Of all the self-development and healing work I've done, one of the most truly transformative was to start recording my own voice.
You can use the voice memo app if you have an iPhone or do a search for "recorder" when you look for an app using your Android.
The exercise: tell your stories. Ones that hurt or made you feel sad, embarassed, forgotten, guilty or resentful. Ones that you know shifted you away from being the divine incarnation of love that you really are. Once you've recorded one or two, replay them for yourself and speak out loud to your recording with love, acceptance and compassion using loving phrases like that wasn't your fault. You were so brave. I'm so proud of you. You can let that go now. I'm here. Everyone makes mistakes and just because that's what happened doesn't mean that's who you are. You are wiser now. I love you so much. I love you so much. We don't have to hold on to that pain anymore. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Let's write a new story together now.
You can also start using this app in your goal-setting work. Every once in a while, flip the exercise on its head and tell the story of awesome goals you've accomplished or ones you're working towards like they've already happened: 'Oh my gosh! We opened the doors to the business today! I finally got up the guts to send out some query letters for my book idea and an agent emailed me back today!' When you play them back, celebrate yourself! Cheer and clap and congratulate yourself on all your hard work.
Lisa Nichols suggests telling yourself something you're proud of yourself for, something you forgive yourself for and something you commit to yourself every day. I love that.
There is a voice inside you and if you only use its kind and supportive version to be kind and supportive to others, you're doing yourself a real disservice. Especially if you have a tendency to be critical to yourself inside your head and think all kinds of cutting, hurtful things you would never say out loud or to a friend.
This exercise brings that inner voice outside and allows you to hear it. Even if there are places where you hold blame for yourself in the story, be kind, loving, and forgiving about it. You did your best. If you had known better you would have done better.
Why would you do this? What would you really get out of it?
It changed the way I related to myself. I'm a recovering perfectionistic, a type-A personality when it comes to my professional life. I recently retired that there was a way things SHOULD BE. I did this exercise for the first time when my daughter was a teeny tiny pumpkin. I was really struggling with "should be." She should be sleeping more by now. She should be rolling over. She should be bonding more with her dad. She should be letting me take longer than a 3 minute shower. She shouldn't be teething this much at this age. Motherhood exploded my consciousness open.
There is no should be. There is only what is. And what is: IS BEAUTIFUL, if only we'll let ourselves be present in it.
But whew, our thoughts sure can ruin a perfectly good moment. My daughter was late to walk. I got to hold my baby two more months and before I knew it, she was trying to free her fingers from my hand so she could do it on her own. During those two months, I had to really work on myself to direct my thoughts. I was repeating a track of mantras every day when fear and anxiety tried to get the better of me: 'Savannah is healthy and whole. She will walk when she is ready. I am enjoying this extra time to cuddle my little one close.' It was easier to say to myself when she was in her baby sling as we walked around the park and harder when I went to mommy and me playgroups for her age and every other kid was walking. So we stopped going to those groups. They made me feel bad. This exercise helped me ask myself a very important question:
How am I contributing to my own misery?
What am I doing and saying to myself that is literally making me MISERABLE?
And how soon can I stop? I looked at my calendar and cancelled all kinds of stuff. I needed less post office runs and more yoga class. Less grocery store trips and more lunch with friends. I started realizing the best gift I could give my daughter was a happy mom. So I started asking myself, what can I do today to be happy? And changed my entire approach to motherhood and life.
The most poignant example I remember of this exercise making a difference for me is in my attitude towards household chores. I had been mentally running a program for a long time ---when there's an annoying task I need to get done like the dishes after the end of a long day, I often said to myself "God won't bless your mess." to inspire myself to get in there and get it done.
I actually remember the exact moment of the shift. I remember what I was wearing and the color of the orchid in the window sill. It was around ten pm and the sink was overflowing with pots and pans and sippy cups and portable snack packs and I was just about to say that old phrase when I caught myself.
That is some seriously MEAN nonsense. What is my insinuation to myself?? After a full day of work and commuting and mothering, I am not worthy to be blessed by God because I'm too tired to do the dishes? Needless to say when I had chosen to say this hurtful/spiritually unsound phrase to myself in the past, many times the lights were turned off and a back was turned on that dirty kitchen. (I say spiritually unsound because God does indeed bless messes on the regular.)
Furthermore, I would never, ever even dream of saying that to a friend. Certainly not one who was working as hard as I was. I was so much meaner to myself than I would ever be to anyone and all that was about to change that night. Recording my voice helped me get the voice inside my head OUT. I could almost hear my own voice because I had played my voice memos so many times. Of perhaps equal importance, I had also practiced being kind, forgiving, loving and compassionate to myself for "mistakes" far greater than not wanting to do the dishes. So this thought just did not compute. My brain picked it out as foreign and bizarre. When I tried to use it to inspire me into the kitchen, I stopped dead in my tracks. That is so mean! I couldn't let it slide. I certainly couldn't allow myself to hurt myself anymore.
I realized, I loved myself now and there was no turning back.
I can hear my inner critic and catch it in a way I hadn't before. This way, I can turn it into inner compassion. My "let's get in there and do those dishes" internal dialogue sounds more like this now: Shadé, you're so awesome. Look at all these dishes and blenders and pots and pans. You make organic meals for your baby, veggie smoothies she actually likes AND homemade popsicles? Like...I just think you're great. You give your best every day. If you want to stuff these in the dishwasher and go for it in the morning, you've earned it. But I know how much you love waking up to a sparkling clean kitchen, so whichever you decide, you'll still be a great mom and an amazing woman.
These days? I usually do the dishes and smile.