Is uncertainty guiding your life? 5 tips for conscious-based living in uncertain times.
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Many of us make decisions and live our lives in ways that help us avoid risk, fear or any kind of potential discomfort. And this makes sense.
It makes sense to want to avoid uncomfortable feeling and experiences. Uncertain times only amplify this.
But fear, uncertainty and the potential of discomfort don't have to be in the driver's seat of your life. You can stay in control.
But in order to learn how, let's talk first about where uncertainty and discomfort come from.
Your Inner Critic
Your inner critic is the voice in your head that convinces you to play small so you stay safe.
It convinces you not to take risks, do anything where you might fail, feel embarrassment, shame or vulnerability.
It does this in all kinds of ways, but mostly, by talking to you in really awful ways and making you believe terrible things about yourself, sometimes without you even realizing.
"Don't bother going to that networking event, you won't meet anyone and you might embarrass yourself."
"Don't bother signing up for that class. Your art is nowhere near good enough to pursue and it'll be a waste of money."
"Don't make that phone call, you'll sound like an idiot and they'll think your idea is dumb."
"Don't even try making a go of that idea as a business, it'll never work in this economy and it'll be a big waste of time, effort and money."
Everyone has an inner critic. It develops when we're young as a response to embarrassment and shame to help us avoid it in the future.
For example, mine developed as a response to being told I was a showoff, too bossy, too loud and too confident. I knew that being a 'nice girl' was important and more likely to make me likable and successful so my inner critic decided that I better shut up, sit down and be 'nice'. As a result, any time I have to show what I know or speak up, I hesitate. As you can imagine, that gets in the way of me playing big in my life and my business.
You can start to guess at how your own inner critic developed and what it's saying to you by reflecting on your past. What opportunities have you turned down and why? What do you imagine to be the worst thing other people are saying about you behind your back? What you would be most embarrassed for a room full of strangers to learn about you?
Our inner critics usually tell us things like: "you're no good," "you're not smart enough," "you're not good enough".
They do a great job of helping us avoid shameful emotions and experiences but they also prevent us from enjoying a lot of what the world has to offer but which also requires us to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable.
It's why anyone looking to make a change and step into the unknown in some way, often gives up before they've even started. Your inner critic's job is to kill your dreams.
In the coaching work I do helping people figure out their next move and find the right path for them, facing the inner critic is a huge part of what we do.
Following your dreams involves stepping outside of your comfort zone. Playing big. And anytime you play big, your inner critic feels threatened and tells you whatever it needs to, to make you give up, turn around, and go back where you came from.
The inner critic never goes away, but you can turn it down and learn to turn up the volume on more self-serving voices and beliefs.
Unfortunately, our inner critics are all feasting on the uncertainty of Covid-19 right now.
Covid has us all feeling uncertain and unsteady, which our inner critics don't like. The world feels too risky and scary so it's our inner critics' jobs to say things like: "Best not make a change," or "Best not try too hard or do anything new, uncertain or vulnerable".
I get it. But what saddens me is that this situation, for now anyway, is here to stay and our inner critics are filling up on it, stopping us from making changes to live more satisfying and fulfilling lives.
Don't let your inner critic sit in the driver's seat of your life. Here are 5 ways to stay in control of your own life and direct it in conscious rather than fear-based ways:
1. Filter the fearful messages.
You're in charge of the messages and voices that get sent to your brain, to a great extent. Choose not to focus on negative news or listen to people who are overly negative and fearful.
If you have no choice because it's part of the work you do or the family you have, pay close attention to your reactions to these messages and voices. Make a conscious effort to recognize when you've been overloaded with input from an outside source and watch how your thoughts react. Challenge the thoughts you form as a response to the negative or fearful messages.
2. Take care of yourself and show yourself compassion
Any time we are doing something new, stepping outside our comfort zone or opening ourselves up to vulnerability, we need to be extra loving towards ourselves. Your inner critic feeds on fear, so drown it with love.
Don't wait for others to show you this love, show it to yourself. This isn't selfish or self-indulgent, it will motivate you and will produce action and thoughts from a place of positivity and balance.
3. Take baby steps
Doing new things is scary. Reduce the fear by making your action very small. Plug it into the big picture or track it over time so you can still hold yourself accountable.
4. Shift your perspective
It's not easy, but we CAN choose to see the world in a way that supports us, rather than works against us. You can believe that nothing will work out for you right now. Or you can believe that it will. The facts for and against you are also filtered through your perspective, leaving very little that is undoubtedly TRUE.
If you can decide to believe anything, believe something that serves you. Look for proof that supports that new belief.
5. Practice getting comfortable in the uncomfortable.
None of these steps means shoving your head in the sand and pretending the world's realities aren't what they are. But you can increase your tolerance for feeling uncomfortable.
Mindfulness and non-judgment will help you notice the discomfort without getting swept away by it. Practice accepting what is, rather than wanting to change it or getting caught up in it. This will help you identify the areas you do and don't have control over so you don't feel like you're spinning your wheels or are at the mercy of outside circumstances.
Just because I'm a coach, doesn't mean I'm immune to my inner critic who often tries to tear me down. Or that I'm completely immune to the effects of Covid-19 on the world and human psyches. Covid-19 is definitely feeding my inner critic and I have to work hard to stop it from getting too full on power. Some days, I lose that battle.
But I still choose to believe that we get to control and direct our lives and our minds in a way that allows us to live a purposeful, fulfilling life. Meaning is one of the greatest factors contributing to resilience right now, so why not boost yours with a good dose of life purpose.
If you want my help, book a free consult here.
Challenging your inner critic happens in Step 2 - Get Out of Your Own Way, of my 4-step process to getting unstuck and heading down the right path for you. Learn more about how we will work together to find your next move here.