My brother and his wife are expecting their first child in October making me an aunt for the first time. And while I think both of them will be excellent parents, I got to wondering if I would have any good such skill set with children.
Such was the pondering on my 6-mile Tuesday run.
Why, one might ask? Because I started thinking about the inner critic, those negative voices we hear in our mind which question us, taunt us and more often than not hold us back. I’ve had conversations with my inner critic. I’ve thanked her even. But lately, I’ve run out of patience with her. I have too much to do, am too tired (and often too hungry) to discuss the situation with her.
Lately, I’ve been telling her to shut up. At first, it was a “please shut up.” Then it was an emphatic, “SHUT UP.” Occasionally the “shut up” part would be adorned with an expletive deleted adjective. Most recently, I’ve lost interest in offering her any acknowledge at all.
This lead me to wonder if I have the patience to be around small children for prolonged periods of time or, you know, be responsible for their emotional well-being.
I am, however, confident that was yet another strange digression my mind took during more solitary training.
But dealing with this inner critic, that’s no digression.
That’s actually front and center in the training plan right now. We’re less than three weeks away from Esprit Montreal and my first Iron Distance race. This is the last week of heavy volume training.
And this is where I need to try and rally as much positive chatter as I can in my brain.
As unusual as it sounds, I’ve talked to my inner critic. (Seriously, what the heck else am I going to do for four hours by myself on the bike?) The stories I’ve told myself, the things I’ve conditioned myself to fear or be leery of were all for good reasons. Quite simply, they were created to keep me safe both physically and emotionally. And as I moved about in the world and gained experience, those old stories and fears didn’t feel true for me anymore. As I started to stretch outside of my comfort zone — actually expanding my comfort zone — I was smack up against myself and in the name of self-protection, I encountered wickedly harsh self judgement. My inner critic was not a nice person. Stepping out of that comfort zone would cost me everything, she would tell me.
But bit by bit, I disobeyed her and found that I not only survived, I thrived. And so my inner critic and I had a conversation. I thanked her for getting me to this place in my life, safe and in one piece and, for the most part, physically and mentally healthy. I told her she could now relax and stop working so hard to protect me. I was going to be just fine.
The inner critic comes out every once in a while, especially while I’m training. She asks, “Who do you think you are to do an Ironman?” Sometimes she asks, “Who do you think you are to do all this training? To survive this weekend’s gluttony of swimming, cycling and running?”
This used to prompt those conversations but now, I’m tired of explaining it all to her. I’m tired of justifying myself. I find it somewhat exhausting that I should need to justify myself to myself.
I’d like to say I could share the magic formula for how I started to just ignore my inner critic. But it’s not that simple. Some days, she’s pretty persistent. She can still make me cry. But her power has greatly diminished.
Perhaps one of the gifts of this exhausting exercise we call Iron Distance training is that I’m too tired to fight with myself anymore. I’ve made the executive decision to stop thinking and instead just focus on feeling good. The right action naturally flows from that place every time. Even if that means telling myself to shut up.