Every single one of us has been in situations where we are literally paralyzed in a state of indecision due to overthinking. It could be a moment as simple as deciding where to go for a girls night for dinner to as drastic as deciding whether or not you want to quit your job. We end up either waiting for someone else to make the decision or staying in that state of indecision and praying for a sign from the universe to show us what the correct choice is. Why do we do this? Well if I am being simply and brutally honest, it is because we are all afraid to make mistakes and do things messy. We all have our own inner critic that keeps us in this never-ending song of "What if's". What if people don't like what I put out there? What if my parents and friends don't approve? What if I end up making the wrong choice?
See the thing is, we have all been conditioned to be perfectionists. Since we were children we have unknowingly been taught that failure is bad. If you get a bad grade you fail. If you don't make the cut for the sports team you fail. If you don't get a stable and good job, you're a failure. We have so many things in our social life that have consistently made us afraid to fail. And when we do fail, we believe we aren't good enough. It becomes a never ending cycle of fear or what most of us know as perfectionism. Our inner critic and negative thoughts run the show and as a result we don't allow ourselves to be messy and over a period of time we often times lose touch with our hearts and what we truly want.
I know many of you have heard me talk about the podcast Don't Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller (if you haven't, I highly suggest checking it out on wherever you listen to podcasts). She recently just had New York Times Bestselling Author Jon Acuff on her show to talk about his book "Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking". I loved this particular episode because he talked about ways that we can work on quieting those repetitive self-sabotaging thoughts that we have; quieting our inner critics.
He gave the analogy of these limiting beliefs being similar to a soundtrack on loop. Our thoughts drive our actions and our actions drives our results. For example, if we believed that everyone is out to screw us over, our brains will go into every situation and encounter looking for evidence of this. So as a result of this "soundtrack", our action will be that we go into every meeting apprehensive and on the lookout for their hidden agenda and the result of our actions would be that we don't allow ourselves to receive love and don't create intimate relationships. This is an example of our thoughts driving our actions which then drives our results.
The good thing is, we can choose our thoughts and just because we think it doesn't mean it is true. In PT school we learned alot about neuroplasticity and how we can retrain the brain to rewire and relearn certain motor patterns. Thoughts are very much the same way. Jon broke down the steps into what he called the 3 R's: retire old soundtracks, rewrite the soundtrack, repeat that new soundtrack. So here are the takeaways for how to quiet your inner critic:
State or write down what you want and desire. Take a step back and allow yourself to feel and overthink. Recognize what your immediate thought to this desire was.
For example when I thought about my desire to quit my job as a PT and create my own cookie and baking business, my immediate reaction and soundtrack was "that is not logical...you will be a starving artist and your parents definitely won't be proud that you wasted all of this time and money"
He then stated to ask yourself the following about your current soundtrack:
Is it true?
Is it helpful? Does it move me forward or hold me back?
Is it kind? If I said this to a friend would they be angry with me or still want to be my friend?
Change the wording of these thoughts. For example I tend to not trust people due to previous relationships and experiences. So my old habit of thought was (and I still struggle sometimes) "All people are selfish. They only say they want to help or be your friend because they have a some sort of hidden selfish agenda. They're in it for themselves and once it stops benefitting them, they're gone". The way I have been working on rewriting the script is "I don't trust people because of previous experiences, which is valid. I understand that this is not true of everyone and if it is for this particular person that is okay because I am living true to myself by being open, loving and helpful even if this person doesn't end up staying".
You know the saying it takes 21 days to make a habit? Well that also goes for changing our thought process. In PT school we learned a lot about neuroplasticity and how the brain can adapt and rewire to create new motor patterns. The basic premise of being able to rewire the brain though is that it takes time and it takes PRACTICE! We tend to practice a few times and then give up when our current thought processes and habits have taken years to develop. We give the problem years to develop and the solution only a day or a few weeks to work. This will never work. Not for weight loss. Not for learning a new skill. Not for changing the way we think
5) Find ways to turn down the volume of the negative soundtracks
Jon talked about how it is impossible to turn off our thoughts. So if we can't turn it off what do we do? Well he stated that instead of trying to turn it off, work on turning the volume down by doing things that we love. For me it is baking. When I am baking or decorating cookies I do not spend time overthinking and perseverating on those negative thoughts because I am living in the moment and as a result the thoughts take a back seat and this has helped me significantly with my overthinking.
Change is not easy, but it can be done. We just have to be willing to put the work in and do it consistently. I hope this was helpful. If you thought it was leave a comment below and share it with a friend who you might think would love to read this as well :)
Until then, Happy Monday and I will see you next week!