Carrie's Blog

Setting Boundaries with Your Negative Mind

You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate.”  – -Elizabeth Gilbert

I must admit, when I first sat down to write this blog on boundaries, I found myself in a familiar place of overthinking. I’m passionate about this topic and find it endlessly fascinating, challenging, fluid, and alive when I work with clients. But as I tried to write about it, my words felt dry and intellectual, lacking the warmth and authenticity I strive to bring to my work. “Is this interesting to anyone?” I wondered. “I doubt there’s anything unique I’m adding to the conversation.”  “Now…why am I doing this?”

To make my inner conflict more pronounced, my husband tempted me with a distraction when he invited me to listen to a radio interview with Ethan Kross, a psychologist who has written a brilliant new book, “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters, and How to Harness It.” I felt split; I welcomed another delay, but I needed to get back to my writing.  I asked my husband to send me the link. I’d listen later.

Boundaries with a Twist

Just last night, still in the dark about the direction of this post, I took time to listen to the whole interview and quickly realized it had everything to do with the topic of boundaries, but with an interesting twist.

Re-inspired, I lit a candle and settled back down in my office. I thought of what I often observe in myself and in my practice – that the most essential boundary we can set is the one within ourselves – against the negative, ruminative mind, the inner critic that drowns out our authentic voice and squashes our dreams. We can spend much energy setting boundaries with others, our phones, our time, and our work schedules, but if we don’t come to terms with that very human tormentor within, it matters not what we create on the outside.

For me, the struggle with the negative mind is ongoing.  Its chatter used to be considerably more toxic and relentless when I was younger, before I committed to my transformational journey.  Now it has lessened, but it can still challenge me.

I take some consolation knowing that most, if not all, of our minds are similarly plagued. I often find solace and power in rituals – lighting a candle, doing some spontaneous art to connect with my inner wisdom, and connecting with spirit through prayer and meditation, all of which help me. I felt validated to hear Kross mention how these small acts are powerful in helping us shift from a place of self-criticism to one of trust, confidence, and determination.

He poignantly shared how the tennis player Rafael Nadal once said his biggest battle on the court was against the voice in his head. Nadal, once the top player in the world, was known for elaborate rituals. Before every match, he followed a strict routine, including the order in which he got ready, the exact timing of his warm-up, and even the way he entered the court. Nadal explained these rituals gave him a sense of control and routine, helping to quiet his mind and keep negative self-talk at bay. By adhering to these rituals, he created a familiar structure that calmed his nerves and allowed him to concentrate solely on his world-class game. This focus helped him transition from moments of pressure to a mindset where he could perform at his best.

This sounds like good advice for all of us. Here are a few other ways that Ethan Kross says we can all combat or set boundaries with our inner critic**:**

Distanced Self-Talk

Kross suggests using distanced self-talk, where you refer to yourself in the third person or use your name instead of “I.” This can help create psychological distance from the inner critic and make it easier to manage emotions.

In my case, I might say, “Carrie, you can write “good enough” articles. You know what you’re talking about. You have a lot to share. It’s okay if it’s just a refresher. Just go for it…” (I feel better already).

Mental Time Travel

Imagining how you will feel about a challenging situation in the future (weeks, months, or years later) can help reduce the immediate emotional impact and provide perspective.

I’m envisioning being on a plane later this week and by the time I’m there, I’ll be done with my blog post and ready for an adventure with a beloved family member.

Nature Exposure

Spending time in natural environments or even looking at pictures of nature can have a calming effect and help reduce stress and negative thoughts.

This morning I sat in my rose garden listening to the birds while writing out an outline for this blog.  My whole consciousness opened up and the post seemed less of a worry.

Avoiding Triggers

Being mindful of situations, people, or activities that trigger negative self-talk and taking steps to avoid or minimize these triggers can be beneficial.

I WON’T spend time reading other musings on boundary setting, comparing myself to other people.

So what’s your strategy to get unstuck when your inner critic makes an appearance?

Light a candle?

Take a deep breath?

Snuggle with your dog?

For a deeper dive into the art of setting boundaries join my course “Mining Inner Wisdom” In a future module we will explore more fully the power of thoughts on what we create. Hope to see you there!


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