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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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Gratitude and Humility from Strife and Other Ramblings

“Humility helps us to realise we are one among many mortal and limited human beings.”

  – Sister Stan, Mindful Meditations for Every Day.

If there is any upside to being driven downside by life, it’s the opening gateway for a reduction of ego to enter.  

This month, my bank card had been skimmed, my car trouble was costing me more than I could afford and I had done my shoulder and back in from training and had to cut back on exercise.

It had felt like the universe was pushing me back, and snapped me out of a belief that my life would just be smooth from here onwards. I had acquired this thought from how bad my past has been and that I was due in high credit with life.

That belief may be skewed.

Aside from the emotional turmoil it caused me, being squeezed between not having enough money potentially to get through the month and body pain on a daily basis that I’d never experienced before, something broke. A sobering, a realising, a maturation of accepting it and sucking it up.

Knowing my value as a person wasn’t reduced because of what was happening to me over what was beyond my control (mostly) was key, but I also began thinking in new ways to survive and get through what was happening. It caused me to be adaptive and let go of my attachment to self-image, particularly in how I’m seen by others and to shrink my focus to how I see myself and making that the priority. 

Nothing like bad stuff or a disaster to really bring you home to yourself.

Gratitude

I realised that gratitude was something I had been lacking recently, not paying enough attention to what I have and just wanting more, despite it taking me the guts of over 10 years to get me to the place I am today. Being so well-rounded and achieved today, it’s easy to get caught up in present-day established self, and forget the past self who laboriously worked hard to push for today’s dream.

And that’s what I forgot. 

I started expecting more, getting too comfortable and settled into where I am.

But the warrior’s journey is never done, and I think that was the message sent, loud and clear.

I forgot about the joy gratitude brings, I forgot about the freedom and simplicity of humility. I forgot myself in a way, and traded possibly one of the best parts of me for a comfortable, higher-class living person that doesn’t really fit with who I am.

Who I am is who I was and who I am today. It’s the marks of the past I’ve forgotten that add up to the person today.

  • My humble days of travel and alone in a world of foreigners. 
  • My days of despair and aloneness living in a home environment of addicts, thinking it would never be over, that my life was over before it ever began.
  • My studies and my overwhelming level of commitment to rise about what was handed to me, knowing my very survival depended upon it.

This was the girl I’d forgotten about.

Perseverance, self-discipline, steadfastness, stubbornness, courage, determination, self-resourcing.

I may be operating on a higher level of living, but that doesn’t mean these traits go away or are made redundant, they’re skills in the back pocket for more typical adult-day scenarios.

I’m still a person with the same vulnerabilities as back years ago, and that girl has never left.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

Ok to Not be Ok

I honestly don’t know how to start off this topic, because a fear, a doom has hung over my head the past few days. A dark cloud of defeat. Defeat with work, with new arising problems, with life.

I’ve found that regardless of my attempts at combating these challenges, there was a deep despair of the future. So much so that even weekends and time off work were ruined by this could hanging over my head. The present surrendered and forgotten in the face of fearful future, of ‘will’ or ‘could be’ in my tricky work situation. It sucks from me relaxation with myself, my attentiveness and power to focus presently.

Anxiety makes me unproductive, a higher likeliness to make mistakes is present and overlook certain facts on situations and be generally more forgetful. My brain reduces as the amygdala takes over, and I’m not myself. Trying to smile and have ‘normal’ conversations with people without coming across as strange. I try to fake it, but at work it’s too difficult to hide, my co-workers know me too well.

Frustrated, I went for a jog today as a recent injury meant I couldn’t go kickboxing, but I needed a bodily outburst so I sprinted hard and fast until I could barely take another step, and collapsed under a tree in the park.

Heaving in the silence amidst a backdrop of chirping birds, and wandering conversations, I watched a particularly large tree with branches shading above the pond, huge green clover leaves spread out like a thousand hands. It was here that everything I’d been trying to ‘fix’ the past few days came pouring out of me – money stolen from my account, beating myself up for not being able to go kickboxing, blaming myself for being overlooked at work and not doing enough about it, and a string of other things. I wasn’t ok. It was the first time I’d admitted it to myself. Furthermore, I accepted that I wasn’t, not just mentally but feelingly too.

I closed around it and owned it. 

I left the park eventually and went home, feeling more peaceful than when I had entered.

The anxiety and fear lingers and no, I don’t want to go back to work – you know why? Because I don’t believe I am capable of handling what I’ve been given to do. Because I think I’ve compromised myself by not being on my own side there and not practising self-compassion. Because I don’t think I coordinate with my team members when I should because I lack courage in the moment, because I overthink.

It was the one really helpful thing for me to do today – to be ok with not being ok. To give myself the space, mentally and emotionally, to admit and house that. To face it as an adult and treat it delicately, not like a disease.

To own it wholeheartedly.

I don’t profess to know the best ways to combat anxiety, but I know that it festered more due to my rejection and chosen ignorance of it.

Accepting oneself as human I’ve seen, is critical to confidence development and living a full life.

Featured photo by Fernando @dearferdo on Unsplash

Meditating Hungover

I know it’s a strange topic but if you compare it with people who take LSD or some other drug, could taking alcohol enhance your meditation experience also? I mean, you would think it wouldn’t because inebriation means low focus and concentration.

But what about if you’re hungover?

On a pretend meditation Richter scale, I would get to a level 3 after 45 minutes of meditation. This morning after a night out I sat down and felt a whoosh of oneness with everything instantly enter my conscious awareness, universal sensations and an ‘om’ stillness that could take ages for me to get to. An inner serenity that was just there as soon as I sat down on my cushion. There was no fishing for it, it was instant.

I shot straight up to a level 9!

I had meditated just before heading out the night before for nearly an hour and I wonder if this impacted my elevated meditation the following day.

I also wonder if the low feeling of being sensitive combined with the resting of meditation produced this deep experience that is otherwise difficult for my mind and body to reach.

I thought it was super cool, although I don’t recommend excessive drinking to reach that high plane! But I thought it was pretty interesting how it unexpectedly happened.

In addition, I had one of the most vivid dreams I’ve had in a long time too that night when I got home and I’m thinking the unconscious is perhaps more active/influential when the conscious mind is, let’s say, a bit indisposed.

If the barrier was lowered, maybe that’s why my meditation was so powerful.

Anyone experience anything like this? Do you think it’s true that being hungover could actually help mediation?

*Photo by Ksenia Makagonova.

Journaling As Blog Ideas

dariusz-sankowski-dvK_CT1Wg78-unsplash.jpgSo I chose this week’s topic because a thought was running through my mind – what do I write about?
Topic ideas don’t always flow from a heavenly vase carried by a cherub prancing in a fountain. Sometimes they have to be scraped up from the bottom of the barrel in your mind.
Every writer has their peace on topic generation but how do you generate ideas?
One good tip (which probably only applies to self-help bloggers like myself) is unearthing core, raw topics through journaling.
Journaling is a great way to explore and touch on hard-to-touch things within yourself and can produce interesting, powerful topics for you to explore further.
For example, it was only through journaling that I discovered, in detail, the extent of my social anxiety.
And details can be important.
It illuminates and highlights what can be a tumultuous maelstrom of emotions, sensations and thoughts and deciphering what is what and how it’s all connected and what the overall message is,l. It can be complicated, depending on how far the issue goes.
Depending on your comfort level and depth of courage, you can share your experiences flowed into and documented through journaling by writing up blog posts based on what you’ve found out and any learning you want to pass on.
This has been the basis for a few of my previous blog posts and it has brought out some of the most intricate and insightful articles I’ve ever written. It’s also felt the most authentic and if I’m honest, it’s helped me heal and overcome because not only an I willing to investigate the uncomfortable, but thrive through it by sharing it online. Sharing seems reduce the dark cloud’s power that forms in my mind and body over a few issues.
It’s not a method for every self-help, self-healing blogger but I know it’s certainly helped me in the past.
Has anyone else tried writing posts this way? Or is it too personal of a thing to share? I wouldn’t mind getting others input on this and knowing I’m not the only one who employs such a technique!
P.S. I’ve read INFJ’s love the method of writing and sharing their personal experiences and would be interested to know too of any fellow INFJ’s out there who do this too!

Find Your Inner Superhero

Becoming Hero

Facing stressful situations or people can bring on past issues, our unconscious can commincate untrue beliefs to us about ourselves that have no grounding in reality.
I found myself in this position recently, blaming myself for another person’s negative behaviour, completely convinced it was something I had done wrong with zilch evidence to prove it. I stayed stuck in a fearful loop of repetitive reactions, staying quiet and making myself small, not speaking up and not even looking in the other persons direction in my job.
This is a response I’ve done for years and it’s amazing how we humans succumb to a reactive loop again and again.
I got home later that evening and was so bothered and disappointed in myself (and a little pissed off) that I sat down and meditated on it.
My mind leapt from fear to self-negative talk to fear again:
  • ‘I’ve to go back in again tomorrow!’
  • ‘I’m weak, look at how I performed today.’
  • ‘I’m clearly not good enough to be in this place.’
  • ‘I don’t fit in.’
  • ‘This person doesn’t like me and I’m only a distraction to them when they’re trying to focus, that’s all I am there.’
I mean, these thoughts are untrue but that doesn’t matter. I still believed in them, thankfully I also believe in my own inner superhero.
During meditation, sorting through the melee of self deprecation was also something stubborn and mad. Defiant against my co-workers and the situation, a strength that was surprising in its presence, and the emotional pain was replaced with balance and equilibrium set in.

Suit Up

If there had been no meditation, no hero would have emerged from the maelstrom churning inside. When you’re suffering, there’ll always be a part of you that’s MAD, find the mad and channel yourself towards balance, even if it means you have to be angry for a while. It’s ok to be angry – especially if it means you’ve been stepped on, disrespected or something else. Use it, don’t simmer sitting on it. It’s got a voice with something to say, let it catapult you back to a healthier spot.
Your Inner Superhero knows your value and what’s best for you and it’ll keep you through tough situations. Managing other people but most importantly, yourself. It’s your core self that priorities you above all else so you can be your best everyday. It can save the day if you tap into it.
Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Sometimes I feel like I’m talking crazy since of course I write and edit these posts myself. I sometimes wonder if I’m writing in a bell jar and im just being delusional :p
Does anyone feel like they’vecome to their own rescue? If so, how did you do it?

Honest Conversation on Struggles of Meditation

Can we just have an honest conversation about the struggles of meditation?
I sometimes feel like when I sit down to do it, I always have this level of expectation come over me, like if I had an unbelievable experience the previous time, it sets the bar and I want that again, so much so it hampers my concentration and then I get nowhere near it and I finish up disappointed.
I guess the answer is to be feather light on it and gently coax oneself into it without looming expectation that it has to be a certain way. Easier said than done at times.
Meditation has helped stabilise my emotions and push up to a higher level of present alertness. I used to think i couldnt get to tgat place as I believed I wasn’t smart or good enough for it, but despite a broken part of me that holds vehemently onto that belief, (in the words of Maya Angelou’s poem), I Still Rise.
For me, meditation has brought me knowledge and an abstract level of awareness like:
  • You can only know and empathise with people as much as you can with yourself.
  • Beneath broiling emotions is a self that is fulfilled, light and needs nothing.
  • A sense of energy and emotions in the body, knowing where they are stuck and needing release.
  • My mind and self-worth works primarly based on how people perceive me, and I see the depth I strive everyday to maintain a certain image of myself.
Can anyone relate to the above in their experiences?
Can I ask, how do you know when meditation is working for you? I mean what do you notice personally that keeps you going to do it each time?
And just as importantly, how do you deal with what gets in the way of it? The thoughts that refuse to go away, or the emotion you experience during that breaks concentration? Or would you view meditation as a way of processing unconscious emotions? Which in my experience it has done.

Managing the Joys of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety comes in different types and can vary from mild to extreme. I’ve missed work conferences and cried inwardly through meetings, avoid having to breach uncomfortable topics in my job to avoid confrontation.
I would blurt something out just to give an answer at times, and to not seem like I’m taking too long to give it. Because if I take too long, I may seem unintelligent. It’s escaping the discomfort of the other person waiting on me and it’s rooted in low self-belief.
For anyone who’s got social anxiety, you may relate to some of my own experiences below:
  • I tend to be overly chatty and joking, to protect myself against judgement from other people. Distract them by fake movements and facade so they are left with a favourable view of me, even it it isn’t the ‘real me’. It’s a social survival tactic and has done me no favours in attracting and keeping people worth having in my life.
  • Crippling self consciousness of what other people think of me (the previous point means this becomes a vicious circle, the pressuring need to continue the act).
  • Afraid of offending or pissing people off, and having no confidence to back myself in confrontation.
  • My self-worth at some point, became tied to what intelligent and more self-respecting people thought of me. This is pretty dangerous when you consider how I could treat myself if even one of these people didn’t like me for whatever reason.
The only way I’ve managed to move past it to some degree and success, was initiating the following:
  • Knowing that I can heal from anything. If you can fix this belief right into the core of your being, you’re doing better than most people.
  • Knowing that I’ve got my back in confrontations. Staying in your own side when you feel it is right and backing yourself up. Cultivating an inner loyalty.
  • Knowing that I’m worthy, no matter what. I’ve talked about this tonnes of times in my previous posts. Self-worth not being tied to performance, or whatever measuring stick you or someone else is using on you. You’re an independent human being living on this planet, configure it from there.
  • Accepting your imperfections. Easier said than done but again, it’s knowing you’re worthy despite them. It’s the birthplace of everlasting strength.

What have your experiences have been with social anxiety? Does anyone feel like the more they’ve moved through life, that they’ve been able to cope better? Or even if there was just one thing you did to alleviate it, what was it?

Photo by Katie Treadway on Unsplash.com

Finding Your Tribe

Tribe for me is a group of people who share similar or the same values. A connection that runs deep, perhaps even in mysterious undertones that one can’t identify with words but can feel spiritually, innately to be a right fit.


This doesn’t exactly have to be your choir group, nor your meditation club.
It’s really just people who you feel there is a sameness, some common interest that serves as a nice introduction but upon spending more time with them, discovering there is an underlying, unspoken glow you feel, a commonality of humanity.
Being with people of similar circumstance can help too, and openness that is met with non-judgemental reception is even better. A silent, mutual acceptance that is felt and doesn’t need to be demonstrated, is seen and felt through action more so than words.
And through enough of it enters love.
And who doesn’t want more of that?
There’s a felt sense of support, with an openness of it being a permanent connection. Not operating in a vacuum, but acknowledging the hardships of life and the tribe being another harbour to shelter in before venturing back out into a potential storm.
To have a tribe is harder in adult life, it generally becomes more difficult to establish friendships and stay committed with responsibilities, demands and the expectation to always be ‘on’ and reachable.
But what I’ve seen is wholeheartedness at the centre of a tribe, a unification that exists. It’s a torch upheld in its centre, that sports being human, imperfect in the face of world that values perfection and ‘being the best‘.
It’s the group of adventure, indulging in your child-like self and looking around at the grinning faces, knowing you’re in the right place.
Finding a tribe is hard, but cast the net out by going to groups of interest and eventually, you’ll attract. It’s like the digger who doesn’t stop digging. One day, their shovel thuds on something hard.
And it’s that sigh of relief, making the search all the more worth it.

Prioritise Yourself & Cut Distractions

Making time for what matters most to you requires balance, a deviation from the million needless distractions that occupy our minds. A realisation of how limited our focus and energy is, a realistic acknowledgement of where this boundary is and to stop continuously crossing it for the sake of keeping up with appearances and trends, or giving into fear of social judgement.
Our job is to look after ourselves, and when we do that, those we love and who we touch in our daily lives will be too touched in a positive, meaningful way. We can demonstrate boundaries and through this, give other people permission to do the same through our own example.
Prioritising downtime and being disciplined in scheduling it, protecting it from other interferences and maintaining is key to self care. If you can achieve this, the changes you see in yourself can make you even more determined to stick to it.
I talk about this stuff because since returning from my travels, I have been strictly practising restorative downtime in a number of ways:
  • Checking less for messages in Facebook Messenger and my WhatsApp. The phone is a tool you use, not the other way around. Knowing exactly what it’s uses are and for what purpose will help you distance yourself emotionally from it. It helps you to connect those you love, it’s not something to love itself.
  • Two evenings a week of blocked off time from communications where I allow myself free time to do whatever I want (i call them ‘white blocks’). That doesn’t include household obligatory activities such as cooking or cleaning, it means doing WHATEVER.
  • Meditation for at least half an hour each evening and longer if I want on the weekends.
  • Spending more time journalling and blogging and staying off Netflix (although I’ve found staying away from my beloved Netflix pretty difficult to do!).
My priorities has flipped from people-focused to being more focused on myself and while it potentially comes across as selfish I’ve noticed that I’m a better colleague and a better friend because of it. Because I give to myself, I can more freely give to others without resentment or feeling they owe me something. I’m a better listener and can participate more deeply in meaningful discussions with others, lighting up their minds, as much as my own. I can laugh and joke more, making others laugh too and feel relaxed around me. I think two evenings a week is a small sacrifice that others can take, for what I can give.
At the end of the day we’re all adults here, we’re also highly connected thanks to technology but too much can erode our minds, our capability of level of thought as distractions weaken our ability to  concentrate. Its our responsibility to set the boundaries at the risk of pissing people off or causing offence. The risk is worth it, cause your time is ultimately your most valuable currency, your only currency one could philosophically argue. Connecting deeply with yourself and trusting your inner compass to help make decisions around what you spend time on, what you value most is looking after yourself.
When it comes down to it, you owe it to yourself, it’s your ultimate responsibility and because none else can be looked after, if you don’t look after yourself.