THE WELL-BEING ALPHABET:
An Opportunity To Challenge My Inner Critic
I woke up this morning with an idea that popped into my mind on various occasions including before falling asleep last night: I would create an alphabet of well-being.
When I first came with the idea of this well-being alphabet, I got extremely excited and felt determined to write and complete it in a day.
Then I listed the words I wanted to talk about: awareness, attitude, acceptance, authenticity, adversity, being, bravery, beauty, congruence, care, compassion, connection, creativity, curiosity, communication, choices, determination, diversity, exploration, emergence, esteem, emotional intelligence (that one is cheating with two words when I first wanted to create a one-word alphabet), flexibility, fulfilment, fraternity, grounding, gestalt, grief, health, honesty, humility, hope, integrity, indulgence, intelligence, joy, judgements, jealousy, kindness, knowledge, love, loyalty, mindfulness, meditation, narcissism, novelty, neurodiversity, open-mindedness, ownership, playfulness, prudence, protection, quality, respect, rest, resilience, solidarity, survival, silence, strength, subpersonalities, thinking, togetherness, trust, uniqueness, understanding, vulnerability, values, will, welcoming, worth, x marking the unknown, y for you, z for zapping as letting go/moving on etc.
Writing that list awoke anxiety in me. Once more my imagination that is so rich and thinks and creates so fast wanted me to produce in a blink what would need a long hard work over time. I felt so discouraged, so overwhelmed. Why is my imagination so much richer than I can exploit and why does it always result in not exploiting it at all? This is so unfair. So much pain and emptiness where there could be so much creativity and excitement.
No. Not always. Not my imagination: my Inner Critic. It is my Inner Critic, - in the shadow of my consciousness -, that was creating my anxiety with that unreasonable expectation to complete in a day a fairly exhaustive alphabet about well-being with references to books and videos for more exploration. It could be the single project of a lifetime and my Critic wanted me to achieve it in a day, - in few hours if possible. Why am I so unreasonable with myself? Why do we crush ourselves like that?
It did crush me as it did so many times before. It crushed me with loud messages such as:
“You will never complete it. You don’t have the patience, the intelligence, the knowledge, the hard-working ethic and determination you need to complete that project. You are not intelligent enough. Who are you fooling when trying to create a dictionary of well-being? You are incapable. You are incompetent. You are a quitter. You are a failure. Give up! That’s what you do best, that’s all you know how to do! Stupid you!”
Then, I realised I had multiple and complementary choices. One was about rethinking that project. The other was about what to do with my Inner Critic.
I decided that I would use the experience of trying to write about this project to talk about my Inner Critic. By exposing it to you I want to encourage you to face this demon inside that crushes your self-esteem and gets in your way. By exposing it to you, I want to mirror many crucial elements I want to include in that well-being alphabet. Elements I want to invite you to reflect and explore about.
The awareness of my internal process. The attitude I can choose to have toward that process. An attitude made of acceptance, self-compassion, healthy indulgence, self-respect, gentleness and kindness. A for Awareness. A for Attitude. Awareness plus Attitude leads to C for Choices, and awareness and will (two major concepts of Psychosynthesis) are the pillars of E for Empowerment and F for Fulfilment. The Empowerment and Fulfilment of B for Being. Being Authentic. Authentic with my Inner Critic and its challenges. Mirroring to you what it is to take the time to breathe and G for Grounding yourself. R for Reflecting. I could go on like this a long time with the letters.
And maybe allowing myself to be congruent here, exposed and vulnerable1 is the best way to achieve what this well-being alphabet is all about. The best way to invite you to treat yourself better, to take the time to re-assess what is going on, the dynamics at play and the choices you may have. The best way to help you be inspired and empowered.
Maybe by exposing myself I will help you to listen to your inner voices and decide whether or not you let them control you, whether or not you decide to try taking back the driving seat of your mind and life.
I am taking back the driving seat by exposing my Inner Critic and admitting its power over me. I admit the shame and embarrassment I feel as a Counsellor to get stuck in self-depreciation and disappointing myself. The weight of experiencing myself as a failure for it. The challenge not to always know how to overcome my Inner Critic and how to achieve what I want to achieve. I am taking back my control. I am taking back my value, my worth as a human being.
I am feeling discouraged and being a failure for totally unreasonable and unrealistic expectations I put on myself. I say “I” put on myself because it comes a time where one needs to take ownership of the voices and deal with them. I am dealing with them transparently because how am I suppose to help you as my clients or readers empower yourselves out of shame and judgement if I can’t do it for myself? I am exposing myself to you as a gift, the gift we give in therapy2 as Counsellors: the allowance to be yourself, and to know that yourself is enough, yourself has no shame but pride to feel. Yourself is valuable, beautiful and worthy, even in the darkness.
What was before my Inner Critic took over and what does remain since?
My imagination. Rich, creative, exciting, joyful, playful and generous. My generosity, my heartedness and my kindness in the desire to write about something that could help some of you to feel better, to nurture your self-loving3 and your well-being. My care remains. The kindness and love in my heart remain. I genuinely want to do good. I genuinely want to help you as individuals to face and heal from your suffering and customise your life around your needs and desires, your identity and values. That’s why I became a Counsellor in the first place.
So what? Am I gonna let my Inner Critic convince me that I am a failure because I might not have the unrealistic productivity and endurance to create what my imagination gets excited about? Am I gonna let it tell me how to perceive myself? Someone not intelligent enough, lazy, procrastinating, not resilient, not hard working… Yes, sometimes I might be those things. Yes I admit that I would love to create in quality and quantity in the blink of an eye because it would be so much easier and because my imagination has more ideas than I could chew in a lifetime.
But if I have the humility to admit the impatience in my personality and the limitations of my intelligence and knowledge, I can also admit and recognise my intelligence and emotional intelligence as they are. Recognise the richness of my imagination, the generosity of my heart, and all the good in my intentions. Those are the things I want to build my self-esteem on. I don’t want to deny my flaws and my shadows. But I sure don’t want them to hide from me my qualities and my lights.
I may or may not come back to creating my well-being alphabet. Today, I realised and made a conscious choice that something else mattered more to me. Admitting my struggle to myself and to you. Listening to my struggle with compassion. Admitting my shame with gentleness and kindness. Mirroring to you what it is to accept my human hood and work through it.
I am not finishing this article unharmed by my Inner Critic. I am not finishing my article healed from my crushing shadow. I am finishing it in a space of ‘acceptance in progress’. Accepting the processes within me and that they take time. I am finishing with being proud of myself for letting go of an unreasonable expectation, for facing my demon and deciding to face it publicly. I am proud of honouring myself and my goal through all the well-being posts I can write by exposing my vulnerability and extracting strength from it.
I exposed myself today to honour my goal to allow myself to be who I am, to let my being shine, and to help some of you do the same whether it is within yourself, in your relationships with others, or in the world you navigate in. Be attentive to yourself, be kind, be gentle, be patient… You are more than your shadows. Be proud of your bravery, because very often the bravest thing we can do is B for Being.
1 The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown
2 The Gift of Therapy, Irvin D. Yallom
3 The Self-Love Challenge: Why Loving Ourselves Should Be Trendy, Lucas Voclere