Years ago I was out on a run with one of my best friends who was training for a marathon. She was 14 miles into her run (I joined at mile 7).
Then, out of nowhere a bouncy runner breezed by us and ran up the hill like a rabbit on drugs. Suddenly my friend looked disgusted and disappointed.
Her mind instantly compared herself and self-criticized.
Before any thoughts were formed about the other runner, her body responded with heaviness and a sigh. Instead of feeling like a badass for her run, she felt like a failure.
Like my friend, so many of us are unconsciously comparing ourselves, self-criticizing, feeling disappointment, and consequently pulling the plug on confidence and power.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Change starts with shifting from pressure and being HARD on yourself to consciously practicing SELF-EASE.
After the runner breezed by on the trail I whispered to my friend,
“Don’t pay any attention to her. She probably has fresh legs, but either way, it doesn’t matter. This is your run. Focus on your run.”
My friend’s focus shifted, her body responded with a breath and as quickly as her body responded with heaviness, it responded with relaxation. The other runner faded up the hill and from her mind.
We all have a buddy along side us for our run called life, but it’s not an actual person that’s glued to our hip. It’s the repetitive chatter of our mind that thinks nearly non-stop. Unfortunately, a lot of the time that “buddy” in our head is not cheering us on or redirecting our focus like a true friend.
The “buddy” in our mind is often the one comparing, criticizing and making us feel terrible! One of my clients called this voice “the asshole” in her head.
Having an asshole run beside you in life is going to make the run HARDER and create more feelings of disappointment, pressure, fatigue, and powerlessness.
Practicing SELF-EASE is about quieting the critical voice, and amplifying the voice that unconditionally supports and loves you.
This voice reminds you to focus on your run.
Gives you credit.
Cuts you some slack.
Tells you that anything is possible for you.
How do you know if it’s self-ease?
Because self-ease feels like RELIEF.
But for many, practicing self-ease doesn’t feel easy.
Here’s a four-step method that I use with my clients, and practice myself, to make self-ease a little easier:
STEP 1: FEELING FEEDBACK
If you feel disappointed in yourself, stressed, overwhelmed, ashamed or exhausted then you’re feeling feedback of your thoughts and actions.
This type of feedback in your body is essentially saying to you, “Wrong direction! What you’re saying to yourself right now is leading you away from where you want to go.”
So pay attention to how you feel.
When you notice unpleasant feedback, then check into what the voice is saying.
Once you’re conscious of the voice, you have options to redirect your focus, which we’ll talk about below.
STEP 2: QUESTION THE VOICE
The mind just says stuff. Sometimes it’s a bit ridiculous. The mind will even play an annoying song in our head on repeat. So, it’s not to be taken seriously.
If the mind says something that makes you feel bad (ding! ding!) that’s like an alarm bell to question what the heck it is saying.
Try simply asking yourself, “Can I know for sure that’s true?” or “What if the opposite of that were true? What then?”
When you play with that, it’s like focusing on changing the song in your head to something enjoyable and that makes you feel good.
STEP 3: GET QUIET TO AMPLIFY
If you’re being hard on yourself, you need your kind, loving, “buddy” in your head right by your side.
Wouldn’t it be so nice if we could just instantly conjure up that best friend at any moment? Let’s be real. Sometimes, trying to jump to that voice can feel like leaping across a river.
The easier place to start is with more of a meditative practice to quiet the voice and create space for self-kindness and compassion.
During a “quiet” meditation, sometimes the voice can seem unbearably loud, so here is a practice to try to intentionally direct your focus toward self-kindness and compassion.
Sit comfortably and take a few deep, belly breaths.
Notice any part of you (physically or emotionally) that feels uncomfortable. If you cannot locate anything, that’s okay too, simply practice this exercise for your whole self.
Then, think of someone (even a pet) that you love. Imagine them in a difficult time of their life and needing you, needing a hug, needing comfort, love and compassion.
Hold that in your mind until it feels vivid and you can feel the emotion of it.
Then, direct that love and compassion to the space within you that feels uncomfortable.
Tell yourself what you would tell your loved one. Visualize giving yourself a hug. Say to yourself, “I am love.”
STEP 4: support YOUR FUTURE SELF
After you practice Step 3, write your future self a BOLD, DIRECT, SELF-EASE message.
What message might you need to hear?
What words might you need to redirect your focus?
Here are some examples:
“What others are doing is irrelevant to what I’m creating in my life right now.”
“You are always enough.”
“Pressure leads to powerlessness. Ease leads to freedom.”
Write it on a piece of paper, or in your phone, and keep it somewhere you can access when you need a bold, self-ease message the most.
All of these steps have the potential to give you instant relief, but if they don’t, that’s okay too. Keep practicing. Soon you will feel the power of focusing on your run, feeling the ease of support from within and this run called your life… will feel like the run of your life.