Day 7. The Pusher
Its Motivations: To make you successful and industrious as opposed to its perception of ‘lazy'.
The Fear It's Driven By: If you don't prove yourself all of the time, you (I) will be rejected or held up to scrutiny.
Underlying Beliefs: If I'm not sweating blood, sweat, tears and my self-esteem to the point of exhaustion and emotional bankruptcy, I'm not doing enough hence I’m not good enough.
Look Out For: 'Coach' parent that seemed to want the win more than you did, unpleasable parent/caregiver, workaholic parent, being in a highly competitive environment over an extended period, an ex or friend who your confidence took a slide over an extended period because they kept trying to 'renovate' you.
Acting as taskmaster, whip cracker, and drill sergeant, it's like an extended intensive exercise bootcamp in your head, which puts you in a permanent state of stress. Fearing that you will be judged as being a failure or below par and then in turn rejected, it tries to work you to the bone so that you (and ‘it’) can be successful, and will push you to keep going even when you're beyond exhausted or you are more than exceeding and already succeeding.
The Pusher works in tandem with the The Perfectionist inner critic - the latter zones in on flaws that 'need' to be corrected and then bossy boots 'coach', The Pusher, runs you ragged.
The Pusher doesn’t really have a goal or even if it did, it’s lost sight of it and you.
Afraid of stopping and afraid of relaxing, it fears that you will be perceived as lazy or a fraud and as a result of its over-zealous ways, you can be caught between fear of failure and fear of success. 'Fail' and your inner critic is going to be on you like Zorro, and do well and your inner critic is going to be on you like Zorro, pushing you, creating more expectations, which you fear will open you up to more scrutiny and possible rejection.
The messages that you've picked up along the way that form and feed The Pusher are heavily influenced by someone from your past who taught you through statement or observation or you inferring it, that if you're not living in a state of fear then you're not trying hard enough.
Like all versions of your inner critic, The Pusher's fears are irrational, inspired by their [the original inspiration’s] own experience(s) and fears from a much younger version of you. The Pusher wants you to be 'better' and even though it's supposedly for your benefit, its motivations are skewed by its hidden agenda and its attitude is demoralising.
Earlier in life, you learned to associate burnout and achievement with your worth.
All it takes is to come home a couple of times feeling pleased about having achieved something and a caregiver being nonchalant or barely acknowledging it because they've already got their eyes on the next thing to do or because they don't want to, heaven forbid, give you praise and you become ‘complacent’, and you have no sense of enough or a sense of how great your accomplishments and achievements are. They may have withheld affection and praise (or only gave it as a reward), feeling that they knew you were capable of so much better, or that it was to encourage you to have drive or to succeed. Sometimes, there was an element of them competing with you but a lot of the time it’s also about their fear of you ending up ‘like them’. It’s about regrets and sometimes it’s also what their own caregivers did to them.
An outer pusher trains you to ignore feelings about their behaviour and attitude because any resistance is tagged as ‘ungrateful' or ‘difficult’ or ‘lazy’, struggling to empathise because they think you have it “so much better” than they did or that they would have killed to have this ‘help’ and ‘support’, so your inner critic likely triggers feelings of guilt, obligation and resentment.
The Pusher also might bring out the rebel - procrastination and passive aggression - so that you feel in control and preventing them (and possibly your outer critic) from ‘winning’ - if you disappoint them enough, you hope they’ll get off your back but while this may happen, it brings feelings of shame and resentment plus, in fighting an old war and still treating them like an authority, you're actually cutting off your nose to spite your face because your old habits obstruct you pursuing your desires because your wall isn’t distinguishing between different situations.
You may feel disloyal about not wanting what The Pusher wants, seeing choosing your own path as ending its dream.
You’re trying to right the wrongs of the past - either trying to give someone else their dream (at your expense) or trying to win over your outer pusher or someone similar so that you can finally have permission to be.
You are likely to form relationships with unpleasables - super critical with an overinflated sense of their own importance - as well as people who control through 'help' and taking you on as their pet project, giving you the impression that you need to be rescued even though you don't. It's not unusual to go out with people who like to direct you and it's also common to be involved with people where you initially feel in control or equal but who then, by being critical, difficult or deviating from the picture you had in your mind, activate the pleaser and overdoer in you.
It’s possible that you feel guilty about relaxing (or just don’t know how), that you have a never-ending todo list or keep editing things that you've previously completed. You might struggle with time management due to pushing you and overdoing whatever you're working on. You may find it hard to say no because you don't want to appear as if you dare to relax or that you don't have enough things to do, leaving you overwrought and burnt out from taking on too much. You might find that you're either really pushy with others or you hold you to lofty standards but go easier on them.
One of the concerns you might have about tuning in to your inner voice is that your ambition will go down the toilet and that you'll become complacent. There is a future lesson about this but be assured that while there's something to be said for having someone pushing you to succeed, you need to adapt your relationship to one where you're being encouraged and supported to succeed from a healthier place that leaves you with room to enjoy who you are, to enjoy your accomplishments and achievements and to actually enjoy your life.
JOURNALING: Do you identify with The Pusher experience? Write about the ways in which this habit has manifested itself in your life - locate your specific habits of thinking and behaviour. Think about the expectations of your inner critic with regards to 'success' - whose expectations are they? Even if you've tweaked them, who originally taught you this expectation? Do you know what the meaning of 'lazy' or 'fraud' or even 'success' is? If not, look these up in the dictionary and then check in with your own life - are the things that you fear actually true? Look at the definition of success, then the person who inspired your pusher's version of success and then try to identify 1) what your version of success is (everyone's is different and it's not just one thing) and 2) whether you are actually happy pursuing someone else's vision and life? Think about experiences where your inner or outer pusher has been very vocal and pushy - what did they say, what did they want, how did you feel at the time? Does this look like motivation to you? Look up the meaning of motivation in the dictionary and get some clarity on how you feel about their input. What are their key words and phrases? Are there similarities between the inner and outer pusher? Do you say any of this stuff to anyone else and if so, how do they respond to it? How do you feel at the time? Are there things about this interaction that you would like to change? What are the ways in which your pusher has helped you? What have been the side effects? When it all boils down to it, are you happy with you as a person? If not, this is linked to the cost of giving this critic too much sway in your life.
Don't forget to use the resources section to help you to work through feelings that come up - the Releasing Exercise is ideal for homing in on memories associated with not being perfect being a problem. Unsent Letters are ideal for distinguishing you from others, forgiving you and using compassionate enquiry to think about what you can do next.