Day 22. Connect To Your Inner Voice By Exploring Your Desires & Needs Part One
Over the last decade, I’ve found ways of listening to my inner voice. At first, it was a bit cluttered because I was so used to listening to my inner critic but over the years, I’ve become attuned to recognising the supportive messaging of my inner voice versus that of my inner critic, which often feels like a chop or is certainly mocking, berating and even sneering tones.
When you ask your inner voice for guidance, it can provide you a great deal of intel and there are various ways of finding out what you truly want. When I talk to people who struggle with their inner critics, they often have a sense of what they want to be being, doing and feeling but have shut it down with ‘shoulds’ due to giving too much attention to their inner critic. These people have hidden passions, hidden desires, hidden careers and purposes because their inner critic has convinced them that they could only reach for these things if they met some stringent conditions and did things in the way that the critic dictates. They then come up with all sorts of reasons and excuses for why they’re not being who they truly are and pursuing what they want to do and when I dig behind these reasons, not one of them are a true barrier to going for what they want. Often they’re overcomplicating things and also delaying stretching themselves and happiness. This is no different to when people say, “If I could just lose x lbs then I know I would be much happier” or “When I have the house, car and job then I will be able to ______ or I will feel more content as a person…” - no they won’t!
By getting a sense of your desires and even your goals (or whatever you want to call them), that is how you give space to your true self. Your true self, your inner voice, is not about ‘shoulds’ and ‘must’ this and ‘must not’ that. Your true self and its inner voice (your inner voice), is flexible in the sense that it’s not about rules and rigid constraints. It’s open to other experiences along the way whereas your inner critic only wants you to look at one view and will berate you if things are not on its clock.
1. Where are you headed?
I remember writing a list of my short-, medium and long-term aspirations and goals, and recognising how a lot of what I had been doing was not in alignment with where I was headed. I wanted to own my own place but I'd not so much as looked into what would be involved or saved anything. I saw a long-term relationship and children in my future (but I fannied around in unavailable relationships) and I knew that I wanted to work for myself, learn to drive, go to this place and that place, cut back on this and that, sort out my health etc. Criticising me (or listening to criticism) was a barrier. I realised that if I was going to reach for any of these things, I had to spend more of my time listening to and supporting me. What emerged were a mix of my desires and needs.
I've gradually ticked off each of the items on the original list, with the last big one being me passing my driving test in October 2014, however, I lost the list not long afterwards. What I didn't forget was the stirrings of clarity and recognition of how I wanted to feel and who I wanted to be.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that things don’t necessarily happen in the timeframe that you want it to but they do happen when you continue to align you with what you want including doing the work on you to support this - I had to really push through my inner critic habits and let go of control and perfectionism in order to pass my driving test.
I'm not really a 'goals person' in the sense that I know some people have their five-year plan, business plans, mapped out this and that. I thought that it might be because of perfectionism / procrastination why I was averse to all of this malarkey or maybe averse to being accountable, but then I realised that this isn't the primary reason.
What changed for me is that because I focused on tackling habits that were causing me to not only feel bad and to lose like and respect for me but to also live out of alignment with the values I professed to have as well as my goals and desires, my personal happiness has increased because I have gradually become more congruent and am focused on coming from a place of love, care, trust, and respect.
This, as such, 'resistance' to putting me into a fixed place where X has to happen by _____ or if Y doesn't happen then it must mean _______, doesn't mean that I don't have things that I desire and aim for, but the overarching 'goal' is for me to have love, care, trust, respect and authenticity at the heart of what I'm being and doing.
If I feel this way in what I am being and doing then I feel happy and am doing things that are in alignment with me by extension.
I have found that I'm at my most frustrated and unhappy when I go 'off message' by soaking up too much external noise about what I or people 'should' be and do or when I slip into being self-critical about what I 'should' and 'must' be doing. I have to be careful of comparison and the rules that aren't rules.
We all have to be careful of defining 'success' as one thing or a checklist because we must remember that the journey that is life isn't 'unsuccessful' and that we have to be conscious, aware, and present to enjoy the things that we didn't stick on a list or think up.
Use the on-the-job training experience that is life and self-awareness, to note where you feel happy, content, more you, more alive, at peace etc, and to also note the experiences and thinking that take you away from you.
Yes, gain clarity about what you want to be and do in the short-, medium- and long-term so that you have direction and are accountable as opposed to going with the flow and forgetting your values to keep the peace, but also start to gain awareness and clarity about how and where to be steering you so that you feel more positive feelings and ultimately take better care of you.
When you’re weighted towards your inner critic, there is too much of a focus on what you want to 'get' and how you want to feel as result of trying to 'make' people feel and do certain things. That's how you can end up feeling adrift from your core self.
To this end, it's important to note the progress and transition between going from where you are now to, for instance, improving a particular type of situation or improving how you feel about you.
Every effort to transcend previous habits is an improvement and progress. This isn't a one shot thing - for instance, how I assert my boundaries or respond to my inner critic has evolved over the past ten years. It's not static.
Get a sense of where you want to evolve, what your hotspots are (areas where you keep experiencing a recurring lesson that you need to heed), and what signifies that you're in your zone of self-esteem or in the zone of people pleasing.
This is not an editorial task in the sense that you have to edit your goals and aspirations – write down whatever springs to mind and treat this as a creative discovery process.
They don’t have to be big although the medium to longer-term aspirations and goals may be bigger depending on the stage of your life. Don’t focus solely on one area of your life (e.g. relationships) – look at health, things you’d like to try / do, places you’d like to go, things you’d like to learn.
Even if you don’t look at the list again, you are pulling your true self up to the surface and acknowledging your needs, wants, and expectations.
If you hear your inner critic, use the work you’ve already done to self-soothe and manage the critic. No goal is ‘stupid’ – goals are goals, aspirations are aspirations, and they’re all individual and personal. The only caution I will give you is to make sure that you have challenging but obtainable goals, not long-shot ones where by putting it into a timeframe or making it reliant on everyone else and everything changing, you accept failure from the outset while feeling defeated.
2. Use #1 to get a sense of your needs and values
You will, for instance, have health, work, romantic relationship, family, hobbies and interests, financial etc, needs - organise what you’ve listed into categories. What you’re also seeing are your values, what you need in order for you live your life happily and authentically.
See if you can spot a theme and also whether your goals and needs are weighted in one particular area. Aside from getting a sense of what your needs and values are, you’re also getting a sense of what you value.
If there’s anything big in the short-term list, is it something that’s based on the timeline you’ve given you or your inner critic? Are you being unfair and applying undue pressure? Where has the timeline come from? For instance an outer critic, ongoing inner noise, comparison, the media? This is all inner critic noise - try to listen in for what you want. No ‘shoulds’ please!
HOT TIP - Literally ask you what you need and then just listen for the quieter voice as well as what might be semi-conscious, instinctive responses from your current train of thought. Let the inner critic noise pass and try to catch what it was trying to interrupt. The more you try this, the better it gets. Sometimes your quieter voice won’t make sense but write down what it says in your journal and clarity will strike when you’re most likely immersed in something else.
JOURNALING: This is basically like one big journaling session so what you might want to explore is how you feel about voicing your needs and desires? Did any resistance come up? What was it? What can you say to you to soothe you?
TASK: I’ve found it incredibly useful to lie flat on the floor for ten minutes each day (on a yoga mat or blanket is comfier) as a means of not only relaxing and releasing tension out of my back but as a way of giving my head a chance to clear. You would be surprised at what pops into your head after a few minutes. Don’t chase after any thoughts or feelings - observe and let them pass. You might find that you’re fidgety the first few times you do it ( I used to struggle just getting to 3-4 minutes) but stick with it and suddenly the time will fly by and you will feel refreshed and with increased clarity about what your inner voice has to say that day.