How do you define motivation? What does self-motivation sound like in your head? Is it like a drill sergeant? Is it like an old familiar coach? Is it your voice? What sensations do you notice coursing through your body after you motivate yourself?
If you answer “I get more nervous, my heart rate goes up, or I feel lethargic and want to withdraw”, then you are likely attempting to motivate yourself out of shame and the results are disastrous.
Maybe your family operated this way, and you continue to talk to yourself this way and do not notice the red flags because red flags have been normalized in your experience.
Having an inner voice that sounds a lot like a bully can increase your adrenaline and other stress hormones.
This can kickstart a cycle – try and motivate yourself, beat yourself up, and then try to comfort yourself…..maybe with numbing out on instagram, video games, grabbing a few drinks, or engaging in emotional eating. Whatever your cycle looks like, the long term health effects of kicking yourself while you are down and then trying to comfort yourself into recovery is like being your own enemy and victim – all at the same time. To your nervous system, this is as if someone is pressing the gas and brake at the same time. You can imagine that would break down your vehicle. So why do we do the same thing to ourselves?
Maybe you are reading this and thinking “no way, I can’t be nice to myself. Being nice would be slacking and I would mess up, lose all my progress, or be weak…” Maybe that inner critic has helped you survive, get through med school, thrive in sports, or be the “golden child,” whatever role this inner critic has served for you has maybe run its course. Maybe this was survival and now you want to thrive, but your inner critic is wreaking havoc on your life.
What if your self-motivation sounded a little different? A little bit more compassionate?
That does not mean your worst fears come true and you let things slide beyond your comfort zone. Having no boundaries at all can be just as destructive as rigid boundaries. Creating a balance between courage and compassion in your inner voice is key. You can begin by listening to your body and your emotions. You can also begin by naming your self-motivation tactics. What does it sound like? What is the tone? Do you have visceral responses?
As you name these tactics, it is important to do so with a non-judgmental attitude. This motivational tactic likely came from an angle to try and help you, and will resist change.
Written by: Catherine Virden