A good friend is having trouble keeping the promises he makes to himself these days. He wants to be a good person, a person he can be proud of. A man of his word. But something keeps getting in the way and he has trouble forgiving himself.
My mother used to call it lack of willpower, lack of self-discipline. My Inner Critic still sometimes tells me that I have no willpower (and his voice then sounds suspiciously like my mother’s).
I think that one of the secrets to keeping our promises to ourselves is to realize that, as long as the voice of the Inner Critic is getting in the way, we can’t hear the little voice inside that is trying to tell us what we really need. So give your Inner Critic a big hug, thank him for looking out for your welfare, and then stop listening to him for a bit. Start listening to that inner voice.
Keeping these promises to ourselves requires courage. Courage, more than discipline, invokes the fire at our core. That is the reason we can only keep the really important promises. Those are the themes in our lives that we are truly passionate about.
So sometimes, meeting up to our expectations has a lot to do with understanding exactly why these are our expectations. Understanding why this one little thing is so enormously important to you and at the same time so difficult. Why will you only feel good about yourself if you can do this? What is life-defining about it? What is the little voice inside you really whispering? Can you stop your inner dialogue long enough to hear?
David Whyte speaks of this:
By the lake in the wood,
in the shadows,
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.
Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,
it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips
and out of the silence
you can make a new promise
it will kill you to break,
Excerpt from All the True Vows
What are the promises to yourself that you have trouble keeping?