Who Are You to Ask Yourself Crushing Questions?
No such thing as a stupid question? Maybe not, but in the realm of self-talk, questions can certainly be most unkind. Sometimes I tell my clients not to ask themselves disempowering questions. Notice the question is disempowering (self-demeaning, deflating, discouraging, unkind) and DROP IT. Approach what you're wondering about from another angle. But another interesting tactic is to answer the questions you ask yourself—especially when they're mean-spirited or sarcastic. Unanswered, they may leave you feeling stuck with the defeating messages they imply.
Who does that?
Someone told me recently about staying too long in an emotionally abusive relationship, making one excuse after another for her partner. She didn't want to give up on him or to declare him unworthy by leaving, so she hung in there for the ongoing manipulations and verbal attacks that eroded her own self-worth. “Who does that?” she bemoaned.
Uh, short answer? Lots of people. Pause for a quick brainstorm, and you'll find more plausible answers in no time:
Better, right? Leaving Who does that? unanswered only leaves in place the clueless loser who obviously fills in the blank. Answer it, and self-compassion comes in—and even points you to growth and healing.
What was I thinking?
You've asked yourself this one, right—in the realm of work or love or parenting? It's another self-scolding question that can invite kindness and bring insights—but only once it's genuinely answered. This question is interesting in that it's actually more helpful to answer it in the negative. That is, consider what you weren't thinking, or what you didn't have in view.
Just a few answers shed a kinder light already. Now you can better see how to course-correct—make amends, invite deeper communication, forgive yourself.
Do I get to have my cake and eat it too?
My client Marie asked me this recently when she feared she was being entitled by quitting a sought-after job (in which she felt her dignity was at stake—quitting was actually a great call). And now, here she was wanting an even better job! The question itself clearly reveals it's not okay at all, in her current mental framework, to want so very much.
For questions like this, drop the metaphor and consider what's really being asked. Try answering these instead:
Marie's loaded version is a great example of how questions to the self can reveal the deep, unresolved stuff people carry around unconsciously. She'd gotten repeating messages in childhood and beyond that life requires working hard, making sacrifices, accepting that you can't have it all, and so on—until she couldn't want more than two things without calling herself unrealistic and entitled! It's so useful to dig this stuff up, give it a good look, and consider what else is possible.
You won't get to the good stuff by leaving a question hanging, though. Are you kidding me? How's that working for you? Take a breath, please, and take a moment to answer the question. You just may land in kindness and clarity.
Love & blessings, Jaya
P.S. My last example leads me to this: I highly recommend The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. This book brilliantly addresses the Upper Limits Problem--those unconscious places where we think we've got as much as it's okay to have in any realm of life; where we get uncomfortable and start to sabotage the expansion and integration seeking to support our ongoing journey of healing and evolution and of becoming all that we're here to be!
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