We all have a critical voice. As you become more aware of what’s going on in your head, you will probably realize that the voice is not your highest self. You may decide that you no longer want it to be in charge of running your life. After all, it’s that critical voice that not only criticizes us but also all the people in our lives and the world as a whole. It’s the critical voice that keeps us from thriving in our relationships. So how do you get away from the constant negative chatter that resides in your head?
One of the fastest ways I know to get out of your head and into your heart is to ask a simple question: How can I contribute?
This question has the power to transform all our relationships, including the one we have with ourselves.
It’s the critical voice that complains about our partners. The voice makes a list of all the things that annoy us – the things our partners are not doing right and the ways in which they’re not fulfilling our needs. The question “How can I contribute?” brings us back into our hearts. It is there that we can ask ourselves – How am I making my partner feel? What does he need from me that I haven’t been giving him? Attention? Affection? Presence? Acceptance? How can I contribute to him in this moment that will make him feel more loved and more supported?
It’s the critical voice that sees the faults in our children. The voice tells us that if our children are not all that we want them to be, that means we, as parents, are not enough. It sees our children as a means to give us significance. It notices every mistake they make, and it wants to control them so that our lives will be easier. When we ask how we can contribute to them, it causes us to drop into our hearts and to see that our children are doing their best. They’re not perfect and we shouldn’t expect them to be. When we’re focused on contributing to them, we can ask - What does my child need right now? What is she really asking for with her behavior or her attitude? Does she need more structure? Better boundaries? More attention? More space to express her emotions? How can I best support her in this moment? How can I encourage her to find her own solution? Asking the question takes the focus off of the situation in front of us and helps us look compassionately at the child as a whole being.
It’s the critical voice that constantly attacks our bodies. The voice sees our bodies as something outside of our control that we should fear. What if instead of wanting to control and change our bodies, we could instead feel love and acceptance? What if we trusted that our bodies are always working for us? Asking ourselves how we can contribute to our bodies shifts our attitudes from one of battle to one of support. We can ask – What do you want to be fed? Do you need more exercise? More rest? How can I support you when you’re struggling with an illness? These questions invite us to see our bodies as vehicles for this lifetime. From this perspective, we can make empowering and healthful choices that support our bodies as our partners in this life.
Of course, it is the critical voice that finds fault with our every move and looks to things outside of us for validation of our worthiness. When we ask how we can contribute to ourselves, it can help us make decisions based on our soul’s purpose instead of our ego’s desires. We can ask – What do you need today? What would excite you? What would make life more fun? More fulfilling? These questions can guide us to nurture ourselves and allow ourselves to fill our lives with happiness, pleasure and joy.
It is the critical voice that causes us to feel separate from other people in this world. The voice is responsible for all the judgment we have for others. It makes people of different cultures or belief systems into enemies instead of seeing our common ground. It creates conflict with the people we come into contact with because it always wants to make us right and others wrong. When we ask ourselves how we can contribute, it opens us up to see them differently. We can ask – How can I understand this person? What happened in this person’s life to create their belief system? What pain may they be hiding? How can I bring good into this person’s life? Asking the question takes our focus off of ourselves. It nudges us to see people with more empathy in our hearts.
When I focus on contribution in my life, it automatically turns down the volume of the critical voice and allows me to access my deepest self. Every relationship improves. I feel more connected to my husband, my kids, my parents, my friends, and to the world as a whole. I feel more hopeful. I feel safer. I feel more in control of my current life and of my future.
As a warning, when I talk about contribution, I’m not speaking of self-sacrifice or giving to others before we take care of ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty cup. We must always contribute to ourselves by taking care of our bodies and our souls. I’m also not inviting you to feel guilty about not doing enough. Many women beat themselves up for not being able to do everything for everyone. Don’t fall into that trap - that would be your critical voice taking over again! If the question “What can I contribute?” brings up feelings of guilt, just take a deep breath and focus on your beating heart for a minute. Then ask it for direction and do what feels right. Giving should give us energy, not deplete our energy.
When we live our lives looking for how we can contribute, it can shift all our relationships and affect the world as a whole. We are always contributing something. Become aware of what it is you’re contributing. Is it complaints that you share with others? Stories of anger? Comments of divisiveness? Feelings of fear? What would you rather contribute? Give this a try and let me know what shifts in your life.
Love and light,
P.S. Speaking of contribution, to celebrate my birthday this week, I started a fundraising campaign for charity:water, a nonprofit on a mission to bring clean drinking water to every person on the planet. If you'd like to get involved, click here.