Throughout our lives we are learning. When we were little, we learned by doing and experimenting: falling down, getting hurt and gradually discovering what not to do.
We learn from our parents what we should and shouldn’t do. But the learning that had the most influence is what we learned by observing. It’s not so much what is said – but what is lived.
Kids in school and teachers have a huge impact on our lives. There is a lot of social learning as well as book learning that happens during those school years. How am I treated by other kids? Am I accepted or rejected? Is it easy for me to make friends or am I excluded? And what do I have to do to be in that inner circle?
Later, learning takes us into more formal academic settings where we get our degrees before entering the rough and tumble life of the real world where jobs dictate what and how things should be done.
Throughout the years we will continue to gather information, taking classes that enhance our lives in some way.
As we learn from many sources, we take the complex and often incomplete learning experiences and form perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and our world that are often biased and inaccurate. We fill in the blanks or add missing pieces to our puzzle of understanding and develop frames of references and rules that we follow; expectations and assumptions, opinions, attitudes, and core beliefs and then act upon them as if they were the truth.
In the process we also create an internal critic that will always find something wrong with whatever we are doing.
It is this uncensored and negative critic that takes whatever we do and puts a negative spin on it:
“I screwed up again. Why do I always do such stupid things; what’s wrong with me, other’s don’t have as much difficulty as I do. . . . .”
We listen to this critic and compare ourselves unfairly to everyone else. So when confronted with problems or situations that aren’t working we beat ourselves up instead of looking at situations in a more rational fashion.
Until we can recognize and confront our negative internal critic, everything we do will be colored by a bias against our abilities to solve problems, make decisions that are right for us and make the corrections we need to stay on the path of our choosing.
Exploring our patterns of behavior, attitude, expectations and assumptions can give us clues as to whether we are working for or against our best interest. Have we created unenforceable rules that others have to follow as well as ourselves? Do they contain certain expectations that include what you and others must, should or ought to act on? Do these rules and expectations and assumptions sabotage our efforts to make and accomplish our goals?
We cannot solve problems and make the necessary self-corrections needed to stay on course, if we are constantly listening to an internal critic who you can never please and who will constantly be telling you what you are doing wrong without allowing you to act on all the positive things you are learning.
Next week, I will tell you how you can challenge your internal critic.
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