Not exactly a shocking realization for most people, I know, but an important lesson nonetheless. See, once we truly accept that life is hard then it removes the power of that difficulty. It becomes not about making it easier, but about our ability to persevere. We can measure our growth by our resiliency and grit – our ability to do tough things! This is something we often try to teach our children from an early age, right? That when they make a commitment (say to a team) that they need to see it through; that there is an important lesson in doing things that are unpleasant or difficult. It teaches us something about ourselves and helps us to rise to the occasion; it teaches us that life is hard and that we can still kick ass at it!
I think what happens, sometimes, is as adults we forget this lesson. We focus not on our ability to overcome but the arduous nature of the task at hand. I’ll give you an example:
I hate exercise. No, hate isn’t strong enough word. I MEGA-LOATHE exercise with the passion of a thousand burning suns! Exercise was invented by Satan and mass marketed by sadists! Despite my feelings, my doctor says it’s important (and she is right). So, I started an exercise regime with my husband. I found some great spin instructors (shout out to Felina and Alex) who try to make it fun and aren’t afraid to make me work for every drop of sweat. Despite this, I still hate exercise. I love my classmates, my instructors, certainly my husband – but I hate exercise. My body reminds me of this fact every time too.
There is this voice that shows up each time I go to work out. I don’t have a name for him, but it wouldn’t be a pleasant one. He likes to encourage me to stay in bed. He likes to remind me about how much my muscles are aching and burning. He likes to suggest things like slowing my pace, reducing my tension, or cutting class short. He is my discourager, my inner critic, the part of me that wants to focus on how hard it is, and he isn’t wrong – it is hard! In that moment, I have a choice – I can listen to him and take it easier on myself or I can push myself and embrace the suck! The beauty about the latter is that in doing so, I am forced to be my own cheerleader in order to drown out that critic. I can’t necessarily silence him or ignore him, but I can be louder than him (ask anyone who knows me)!
- You got this!
- Keep going!
- You are almost at the top!
- 10 more seconds!
- You rock!
And afterwards…whew, I feel great! Not only am I surging with feel good endorphins, but I am riding the high of my private cheer leading team! I am also able to look back on my ability to persevere and see it as a point of pride – “Look what I can do! Wow!”
This might all seem silly, but it becomes important when we are talking about mental health. We all have an inner critic. A Doubting Thomas. Someone who doesn’t believe in us. They may even have some good points, but they aren’t completely right and most of the time they are ignoring our ability to overcome and our strengths. They only have part of the story. So, this week I encourage you to find something that you’ve been avoiding, something that sucks but needs to be done and do it! Get louder than that inner critic! Put on some pom-poms and cheer yourself to victory! I won’t promise that the road will be pleasant, but afterwards you can look back with a sense of accomplishment and see yourself for the rock star that you are! In this, our inner critic doesn’t get the last word; they don’t get to stop the story short – we keep writing and we overcome!
Daniel Garner-Quintero, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor