I ran this morning for the first time in a very long time. It was slow and short but it was movement. Marathons and half marathons used to be my thing because my mantra was, "I do hard things." However I have realized something lately, the way I motivate myself has really changed. Gone are the days of self-domination. The old me would have been angry with my apparent laziness that must have been keeping me from lacing up my shoes. Quite a bit of shame and frustration would have accompanied me out the door. But not today. The inner voice has changed tones and taken on a grace-feel. I ran today because I wanted to and because it was good for me. As I was running this morning, I was thinking about the old me, and all my sisters out there who are like me. The purpose of this post is to issue a challenge for the other women out there who are working hard to make it all work but may be doing it in an unhealthy manner.
Goals are good. Health is good. But can we all just agree for a second that self-domination is bad? What I mean by self-domination is the tendency to issue high challenge with very little support or grace for ourselves in the process. Self-domination sounds like this internal monologue: "If you would just stop eating so much, those pants would look better." "You did it again, talked to much in that conversation. You are such a blabber-mouth." "Good grief, what is wrong with you? Your house is a disaster, your relationships are drama, and your kids are out of control. Why can't you just get your life together?" Grace on the other hand, is giving something that you don't think you deserve. Grace is a higher-good that out-pays self-domination every day of the week.
Self-domination is a cycle of ugly self-talk accompanied by negative emotions or a period of giving up. And if we will be honest, it is so normal for many women that we don't even recognize it as a pattern that can be broken. We don't know that there is a better, healthier way to live. For some of us, it is such a built-in, unconscious defense mechanism, we don't realize we could make a change. For me, self-domination was such a habit of mind that it took a wise older woman asking me a simple question for what was happening to become clear.
I was describing a situation in which I needed to make a change in my leadership behavior and going through all of the things I "should have" done or "needed" to do differently, voicing frustration with my lack of perfection. This wisdom woman said to me, "Why do you feel like you have to do it without help? Why are you dominating yourself like that?" At first, the question didn't even make sense to me. Dominating myself? This is how I have learned to be successful. This figure it out determination is how I keep myself (and others) on track. You see, I felt like the lecture I gave myself was a necessary part of making progress toward my goals. I was worried if I adopted a different way of being, I would lose my ability to motivate myself toward achievement. It seems silly typing it now, but I thought being angry with myself for what I had not yet achieved was the fire I needed to complete all the things I needed to do. But I was wrong. There is a better way and I want to share it with you.
1. Stop the negative self-talk. It is ok to recognize what needs to change and be different in our lives but we should not allow the internal dialogue to ensue that we would not allow in our most treasured relationships. Why do we talk to ourselves in the most hateful of tones? If you would not say those same words to your dearest friend, don't say them to you. [And good grief, moms can we lay off of this for the health of our motherhood?--another day, let's have coffee]
2. High Challenge, High Support. It is ok to set a high bar of challenge for yourself. I am the kind of girl that likes to do hard things. Not to be impressive, rather to prove to myself that I can do more than I think I can. It is a way of reminding my mind and body that the need to keep growing, to keep being alive. However, when we only give high challenge, we are being self-dominators. If we are really going to be alive and free, we must also allow ourselves some support. Do you need to lose some weight this year? Great. Decide what is doable, set that goal. But also give yourself a realistic time-table and the tools that you need to do it. It is not selfish to set your schedule up around being healthy. That is good support. Leave the office on-time, don't feel bad, and go to the gym. It is good to take care of you. High challenge is a good, achievable goals with high support is feeling good about doing what it takes to get there without the burden of all of that inner, negative self-talk.
3. Speak the truth in love. The bible talks about speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) as if one without the other is just non-sensical. If we are going take out the negative self-talk, we need to insert something else. The inner monologue must be retrained to speak a different language. Did you miss your gym time this morning? Negative self-talk would tell you it is because you are lazy and fat. The truth is that you missed your gym time. That's it. It is not a moral statement about who you are. You may need to set your clothes out the night before to have a trigger for yourself or put your alarm clock across the room. But you are not a bad person who cannot achieve goals. Love yourself enough to tell the truth to you.
The biblical definition of grace is to give something that we don't deserve. I would argue that this post doesn't fully land in the biblical definition grace, unless we alter the definition to read, "to give something that we *think* we don't deserve." Stop believing a lie my friends. You don't need to dominate yourself. Life is meant to be one of, well, life. Be alive and free today. Give yourself grace.