I am daily talking to other women who are on a similar journey as I am in some capacity. I am a yoga instructor, but I am also an advocate and mentor in my the communities of sobriety and eating disorder recovery.
Yoga is a vehicle for integrating and communicating some of the values and “ways of living” that are not just meaningful to me… I live the way I do because it brought me back to life. Walking hand in hand with others who are on their own journey of sobriety or disordered eating, it never ceases to amaze me how yoga has application to literally anything that life could throw at us. Lately the conversations I’ve been having are coming back to this theme of hypercritical self reflection. Perfectionism was formerly a deadly roadmap I used to navigate my day to day. I could not win, no matter what I did, and I tried everything to please the inner critic that ruled my mind.
It breaks my heart to hear others deal with similar internal harassment. And, at least for me, it was harassment. I was berated day in and day out by a chronically discontent, self parenting voice. When I got into recovery, it was very clear to me that if I was going to be sober and aim to take care of myself, I was going to have to make friends with my head. Picture trying to befriend a sadistic tyrant, my task of self reconciliation was going to be the undertaking of epic proportions.
Initially, I tried anything that was suggested to me. I stuck post it notes with affirmations and quotes all over my mirrors and in my cars. I said mantras, prayed, tapped, and meditated. I didn’t find anything that helped me to instantly or permanently eradicate the angry voice inside my head.
What does yoga say about the inner critic?
“Yoga is the process of cleaning the mind and whatever is blocking the inner light – the part of you that doesn’t need to be fixed, controlled or perfected.” (Yoga Journal, 2011). Yoga believes that within each of us is an eternal divine (capital “S”) “Self” and a temporary human (lowercase “s”) “self”. Our “Self” is not subject to criticism, it sits above and transcends that which can be judged, but our impermanent “self” is the part of us where judgment, fear, shame and resistance would come from.
When I am able to recognize which part of me, my thoughts are coming from, I am able to differentiate whether my thoughts are better saved for further contemplation or better left to drift along out of my consciousness. Yoga shares that we have something like clouds in our minds that can make our true understanding of ourself difficult. Two of these clouds (or “kleshas” in Sanskrit) are “avidya” (false understanding) and “asmita” (false identification). In order to connect to our divinity, our God-conscious “Self”, we must continue to practice filtering and sifting through the mental clouds that can keep us stuck in “self.”
This awareness has made a huge difference for me and how I pay attention and validate my own thinking. Knowing that thousands of years ago a philosophical outline was created to assist me in navigating the way towards awareness of my connectivity to the eternal brings me comfort and resolve that I am not alone in this sacred journey.
How have you handled your inner critic? Any tips, readings, or exercises that have helped you on your way?
Take good care,