The 16 year old girl in me is fierce.
As a result of growing up in care, she is a survivor.
I am alive because of her pragmatism.
I haven’t needed her so much for a while, having moved on from merely surviving to thriving.
However, recently I took one of my ‘say-yes-first-and-work-out-the-details-later’ steps and found myself being authentic and vulnerable in order to encourage others.
That itself was a bold move, but it also meant dealing with higher levels of anxiety than usual.
It was a bit like ditching my iPhone for a Nokia 8310.
The techniques I'd used as a 16 year old were out of date and didn’t help.
Anxiety seeped out from my work to my family life and soon I went beyond worrying about what might happen to conducting a constant internal monologue of fear.
It was time to regroup.
My bold moment was asking a psychologist for more strategies.
I had used all of my resources and was still stuck so I naturally sought out an expert for advice on my next steps.
I knew it would be a challenge, but I wasn’t expecting the bombshell of realisation she dropped on me in the first session.
She pointed out that my drive was well-developed (be a catalyst for change!), my perception of threat was larger than average (what if…) and, most alarmingly, I lacked compassion (for myself - not others - I’ve got that part nailed!)
I'd been stuck in that moment when you enter a room and everyone shouts 'Surprize!' but it takes you a few seconds to process.
You know it's a party, you recognise your friends, but your brain can't make sense of how 63 of them have been crouched behind your sofa for the past two hours.
I suddenly realised how unconsciously unfair I was on myself, setting ridiculous expectations and holding myself responsible for things that I have no control over.
Unfreeze, move, refreeze
The answer was a huge mindset shift towards a more objective truth, letting go of thoughts that were just not resourceful.
It was hard at first. I’d grown accustomed to criticising myself and the habit was a tough one to break.
I felt at sea, so I failed loads of times, picked myself back up and stuck with it waiting for a breakthrough.
I changed my mindset by dropping one of the steps in my internal language. I used to:
Notice something - my kids are annoying each other.
Describe it - because dinner is late my kids are hungry.
Then comes the kicker...
Make a judgement about it - I am a crap Mum for squeezing in that last email when I should be focusing on feeding my kids.
I started missing off the last step. Withholding (often incorrect) judgement gave me chance to stay neutral and steer a steady ship through my day.
Try it yourself. Ditch self-criticism and see how the new you feels.