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How to Suppress Your Inner Tyrant

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One of the biggest challenges to our sense of well-being is uncertainty about whether or not we are good enough. Many of us falsely assume that the fulfillment of our dreams for a promotion, love, weight loss or writing a best-seller is attributable to our level of worthiness. But one's essential worthiness has nothing to do with it. Whether we ever come to know and honor our totally magnificent selves is a better question than are we worthy. We are multi-dimensional beings in a very complex world and many of us spend a lifetime coming to the awareness that each of us was born worthy of being loved, experiencing success and being happy. The catch is we have to learn how to remove whatever is in the way of us knowing that is so.

To equate success or failure in the world with our own innate worthiness or lack thereof is not only illogical but dangerous. We get into trouble when we hold ourselves up to a standard of "good enough" that we carry inside us but never seem to be able to achieve and sustain. Alternatively, some of us worship an abstract, external standard that doesn't really take our personal reality into account. Furthermore, we are bombarded with images of "beautiful people" who are professionally styled, made up and air-brushed -- even they don't really look like that!

Many great athletes have learned that ultimately they compete against themselves rather than against opponents. Life has taught me to require of myself that I do my very best as often as possible and to be very pleased with myself for that. This is a much more gentle way of relating to myself than the many years I spent living with a nagging voice inside my head who ran incessant negative feedback. Do you have one of those? I call them inner tyrants. I have learned that success is about reclaiming authority over my mind from my inner tyrant. It is about doing my best and striving for excellence -- not perfection.

The process of learning to drop false standards of perfection by silencing our inner tyrants allows us to embrace ourselves as we are, trusting that we are doing the best we can. It is about becoming better friends to ourselves and is an ongoing journey that involves several key steps:

1. Pay attention to what is going on inside of your head. Notice that when you are being hard on yourself it is usually a red flag that you are getting in the way of creating, promoting or allowing what you want to come forward.

2. Take responsibility for what you are saying to yourself. Notice when you are being unkind to yourself, and stop as soon as possible. Don't make yourself wrong for beating up on yourself, simply stop the behavior, forgive yourself and move on.

3. Silence your inner tyrant. There are two key strategies here. First, stop feeding the negativity and second insert a more positive view of yourself and your efforts. If a battle ensues as your tyrant seeks to reassert control over your mind, develop your skills as a worthy opponent.

4. Turn the process into a game. Little by little, each time this challenge of your inner tyrant asserts itself, go into this process and turn it into a game of doing more of what works for you and less of what doesn't.

Whenever I work with a client who is struggling with an inner tyrant, I share the following poem by Portia Nelson which does a great job of describing the process of freeing ourselves from inner negativity.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in, again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it's a habit... but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Doing the very best I can has become my new definition of "good enough." I have also evolved a great response to my inner tyrant whenever she tests me or when I am having a really hard time understanding why some aspect of my life does not seem to be working out very well. It is simply this: "I am doing the best I can and this is what it looks like!" A little humor, compassion and kindness for ourselves yield far better results than pushing ourselves around forever striving to be good enough to get our own approval or that of others. Just do your best and be proud of yourself.

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