Martial Arts Against Your Critical Self

I love kickboxing. I spend on average 4 hours a week training between fitness classes and working on my technical manoeuvres to move up the belts (I’m currently sitting happily on orange :). Former black belt in Tai Kwon Do, and with some years of Kenpo behind me, I’ve been drilled in what to watch out for in an opponent, what body signals show their oncoming attack, staying in the moment and monitoring my own body so I don’t tire myself out too quickly. Optimising moves to create the most impact with the least amount of energy used.

I love it because it’s release, liberation from my limited-thinking self and the exercise makes me feel great.

It also helps against my critical voice.

Tried Everything

Journalling, blogging, poetry, meditation, mindfulness, reading, socialising, staying in touch with family and other self-care channels for venting/expressing myself, getting out what’s inside and noticing what’s really going on. I’ve tried so many techniques and ways and while they still work, I think it’s sufficient to say that some demons may never go away.

Mine are social anxiety, feeling inadequate in social circles and feeling guilty and low after interacting and talking with others. Fearful I said the wrong thing to someone, that I’m somehow lower in their eyes or regard now, I’ve screwed it up.

Always afraid of screwing it up.

There’s no room for this in martial arts, it’s pure body manoeuvres and helps with positive stimulation that helps regulate a lot of the above. Even outside of training I’ve noticed a reduction of this.

Devil on the Shoulder

While I enjoy and delight in the company of others (depending on who they are – 😉 – I also so know that there is devil on my shoulder, a part of me that likes to throw thoughts at me. When I make a mistake on something when I’m alone, for example, using window cleaner on scrubbing the stove and not noticing, there are others around me, watching me and judging what I’ve done wrong and pointing it out. In my imagination, I retort with some kind of smart remark, I try to fight back this, well, what feels like a monstrous evil within that uses my own natural abilities (my imagination, ability to create quick dialogue as a writer) against me. My internal comments feel short though, cause the pain is there anyway so defending myself doesn’t protect me emotionally. It’s all pointless.

What I’ve found behind this mechanism is trapped pain, hurt from being corrected or criticised by others, but the reason for sensitivity is not being on my own side when these situations arise. And so I role play them, I say all the things that I would or should say if it was real to express it out, to show others that I’m not as weak as they think. It’s defensive, limiting, debilitating and turns me into a shameful curled-up version of myself that then can’t talk to anyone about anything, no matter the topic. Because I’ve let it slide in real life so far, it floods my mind until the tension manifests in these visualisations or situations in which I must act.

Fear of judgement of someone seeing a part of me that I don’t want others to know, that I would go to extreme lengths to hide – my (apparent) un-intelligence.

A pattern emerges from all this, how some weeks I ain’t great in being nice to myself and caring more about what I think and judge rather than others. And that’s what it boils down to, flipping the priority.

Staying strongly connected to my own thoughts and feelings is not my natural orientation, because I naturally empathise with others to the point where their thoughts and feelings colour my own and it becomes difficult for me to identify what’s mine versus theirs (joys of being an INFJ).

It floors me, what naturally shines out of me never reaches the world because it gets clouded by my struggle to connect internally, and to not allow the impact of the world inside. That my internal voice is stronger. That my own inner love and value of life is stronger than the thinking minds of others.

Enter the Critical Voice

I don’t know about yours but mine is a bitch. It’s a feral creature that’s not even remotely human, and as my counsellor once told me – a hologram. But when anxiety enters so does she and the internal maelstrom goes from bad to worse.

Thrown on top of my worrying is then complaints from this part of myself on how I’m performing at something. When I’m stressed, I tend to rush things to heighten my production and I start to judge myself as quality of output goes down. And then the finger pointing happens, and on it continues until I’m trying numb it out through alcohol, smoking or socialising.

And the more I try to rush and get stuff done the more she’s there poking me until I’m reduced to a non-talkative individual that cannot socialise for fear of judgement from others, when I’m already under the full weight of internal judgement, fighting a war with no clear winner.

So how do I beat her? Martial arts helps but also – self-awareness. Awareness of thoughts running through my mind, knowing what’s going on and scheduling time to sit down and process and deal with it so it doesn’t fester. It’s guarding system that never goes lights out once she’s around.

But the priority should be the deal with self-criticism first instead of allowing it to have full reign over your feelings and internal dialogue. Don’t let that bitch go to town.

Your internal state of being is your full responsibility and you owe it to yourself, whether you believe it or not, to protect yourself from such criticism. You know yourself better than anyone, so believe me when I tell you that your criticall self will drag up everything that hurts and makes your squirm. It knows your insecurities and it will use them ruthlessly against you if you let it.

Value yourself enough to not let that happen, you have have every capability to push the critical self to one side when it gets out of control and stay in the driving seat.

It’s you steering your life, none else, and the more vulnerable parts of you depend on you stand up and show your critical self who is actually in charge.

I often compare my critical self to the Joker, the villain that loves to terrorise and create chaos and fear, the general public the other parts of me and of course myself being Batman. It’s a strange analogy but that’s how I’ve come to understand the dynamic of what happens internally. And trust me, if you’re not paying attention and addressing it, it will take the crown. Keep yours tightly on and fight it.

How does anyone else fight their critical self? I’ve had mine for so long we’re practically neighbours now.

Photo by Leslie Jones on Unsplash

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