Sometimes she sounds like your mom, your little sister, or those girls you overhear at the gym talking about how so-and-so has no business wearing those tights in public. But most of the time she uses your voice, doesn’t she?
In my experience, the Inner Mean Girl is really just a protective mechanism to make sure we stay away from a perceived threat or pain – such as feeling embarrassed, getting our feelings hurt, or being rejected. Whatever she says, it’s meant with your best interests at heart – but sometimes it can come across a little harshly because she wants to make sure you listen.
Here’s an example:
Your child is about to run directly into traffic. You have a couple of options – yell loudly and grab her arm to yank her out of harm’s way, or kindly say “Honey, that traffic is scary. C’mon back over here and sit by me.” Which do you think is more likely to end up with your child safe and sound? Yep – the yelling. She might cry and throw a tantrum, but your quick actions have saved her life.
Or consider a friend of mine, who recently found out that her step-dad and grandmother are worried that she’s doing too much and that she might get hurt. Their concerns were born out of genuine love, but it came off more like “I don’t believe in you.” The message was heard loud and clear, but Ouch!
My point is this – you might think your Inner Mean Girl is just a bitch (and occasionally that’s true), but it’s also possible she’s trying to get your attention because she needs reassurance that you’re not marching directly into danger. And that’s the good news, because it’s totally possible to get her to stop pestering you – so you can run in peace and actually enjoy it!
Silencing your IMG takes practice, compassion and sometimes a little tough love, but I have some ninja moves to help you get there quickly:
1. Ask her “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Then just go right there with her. Visualize it in detail. Imagine the absolute worst thing happening – and discuss what that means and strategies for how you’ll handle it. For example, if the worst thing that could happen while you’re doing your first 5K is that you won’t finish, or that you’ll be dead last, ask her “So what?”
That one simple question – magic words – can often defuse the situation. Because most of the time the answer is “If you finish last, you’ll be embarrassed because everyone will think you’re a failure.”
Oh, is that all? Well we’re strong women – we can DO embarrassed. It’s just an emotion. It’s not the end of the world. And failure isn’t coming in last – it’s not showing up to the starting line in the first place. Not taking a chance on doing something you really want to do because of the risk of what another person thinks, well that’s just handing over all your power, isn’t it? It means you’re letting someone else’s opinion dictate what you do or don’t do.
Nope, not gonna happen. We don’t let other people decide. We are in charge here.
2. Tell her you love her.
Pretend she’s your 90 year old grandmother that’s worried you’ll get hurt if you run 13 miles. Let her know that you appreciate her concern, and that you love her SO MUCH for worrying about you and wanting you to be safe.
Let her know that her opinion is noted, and that you will absolutely, 100% be careful, but that meeting your goals is so important to you and won’t she be proud when you cross that finish line???
3. Give her evidence.
Sometimes the only way to convince your IMG that everything is going to be OK is to show her evidence. If she’s complaining that you won’t be able to do that half marathon on Saturday, remind her that you’ve already successfully done two 12-mile training runs and that an extra mile tacked onto the end is clearly within your power.
Perhaps she’s telling you, oh-so-lovingly, that you have no business wearing those purple tights out in public – because people will think you look ridiculous. Remind her that nobody is looking at you, because they are all so far up in their own stories they don’t have time to notice what you’re wearing.
Whatever it is that she has to say, turn it around and show her how it isn’t true. Because really, it’s not. If you’re not a real runner, then what the heck are you when you’re out there putting one foot in front of the other? She’s wrong, and you have the facts to show her the truth.
The important thing to remember is that if you approach conversations with your IMG from a place of compassion, it’s much easier to have a dialogue that results in everyone feeling better about the situation. Just like any conflict, keeping a cool head can mean all the difference between tears and a satisfactory resolution.
Have you had a conversation with your IMG lately? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!