As a counsellor who has listened to hundreds of personal stories that are filled with self-condemnation, I have long been aware of the power of the ‘inner critic’. The inner critic constantly draws on pessimistic psychic imprints and beliefs formed from childhood experiences that prevent you from illuminating and connecting consciously with your true nature. It is not always easy to stop the brain chatter that brings you down. However, in order to keep your heart open and grow in self-worth, it is essential to find ways to expand the perceptions of your primitive mind. Based on the need to survive, this mind seeks to survive by ‘doing’ and ‘producing’, rather than thrive through ‘being open’ to the unlimited support and resources of the Universe. Programmed to keep you safe, your primitive mind drives your instinctive reaction to circumstances, which may mean you choose to withdraw into silence or, alternatively, lash out and defend, keeping others at bay in order to get what you need to manage your life.
I have come to understand that reactive behaviour and self-condemnation can become an addictive unconscious habit. On the other hand, having conscious, deliberate conversations with yourself, based on self-belief and trust in your journey, can become a healthy daily commitment that will allow you to be more confident in the decisions you make, and walk more authentically and freely in the world.
Developing optimistic self-talk, and learning to believe in yourself and trust in the divine unfolding of your life is not always easy if you have not had many experiences of being validated when you were growing up. The first step to self-affirmation is self-awareness. By being the observer of your thoughts and words, you can watch how your energy drains from your body when you put yourself down, run away from something, or become defensive.
While it is possible to build your inner strength through self-observation and developing the capacity to make conscious choices, this is very much an internal process. You can also unearth and nurture strong values and characteristics within yourself by observing other people whom you admire and look up to.
When I was 12 years old, I was blessed to meet a role model who has long inspired me to dedicate my life to service and healing. Mother Teresa was an amazing woman of whom you will have no doubt heard. She was a Loreto nun, and I was at a boarding school that was run by nuns of the same order. One morning I joined a queue with hundreds of other girls from my school to meet Mother Teresa, who was visiting from India, and shake her hand. I will always remember what her little hand felt like in mine. Her grip was gentle, yet firm, and her skin was like well-worn leather, toughened from hard work. She wore a blue habit with a veil that framed her face, also sun-tanned and leather-like in appearance. Her eyes were soft and filled with love and light, and my heart beat so fast when I looked into them. There was no need for this sweet little woman to speak; her smile and eyes said all she needed to say. She walked strongly in her truth, guided by her compassionate heart, and when you have been in her company, it is impossible to be not touched by her light.
It is hard to imagine Mother Teresa ever giving in and declaring defeat, or fighting back in anger. I imagine instead she would have stood her ground in a more humble, graceful way, discerning of whom she invested her time and energy in when it came to getting what she needed to carry out her mission of service to the poor and sick. The day she invested those few seconds in being fully present with me set a spark of light in me that continues until this day.
When I think of my own path and what I have learned from mentors and teachers, and from my own journey, there are a few guidelines that I have observed that have worked well for me, and I would like to share these here with you:
- Walk strongly on your path today, and take time to stop and smell the roses along the way, celebrating all of life with gratitude.
- Be present with yourself, as the observer, and look both inward and outward for guidance and inspiration.
- Know and believe in yourself, and trust in your journey and divine timing.
- And most of all remember that while there is no one but you who can walk your path, you never walk it alone.
In time, when you learn how to step back and choose how and where to invest your time and energy, you will find you are no longer driven by primitive urges that take you away from the light and from finding peaceful solutions in difficult situations. With practice and clear intention, your true nature will eventually grow and shine through any shadow behaviour, and your spirit, and the Divine Spirit within and around you, will support you to walk freely in your truth, with ease and grace.
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