This morning I tried to ride my first 20K time trial, the shortest distance for time trials in Arizona. I had planned to ride my first one last weekend, but I was feeling pretty logy, so I made the right decision and bailed. I should have bailed today, as well, and in the end I had to abandon about three miles into the ride.
We all have various parts, or subpersonalities, that impact and sometimes dictate our behavior. One common grouping of parts is known as Pushers, and as their name indicates, they push us to perform, to achieve, to succeed, to always be seeking the next "golden ring," whatever that may be. I have a particularly powerful Pusher, and when it gets control of the self-system, I try to push myself beyond what my common sense says is appropriate. That's what happened today.
I have been feeling run-down, as though I am fighting off some kind of a respiratory illness for around 10 days now. I have been short of breath in my normal workouts, which never happens unless I am sick or fighting off some infection. But rather than listen to my body, I tried to race this morning and about 3 miles in it was clear I should not be out there - I couldn't breathe and my lungs literally hurt, to the point that it felt how I imagine asthma must feel.
So my first mistake was letting my Pusher talk me into doing a race I had no business starting. BUT the next issue is the Inner Critic response to my decision to abandon the race. The purpose of the Critic is to beat us up so thoroughly that we won't do anything that might warrant criticism from others. When we do something that we fear might bring condemnation from others, the Critic kicks into overdrive and is way harder on us than anyone else might be.
As I rode slowly back to the staging area today after deciding to abandon, my Critic did a number on me - loser, quitter, too weak, failure, wuss, wimp, coward, and on and on. The Critic can dig right past any defenses and get deeply into the repository of shame so many of us carry inside.
Fortunately, my friend Pat was there to watch me ride my first race . . . and then to talk some sense into me as I was haranguing myself out loud. Part of it was feeling as though I had wasted his morning by not even finishing the race. He reminded me that I did not simply quit, I could not breathe so there was no way to ride.
The internal abuse continued for most of the drive home. And when I got home there was a message on my cell from Pat, reminding me again that my mind was willing but my body said no. There's no shame in succumbing to illness.
I have been working with parts for more than a decade, and I generally am pretty good about being mindful when they act out. But not this time. Maybe it was wanting to get the first race out of the way, or maybe it was that I had been training for a couple of months, or maybe it was just plain old pride - whatever it was, I let my Pusher override my common sense and then my Critic kicked my ass for doing so.
- Embracing Ourselves: The Voice Dialogue Manual is one of the best introductions to parts and parts-work that I have seen.
- Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning Self-Criticism into a Creative Asset is a good book for working with the critic.
- Soul without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within offers a different approach to working with the critic.