I have a soft spot for pigs. In fact, given the right environment, I’d love a pet pig. They’re smart and have been known to out perform dogs in experiments comparing the intelligence of primates, dogs and pigs.
But this post is not about pigs. The reason for the porcine introduction is one of my favourite lines from the movie Babe. For those of you that haven’t seen this delightful movie, this is the story of a little pig trying to find his destiny. And find it he does, mustering sheep in his own way, guided by the intuitive help of a wise old farmer and the support of a border collie he calls Mom. In the last few seconds of the film, following great success at a fair, Farmer Hoggett turns to the adorable little pig and says ‘That’ll do pig, that’ll do.”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself saying exactly that to my inner critic.
Tomorrow is the final day of a truly enjoyable, educational and enlightening course I’ve been participating in called ‘Off the Mat Into the World: Embodying Your Purpose‘. Superbly co-facilitated by Marianne Elliot, Kelly Fisher and Nick Potter, the course combines yoga with personal and professional development for change-makers.
For me, one of the most illuminating aspects of this course, is the work we’ve been doing on our inner critic. That voice inside which says ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’ve failed’ or ‘I will fail so there’s no point evening trying’. Let’s face it, I think we all have one. At least most people I know have one. Not because it’s something talked about openly or regularly, but because so many of the people I know have such expectations of themselves and are seriously good at beating themselves up.
I suspect I’ve sounded like a stuck record and have been boring the pants of numerous friends lately by raving on about this process of visualising and conversing with my inner critic. But honestly, it’s been a revelation. It has been a similar experience to my recent realisation that at the age of 38 I didn’t really know how my mind and body functions. That I know more about art history than I know about my digestive system. And while there’s nothing wrong with being able to analyse a painting hanging at Te Papa it does seem a little ludicrous that I know so little about this mind-body I inhabit.
With respect to my inner critic, for 30 odd years I feel like I’ve been followed around by this invisible character that has never missed an opportunity to whisper in my ear ‘Hmmm, I think you could have done that a whole lot better’. Except that she had become a part of me, so insidious that the message has been a hundred variations of ‘I’m not good enough.’ But finally, I feel like I’ve called her on it. Swung round, caught her by the arm before she disappears into the shadows and asked ‘Who ARE you? Where did you come from? And why do you keep saying these things?’
It turns out that SHE is the personification of the girl/woman I’ve spent most of my life thinking or believing (unconsciously) that I should be. Taller, prettier, richer, thinner, more successful, more fit, more popular etc etc etc. And while there have been times in my life – recently, in fact – where her voice been more distant, if I’m being completely honest, she has always been there. Created out of layer upon layer of expectation. The expectations of family, friends and society (or at least my perception of their expectations) and my very own expectations of myself.
At the same time as having a full and frank conversationwith my inner critic, I’ve continued to hear the voice of that wise old Buddhist hermit mentioned in the previous post. His words ‘Fear nothing other than the failure to experience your true nature.’ This whole process feels like peeling layers of old paint of an oil painting revealing the nature of the original work below. By paying attention to my inner critic, the messages have shifted from a voice deep within and impossible to differentiate from my own to a voice belonging to a woman who I can now see is a product of years of conditioning. Identifying my inner critic has essentially helped me peel off more layers and experience more of my true nature.
So now, instead of lurking in the shadows, this woman who represents all that I think I should be walks along aside me and tomorrow when I do something and she turns to me and starts to say ‘You didn’t do that…” I will look at her and firmly, but kindly, say “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.”