scratch and felt as if a couple of kilometres was hard work so when the app expected me to run 7k less than three weeks into it, I thought it was crazy. I did it though and ran more than that just a few days later.  The experience taught me an invaluable lesson about life and taking big leaps into the deep end when we want to keep prepping and hanging out in the shallow end: Sometimes we need to take big leaps in order to challenge what we don’t even realise is our small mindset.

We need to bust through our limitations so that even if we doubt ourselves in the future and attempt to regress, we know deep down that we are capable of more.

Let’s say that you were No Contact (this is when you insert some much-needed boundaries into your life by cutting contact with your ex so that you can regain your sense of self, process the loss and begin to move forward). At the start, you didn’t believe that you would make it through a day, never mind a week. You manage 6 weeks before you break it. Deep down, you know that you can do it. You’ve already defied your own expectations.

Us humans are funny creatures and there’s a couple of things that I’ve noticed that we do across all habits we’re trying to break or implement:

1) We talk ourselves out of it. It’s not because we actually can’t do what we’re intending or trying to do but because we ride the emotional train of thought to I’m Not Good Enough.

2) We are afraid of our purpose and our potential. We’re afraid of success and conversely afraid of failure. We fear being out of our uncomfortable comfort zone lest we discover that the stories we tell ourselves, not just about our capabilities with this (the new habit) but also about our past, aren’t true. Why? Because we’d have to change.

Take the breaking No Contact example again:

Much as you might be criticising you for failing, on a much deeper level, a part of you is going, Hold your horses! You do know that you’ve actually been doing pretty good, don’t you? This totally flies in the face of everything you’ve been telling yourself. Maybe you don’t need to be dependent. Maybe this person isn’t the centre of the universe. I think you were hiding out in this relationship.

Yep, that’s some scary stuff for the average human to be confronted with!

In this situation, it’s as if you go, Jaysus! Wait a feckin’ second! I only wanted to break up, to not feel like utter dirt. OK and yeah, maybe I wanted them to feel at least a bit bad and come crawling back claiming that they’ve changed. I’m not trying to confront family stuff or take charge of my life.

So… what happens next when we’re in this situation?

We sabotage. We deliberately, whether we recognise it or not, avoid replicating that previous effort and success so that we avoid the bigger thing that we’re afraid of.

I’ve had clients go through remarkable periods of change. Breakup, move, new career or business, looking and feeling the best they’ve felt in ages, travelling, loving life, maybe even meeting new people or a special someone. Then… they drink the inner critic moonshine.

The inner critic tends to take a different tack. Instead of berating, it forecasts doom under the guise of ‘just’ keeping them abreast of ‘the realities’. Next thing, someone who was feeling confident and hopeful does a sharp turn. Maybe they start comfort eating like there’s no tomorrow. Maybe they call their ex.

On some level they’re afraid that all of this growth is going to blow up in their face and leave them exposed.

It’s not a fluke when, after what may have been a difficult chapter in your life, good things start to happen, especially when you’ve taken strides to try to shift your life in a different direction and are endeavouring, even if it feels weird at times, to take better care of you.

It’s not a fluke. Don’t disregard growth to slide back to an identity that isn’t respecting the truth of who you are. 

In those times when you’re tempted to ‘go back’, to self-sabotage, it’s important to remind you of what you actually want.

Logically, even emotionally, you may want to rise to the challenge in a number of respects but we all have a subconscious. It’s basically our mental filing system of past events and it’s running most of the show.

You might ‘pull the file’ on achievements or view associated ‘files’ (accomplishments, talents, failures, mistakes, success, envy, jealousy, competing and the list goes on). If that file in your subconscious says, “I’m not good enough” (how you feel and your beliefs), you might decide to acquiesce to your inner critic even though you’ve been given an outdated picture of you.

Your subconscious isn’t based on yesterday, never mind the recent past. If, for example, you’re forty like me, it’s stuck in the eighties!

Even if it’s not about being not ‘good enough’, you might be plagued with doubt, giving up or feeling as if the change is ‘wrong’.

New habits don’t feel weird because they’re wrong. They feel weird because they don’t feel true to the identity that you’ve typically associated with.

This is where knowing what you want helps a great deal.

I’ve always seen myself as a sprinter. My identity wasn’t runner or marathon runner. This was based on a vague recollection of a difficult cross country experience at school… thirty years ago. I’m discovering that I am a runner.

Boundaries, self-care, self-discipline, and lots of things have not been part of my identity in the past but they’re part of it now. I didn’t think I could get through a day, few days or few weeks of No Contact and yet, I did. Granted, it took a few attempts but I got there in the end.

Your inner critic and younger versions of you sometimes have distorted and outdated perceptions of your self-image. It’s your job to update and challenge them. It’s your job to put the limitations that you impose upon you to the test so that you can grow. Agreeing with inner criticism that makes you feel rubbish because it corroborates and reinforces negative beliefs, keeps you stuck in the past.

Every little thing that flies in the face of self-imposed limitations is progress.

What you think you can’t do and what you actually can’t do, are two very different things. Allow you to discover this.

Your thoughts?

I’m running for my late father’s hospice and you can donate here. Every little helps.

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