The other day I was late for something. Not very late. In fact, I was actually on time but an angry voice berated me anyway, saying, "You are late! There will be no seats left. You wouldn't run late if you were more organized!" It was a terrible feeling, especially because the voice was partially right.
Who was this voice yelling at me? It was my nemesis - the Shrew who lives in my head.
We all get annoyed at ourselves from time to time; it is only natural. But for some of us, it can become an unrelenting bother. There can be no contentment when the Shrew is on the scene!
Some call it a gremlin, others an inner critic, others negative self-talk. I call her the Shrew. No matter what you call yours, you know who I mean. She's fierce, she's damning and she's quick to pounce on every mistake you make, turning them into capital offenses. The Shrew exaggerates our flaws, smashes our self-esteem, ruins our confidence, distracts us from what we are doing and makes us miserable.
I am choosing not to live with it anymore! I invite you to do the same. There is a force which can tame the Shrew: The Buddha in Your Back Pocket*.
Think of a time when you witnessed a stranger being scolded and felt badly for them. Perhaps it was a worker being accused by an angry boss of "screwing things up" for something you knew wasn't their fault. Did you wish you could go up to that worker and say, "Don't pay any attention to them. I saw what happened and I know you are a doing a good job!"
This softer side of you is the anti-Shrew. It is empathy and compassion. The Shrew is afraid of it because she fears you might offer it to yourself. It is a skill to learn to apply this loving, tender, supportive side of ourselves to ourselves. Many of us, me included, are not in the habit of it.
The morning I was late, Ms. Shrew was in full force. But, before she could ruin my day, I was able to ward her off by pulling out the Buddha in My Back Pocket. It felt a bit like Luke Skywalker yielding a light saber against Darth Vader. "Luke, use the force!"
I let the powerful voice of the Buddha in My Back Pocket counter the accusations of the Shrew. He asked, "What were your reasons for making the choices you did this morning?" and "Would you make these same choices again?" Then he reminded me of two universal truths: "You are doing the best you can" and "Growth involves observing one's actions and then learning from them." Under this influence of love and a genuine intention to seek understanding, I was able to temporarily silence the Shrew, objectively analyze my "lateness" and gain valuable personal insight. Within a few minutes, I felt relieved, re-engaged in life and able to peacefully continue with the rest of my day.
Unfortunately, we can't eradicate the Shrew completely. But we can learn to access this equalizing force: the pursuit of empathetic understanding - a loving friend that takes your side and helps you learn about yourself in a safe and protected way. The Buddha in your Back Pocket is always with you to calm your mind, forgive your errs, and remind you of the growth in your life. As you cultivate your relationship with the Buddha in your Back Pocket, you will experience more self-love, confidence and peace.
Life is too short to spend time unnecessarily berating ourselves with critical self-talk! Go forth into your day and bring the Buddha in Your Back Pocket with you. You never know when you might need it!
*I do not wish to offend anyone by using the title Buddha. I have the utmost respect for the Buddhist tradition. In this article, I refer to Buddha as a representation of an enlightened teacher offering guidance to those who chose to listen.
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