Coping with Our Inner Critic

Are You Your Own Bully?

When most of us think of the word “bully”, we can easily conjure up memories of that rough obnoxious kid at our school who terrorized the playgrounds, cafeteria, hallways and even lurked around in the bathrooms.

I bet you remember his/her name.

That mean kid who did mean things.

And while the image of that school bully is easy enough to imagine or remember, many of us are unaware of the bully that lives within us.

The bully in our heads.

Yep.

Our own worst critic ~ ourselves.

Many of us say meaner things to ourselves than we would ever consider saying to anyone else.

I’m an idiot!

I’m always messing up!

What is wrong with me?

Everyone is going to laugh at me

Everything bad always happens to me…

And while this language is pretty strong, research suggests that various levels of negative self-talk is common. Some of us can actually go round and round like a boxer in a ring beating ourselves up with harsh hurtful words about our slightest mistakes throughout an entire day.

Exhausting.

Why do we do this?

We learn at an early age that harsh language is a form of punishment for unwanted/imperfect behavior:

You were such a bad boy today. You’re so lazy. You remind me of your stupid ______.

Kids are impressionable.  If they hear negative messages about themselves repeatedly by their parents, relatives or significant others in their environment, they may eventually take these messages on as “truth” about their character. These messages can develop into beliefs that become the building blocks of how they conceptualize their lives. Children look to others to help them discover who they are and how they fit in.

What this all means is this:

If we’ve grown up with issues of low self-worth due to childhood experiences or other factors that have contributed to low self-esteem, we’re more likely going to spend more time listening to and being dictated by negative self-talk. Our own form of punishment for our own imperfect behavior.

Here’s the good news:

Negative self-talk can be redirected and become less intrusive when:

*We first acknowledge and become more aware that we’re allowing ourselves to be held hostage by our own internal enemy – our negative inner voice. When we do our best to identify the origin of this constant self-criticism (childhood? family? or other influential factors like trauma or anxiety) we gain clarity as to why we think so little of ourselves. We can seek out support, work from there, and decide that this habit of self-harassment is no longer acceptable and that our inner bully has got to go into permanent after school detention.

 

*We can then challenge our inner critic by answering back and questioning our negative inner voice. We can call out our inner bully by asking ourselves questions like the following:

Is what I’m saying about myself really true? Really?  Seriously?

Am I exaggerating?

What are the odds that this is as bad as I think?

Questions like these can help de-catastrophize and neutralize thoughts/feelings about whatever mistake has triggered our voice of negativity.

It’s also helpful to avoid absolute all or nothing terms like always, never and every time.

Words like these when used in a critical negative voice only exaggerate the feelings of self-criticism and judgment.

 

*From here we can begin to practice replacing negative words with more positive forgiving words and phrases when we’re stressed out about something we did like:

Even though I made this mistake today, I see what I did wrong and am going to try to change it (make it better).

Even though I was totally off today, I’ll try harder next time and see if that makes a difference.

Identify the error and then balance it out with self-compassion.

It’s about allowing ourselves to be human, flaws and all, yet continuing to strive for our best.

And yeah, maybe you have to fake it till you make it but with practice good habits can be created.

“So reason with it.  Tell it how strong you are. And remind it that kindness trumps criticism,” Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Aging Gracefully: Part II

The Cane Chronicles

Hilda

 

Last year I wrote a blog about aging gracefully.

I emphasized the need to accept our natural bodily changes with dignity, push our egos aside and celebrate the privilege of growing older.

And then it happened.

One morning about a month ago I could hardly get out of bed.

I assumed I was having an arthritic flare up in my left knee.  I had these flare ups a few times in the past. But not like this.  This was a bad one.

The doctor confirmed that it was arthritic inflammation. He gave me a cortisone shot and hoped that my knee would respond as well as it had in the past.

Nope.

Advil. Ice/Heat. Heat/Ice. Advil.

Repeat.

The recovery time was taking longer than I had hoped and I was becoming increasingly more frustrated with my self-imposed lock down on the couch.

 My ego held me hostage in a place of fear. I was longing for simple activities like just leaving the house to make a quick stop at the grocery store. But walking was a challenge.

 I was afraid to leave the house for fear that I would fall and maybe break a hip…yikes!  My balance was off and my thinking was self-defeating.

Life interrupted.

And then while icing and heating my knee on the couch one night, I read an article on “How to get through arthritic flare ups”. Apparently, I was following all the recommendations except the last one: “let go of any shame and self-judgment regarding the use of supportive devices that could assist in your mobility; i.e. canes, walkers, scooters, etc.” The article said that unless one was bedridden, it was important to stay mobile if only in short spurts.

Whaatt???!  Was it time to invest in a cane????

My ego went into full overload:

Ego: “What would people think if they saw me using a cane? Are people going to see me as an old lady? Am I getting old? If anyone asks, can I just lie and say I was involved in an adventurous activity that injured my knee (skydiving?)”

Me: “Get over yourself. No one would ever believe you jumped out of a plane for fun. Get a grip and stop playing the victim! You need help…don’t be afraid to ask for it!”

So even though my ego was still blathering in my ear, I mustered up the courage to hobble into my local CVS the next day and asked for the cane display aisle.

And within minutes I saw her.

She had an ordinary look but I could tell she was for me. When I placed my hand around the handle, I immediately felt a connection.

I felt supported and balanced by her.  She took the burden off my achy knee and was my ticket to mobility.

Freedom!!!

I named her Hilda.

She was the inner warrior I needed to give me the confidence to be out in public, flaws and all, and not care what I assumed others might think of me.

I was pleased at how much easier and less painful it was to walk around the grocery store with Hilda and was surprised with how much help I got from others. For the first time I can remember, I actually had a guy, who by the way called me Ma’am, (I have to let that go) run across the parking lot and asked if he could take my cart back to the store after I emptied out the groceries. At first, I hesitated, once again trying to do everything for myself, but then gave in, and said thank you and released the cart. It felt good to get some help.

Being a martyr can be exhausting.

Oh…and on a side note, I have to say that I found some other good uses for my cane.  I used it the other day as a pointer when I wanted to point something out in a distance to a neighbor…and…I killed a spider with it (RIP). I’m feeling very comfortable now with my aide.

So, what’s the message here?

 Let go of critical mind chatter when you need support. Push your egos aside.  Asking for help has no age limits.  It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humility and strength.

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Biological Clock

As we turn the pages of our calendar with each birthday, we’re reminded that another year has passed, we’re another year older and our bodies innately continue the rhythm of natural aging with or without our approval.

For most of us, each new year brings with it a list of goals we’d like to cross off our list within a specific period of time.

Our lists can be specific or assumed and start early in life. High schoolers usually have some type of graduation plan in place by age 18. By age 21 most young adults are trying to make career decisions in hopes to get started early on the “right” financial path for their future.

From there, the clock keeps ticking.

Marriage? Starting a family?

The biological clock.

For women who want children, the biological clock can feel like Cruella de Vil looming over your shoulder. Fertility can decline by a certain age and the pressure of getting married and having children by your 30’s – 40’s can feel like a race against time.

And then there are the empty nesters.

Those of us with no children at home who are either retired or are planning to retire soon.

For many of us in this midlife age group, we can find ourselves thinking more about who we are outside of our families and who we might be outside of our jobs when we’re ready to retire.  

Of course self-introspection can happen at any age or stage in our lives but those of us entering our 40’s, 50’s and beyond can often find ourselves in a time of transition.

Closing chapters in our lives and hopefully opening new doors.

More curious about what was and what can still be.

I call this the Wonder Years.

Some refer to this as a midlife crisis.

I prefer to see it as a reckoning…or an awakening.

An awareness of past disappointments, regrets or choices that could use healing or reframing. Maybe a time to renegotiate and make peace with the expectations of what we thought was supposed to have happened in our lives that didn’t. Gracefully letting go of what was not meant for us.

And maybe it’s about reshaping our roles and identities to fit new chapters in our lives with clearer visions of our own personal desires.

All great stuff!!!

And as we continue to explore what it is we really want and begin to realize that our mortality is real ( yikes ) many of us begin the list…

The Bucket List.

The biological clock for seniors. What some believe is the Holy Grail.

The magical list of all the things we’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have Time for and because we’re at that certain age it has to be done before Time runs out.

Eeek!!!  So much pressure.

And this pressure can include how to answer some of the questions people might ask about this infamous Bucket List.

What exotic plans do you have on your Bucket List?

What countries are you planning to visit?

What’s the wildest thing you have planned now that you’re retired?

 

Uhmmm…How do you answer these questions?  

Maybe all I want is a simpler life…maybe I just want to do more nature walks or more visits to the beach or just sit in my backyard with my second cup of coffee and wonder.

Boring?

Early in my retirement, I admit I used to feel judged and somewhat ashamed that my bucket list was so simple as compared to others…maybe not as Hollywood-ized and exciting as others wanted it to be. I even wondered if there was something called Bucket List Shaming which could be defined as the disappointment you feel from others when your list is simpler than what you think they had hoped it would be.

But I’ve long moved past these feelings of shame and am much more understanding that people can often ask well meaning but awkward questions. Maybe it’s just that we sometimes feel the need to impose our fantasies and expectations on others…opinions on what we think should be done at various milestones in our lives.

But why wait until retirement to start a bucket list?

Do what you love when you can.

Stop watching the clock.

As our lives shift, our lists may shift as well but don’t miss out on what you can be doing now because you’re waiting for circumstances to be lined up perfectly or for a certain age. This can keep you in a holding pattern while the clock ticks on.

As cliche-ish as this sounds make the most out of life NOW regardless of your age. Bring meaning, fulfillment and happiness to the time you do have.

Be You,

Do You,

For You.

And remember,

“Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.”

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Unexpected Kindness from Strangers

Over the span of our lives, we have all borne witness to the devastation that natural disasters and other mass related deaths can leave behind.

Due to the availability of today’s social media, we’ve been able to watch many of these tragedies unfold from the comforts of our living room. We’re able to listen to and catalog just about every harrowing detail of each publicized tragedy. Many of us find solace in the acts of kindness from strangers that seem to emerge during these distressing catastrophic events.

While it always inspires me to hear stories about the innate goodness of others who lend a helping hand during a crisis, I am also amazed by the kindness that so many people offer for the smaller, less critical, everyday things in life. Graciously letting someone cut ahead of you in line or offering to help carry someone’s groceries who seems to be struggling is simple kindness without expectation…just because.

In my corner of the Universe, I recently had some acts of kindness come my way from strangers during a very non-critical, utterly ordinary, yet frustrating time.

Here’s what happened:

I ordered a chair online.  The day of its expected delivery it was pouring rain.  I made a point of being home all day perched at my living room window so I could see when my chair was delivered. I didn’t want my chair to spend any unnecessary time out in the elements. As it got closer to 5:00pm I became concerned.

No chair.

I then checked my email and noticed that FedEx sent a confirmation that my chair had already been delivered to my front door hours ago…whaatt???!!  I threw open the door and walked up and down my walkway several times to make sure that somehow, I didn’t miss a 60lb box that had been delivered.

It wasn’t there ☹.

I even drove around the neighborhood for a while hoping it was sitting on someone’s front stoop. Nope.

I then called Wayfair (the online company that I ordered the chair from) and spent what seemed like an eternity with the nicest representative I’ll never meet. Her name was Corinne.  Corinne listened very patiently to my frustration and helped me process two major possibilities: my chair was either delivered to the wrong address and the recipients decided not to call and report it or my chair was lost and abandoned out there somewhere.

We kibitzed about the moral compass of anyone who would keep a purchase that did not belong to them and also how hard it was to accept the error of a delivery guy who continued to claim that he delivered my chair to the right address. Corinne and I shared stories about how hard it can be sometimes to let go and move on.  She understood.  She got me.

A new chair was then ordered (no charge to me) and was due to arrive within two weeks.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my original chair was somehow nearby. On a hunch, I called the realtor who’s in charge of the new condo complex next to me and asked if my chair had been delivered there by any chance.

And it was.

It was waiting patiently for me on the porch of their front office. Delivered to the wrong address. The realtor hadn’t been there all week and was not aware it was there until I called.

I happily walked over and was greeted warmly by a crew of workers who endearingly call themselves the “Dirt Crew”. Without any hesitation, they offered to load my chair into the back of their truck and drive it over since there was no way I could get it over to my house by myself.

They would not take any money for their time or efforts.  Just an act of kindness for a stranger.

I cancelled the order for my new chair and was told it had already traveled to Arizona and was on its way to Massachusetts.  I felt badly that it might have been catching some nice rays in such a warm place ( Maria daSilva’s comment )

but my loyalty was to my original chair…

So, why did I write a blog about a lost chair?

Simply because the kindness of Corinne and the Dirt Crew are great examples of the innate goodness that ordinary people can offer in ordinary ways and make a big difference.

The kindness from strangers is not usually planned out.  It can arrive in unexpected forms with no way to pay them back but with a heartfelt thank you.  Spontaneous generosity of someone’s time and effort toward a stranger speaks volumes of their character and their heart…their response to someone’s vulnerability.

 

I’ll end with a big thank you to all the Corinnes and Dirt Crew helpers out there!

 

Thank You for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Too Good To Be True

OR…

    waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

Heard this before?

How often do so many of us hold our breath, cross our fingers and reach for our lucky rabbit’s foot (never understood why a dismembered part of an animal can bring luck) when we think something is too good to be true?

 

Is it too risky to just believe that something wonderful can happen without keeping

ourselves suspended in doubt?

For some of us, being doubtful of good fortune is a coping mechanism that can help protect us from disappointment and feelings of gullibility when our expectations don’t work out.

Is it more comfortable to say to ourselves?

I knew it! I knew it was too good to be true!” “I was right!”Nothing is that good.”

 Or can we give ourselves permission to believe that something wonderful just might be possible even though it sounds too good to be true and hope for the best?

And if the best doesn’t work out can we risk disappointment?

That depends on how we’ve conditioned ourselves to navigate through life’s hurdles.

We can try to shield ourselves from life’s disappointments by maintaining a “I’m not going to believe it till I see it” attitude. This might, on some level, help some of us prepare for any sadness we might feel when things don’t pan out.

But when we routinely resist believing that something spectacular can actually flow into our lives, we may actually be feeding a low level of self-worth… “Am I really worthy of this great event, situation, relationship, etc….do I deserve this?”

And are we robbing ourselves of the present level of happiness we may experience by imagining this wonderful possibility?

So, what if it doesn’t turn out the way we imagined it?

We take a deep breath, process and reframe:

“Even though that didn’t work out the way I had hoped, maybe next time it will”

“Even though that was disappointing, it’s ok.  I’ll get through this the best way I can”

“Let me think of something else that might work out better”

“Even though I thought for sure this was the real deal, I can work on letting it go.”

 

Maintaining an optimistic life perspective with a belief that things are good enough to be true, even if that risks vulnerability, helps us to stay open, connected and in the present. It is from this place of trust that we can be more available to learn and grow from different situations and outcomes which keeps us moving forward.

 

*Thanks Sylvia 😊

So, the next time something wonderful shows up in your life, instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, keep your feet firmly planted and repeat in your best positive mantra voice,

 

“I believe!

“I believe!

“I believe! “

 

*It’s important to note here that during any dark times in our lives (sudden illness, significant financial loss, mental health issues, etc.)  it is challenging at best to maintain an optimistic attitude when there are significant reasons to be concerned about an outcome. It is during those times of grief that doubt and heavy heartedness are certainly understandable but this is not the focus of today’s blog.

 

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Embarrass Easily?

Fear of Judgement

*Theorists have studied the link between shame and embarrassment to the Fear of Judgement extensively over the years. This is a multifaceted and complex subject.

Today’s blog simply illustrates how easily we can experience this Fear of Judgement in our everyday lives in the form of an innocent misstep in public.

Can you remember the last time you tripped or stumbled awkwardly in public?

Second to helping yourself up, dusting yourself off and checking for any broken bones, what did you probably do next? Or maybe even first?

If you’re like me, you probably looked around to see who bore witness to your fumble and thought the following:

“Did anyone see me do that?

How did I not see that pebble or that elephant?

So foolish…

Why do I feel flushed?”

A few weeks ago, I was on my morning walk engrossed in the sights and sounds around me when I stepped right into wet cement.  AARGHHH!! NOOOO!!!

I didn’t notice there was fresh cement right in front of me on one of the new sidewalks in town.

While it would have been acceptable if this were Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the heart of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame it was instead a Walk of Shame in Pembroke, Massachusetts.

Me:

“I cannot believe I didn’t notice this was wet cement!

Who saw me?  How do I explain this?

Why wasn’t I more focused?  What was I thinking?  Ughhh!”

I was so embarrassed.

And so, it goes.

We can quickly shift into shame and self-criticism for even a minor mistake…but especially a mistake made in public.

Why?

“We want – and need- to be valued by others” – Thomas Hendricks, Ph. D

When we expose our flaws, especially in public, we wonder if “our value” to others will be judged…” what will they think of me now?”

Embarrassment is a primal emotion that dates back to our tribal origins.  “It is an emotion that signaled to us that we weren’t contributing to our tribe and could lose our standing…maybe even death.” – Huffpost 2016

Yikes!

While I doubt any of us in today’s world fear death for any mistakes made in public (well, I hope not), we are still hard wired to feel some level of shame when our imperfections are exposed. 

As social creatures, our public mask and outward presentation helps us stay in character.  It is how we want others to perceive us.  

“All it takes is a fall to suck the coolness right out of you” – Ellen Degeneres

Ha!

The fear of judgement from others when we are not at our best (especially in public) can easily feed into any existing insecurities we may already have about ourselves and shake our confidence (public speaking is another good example).

So, while it may be human nature and instinctual to stop, drop and look around when we experience an unexpected stumble and lose our balance, it is the extent and length of our inner dialogue (level of self-criticism) that determines whether we stay stuck in feeling “less than”.

No one is perfect; awkward public missteps happen and the fear of judgement is in the eye of the beholder. The sooner we can let go of our embarrassment and discomfort about our imperfections, the sooner we can get to where we were going.

*Note to self:  It’s ok that you stepped in wet cement Brunnie. You were able to get someone to fix it and smooth it over. It could have happened to anyone.  Relax and let it go…”

So, until the next blog:

Have a nice trip and see you next fall.

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

*Wordpress seems to format differently with email versus cellular devices. If the video does not pop up automatically at the end of the article, just click on the word video above.

Funny Ellen video on embarrassment in public

 

 

Aging Gracefully

What does that mean exactly?

And is there an ungraceful versus graceful way to notice the changes of our aging mind and bodies?

Let’s see…

Is it ungraceful to be surprised by the unruly random facial hair I sometime notice in the mirror now while waiting for the traffic light to change on a sunny day?

Is it ungraceful to cautiously, yet automatically, grab on tight to the railing when approaching a steep set of stairs to make sure I don’t slip and fall and maybe break a hip?  

Is it odd that I can sometimes go into a room and forget why I went in there? And even more odd that I then begin to get involved with something else that I’ve decided needs my attention?

What about mixing up the names of my children and grandchildren and yes, even their pets on occasion? Ok…well maybe more than just on occasion.

Is it ungraceful to have an ongoing emotional dilemma over whether to let go of my landline after all its years of service?  Waahhh…breaking up is hard to do.

And what about those moans and groans that seem to happen involuntarily when I stand up from a position I’ve been sitting in for a while? Yikes!  When did I turn into an old man?

So, as I look over this list that could definitely be longer, I wonder if I’m aging gracefully, ungracefully, or just simply aging?

Unless the fountain of youth has officially been located, we are all aging in every moment of every day.

While there are a gazillion anti-aging products, surgeries, tucks and lifts available to us that can help smooth out the noticeable changes of gravity and elasticity in our bodies, in the end, you can run but you can’t hide.  Death shows up for all of us regardless of how much work or money we’ve put forth into masking our aging appearance. Some of us may just look firmer and more supple in our caskets than others.

“She’s 90 years old but she looks great!

She looks at least 10 yrs. younger due to that excellent face lift she had a few years back!  What’s the name of that cosmetic surgeon???”

I saw an add recently that I thought was hilarious. It’s about knowing what your Age Give-Away Zones are. Seriously?  Do we really need to be educated about this?

Nora Ephron wrote a book entitled, “I Feel Bad About My Neck”, in which she states that if you want to know how old someone really is, you just have to look at their necks regardless of any surgeries and attempts made to hide their chronological age. Too funny ~ yet so true.

So, what is the message in today’s blog?

Just be who you are.

Maybe aging gracefully is about how we choose to experience and live our lives as we turn the pages in the calendar.

While each birthday brings its own set of changes and adjustments to gray hair and wrinkles, it is still a privilege to grow older. Not all of us have this gift.

I can live as if I’m waiting for my last breath or I can live my life as fully and as happily as possible with wrinkles and all.

For me, maintaining healthy habits, staying active and connected to a strong support system while savoring and enjoying the  moments of every day that I’m alive is how I choose to grow older and not just get old.   I’m keeping it simple with lots of laughter and gratitude along the way:

I have adopted the following mantra:

Is this graceful or ungraceful?

 

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood