I recently heard a conversation that went like this:
“Get your lazy butt to the gym! You are missing too much swimming.”
“I know, but I just cannot get up that early anymore. And then if I go later, my lane is taken and it is more crowded.”
“Look whiner; life isn’t perfect and does not run to your schedule. Now quit whining and get to the gym!”
“Why bother? I can’t do what I want to do anymore without exhausting myself. And what I do doesn’t seem like much, so why bother. It wouldn’t hurt to take a few days off.”
“Really? I thought you said exercise was important to you. And anyway, you always feel better after the swim.”
This conversation was one I had with myself as I was contemplating my workout. One side of me was trying to help and the other was working to hinder me. Managing “internal conversations” is not very different from managing people with different personalities. While you may believe you have one personality, we all have many sides to self. And often one side is often fighting the other. Why is that?
As human beings, we crave homeostasis—we want stability. An example of this is our body’s ability to maintain a temperature of 98.6 internally regardless of the weather outside. This is homeostasis. So one side of us wants things to stay the same: comfortable, secure, while the other wants to continue to grow, take risks and evolve as human beings. Often times our need to stay the same is motivated by fear. Fear of change, fear of growth, fear of success and the list goes on.
The tipping point in the mind is whenever we have a picture of “normal” that is based on judgment or biases, and our life or our person does not match that. This is when we are most susceptible to a negative way of thinking. Other triggers can be things like change (even good change), loss, fear, and success. Basically, all the negative voices kick in when life as we think it “should” go – isn’t!
What is happening for me that I am arguing with myself? Aging. The voice that is saying no to the gym is my avoider. I don’t want to face the fact that no matter what I do, I cannot workout to the level that I used to. Of course, I still swim a mile or more 3 days a week, do a 2-3 mile walk/run 2 days a week and do yoga 2 days a week. So why isn’t that “good enough”? Because of the fantasy that I can still work out to the level I did when I was in my 30’s and 40’s. Because reality doesn’t measure up to my fantasy, I stop myself from celebrating what I am doing to remain healthy and fit.
A few tips in working with your negative internal voices:
Call them out and question. What do they want, what do they need? What is the fear? What is the frustration? What is the fantasy? What is the folly (non-understanding)? Take the message into consideration, change what you want to and then let it go.
Play with them. Give them a name and have a conversation with them. It is amazing how they lose their grip on you when you bring them to the light.
Bypass them. Go right to your positive side. For example: when my avoider is saying “why bother?” and giving a million excuses, instead I go right to recognition of what I am doing to honor my value for exercise and then celebrate my commitment. This works every time!
Most importantly, remember that you have control over what you choose to do with your thoughts. Balance is dynamic and always in movement, even if it’s slight. Pay attention to when your thoughts are tipping to the negative and use one of the antidotes above to bring your mind to balance. Keep practicing and before you know it, you will have complete authority over how and what you think!