My interior monologue usually goes something like this:
While getting dressed: “Crap, I think my stomach looks big in this shirt. I shouldn’t have eaten that granola last night. I wish I had the willpower not to eat after 8 at night. Today, no carbs.”
Sitting down to work: “This 200-page novel needs to be edited by Monday. I’m only on page 60. I’m not going to finish. I should have worked harder yesterday. Now I’m going to have to spend the weekend working.”
Walking to the kitchen: “Look at how dirty the floors are. And the kids’ breakfast dishes are still on the counter from this morning. Our house is such a mess.”
Getting ready to work out: “I hope we don’t have to do pull-ups today. I really can’t do them. What if it’s a workout I can’t do? What if it’s really hard? I don’t think I’m going to do well today.”
Fun, isn’t it? It occurred to me the other day, as I laced up my shoes and began my anxious, self-critical mantra, that I do have control over my thoughts. That I don’t have to let this negativity wash over in me waves all day long, but I could replace it with something positive.
I’ll tell you, it’s difficult to change years of conditioning. The first time I tried it I felt like a second-rate soap opera actress spitting out barely-memorized lines. “Today I’m going to focus on my work and finish at least 30 pages. I will push myself at the gym. I will be able to do box jumps, and even though the workout is going to be hard, it will be fun to challenge myself.”
I would like to say that I had my best workout ever, finished my project ahead of schedule, and banished negative thoughts entirely from my mind. That didn’t happen. I ended up working on the weekend and still went around on a little anxious hamster wheel right before the workout, but you know what? My day was so much more enjoyable. It was a relief to get a break from criticizing myself.
Where did I get the idea that to achieve and succeed I have to criticize? It makes no sense, and it is such a habit I was barely aware I was even doing it. I’m trying to break it, trying to stay positive.