Picture this: the alarm goes off, again; it’s 7:30 am. You’re tired. You’re late. You walk over to the bathroom, look in the mirror and think, “ugh, I look like crap. I’m getting old. I am fat. I should hit the gym. Who am I kidding, I know I won’t. I suck.”
Now, imagine the rest of the day going similarly and the following thoughts swirling in your head: I look terrible in this outfit. I hate my job. I want to smack my boss. I am broke. Damn, I have these bills to pay. Ah, Jenny called; I really don’t want to see her, but I can’t possibly tell her that! I am late again. I fucked up that project. Another meeting? Ugh, I’ll get fired. It’s so cold out. So gloomy.”
You get the idea.
Is this you?
It’s ok to admit it. We all have some of these thoughts. I know I do. I had them just this morning.
When it hit me…
How can any of us be happy — or even just OK — if we let our brains go on and on and on with this kind of negativity, with judgements, with put-downs? How can we possibly feel good when we have hired our brains to be mean to us? We don’t even have a chance!
This chatter is equivalent to trying to watch a movie while someone is talking non-stop. This would be enough for us to lose it. Now, imagine that person telling us all this bullshit — how we are not good enough. How we suck. How we will never amount to anything.
That’s exhausting! (And we’d likely beat the crap out of that person.)
So, why is it that we keep on doing this to ourselves?
Now, imagine a different day.
You wake up. You think, “Ah, I am tired. Well, I’ll get some coffee and sleep better this evening. Or maybe take a nap at lunch. It’s not the end of the world.” You walk into the bathroom, you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “hello, beautiful.” You gently laugh, because you know you look so groggy. Then, you pick the outfit you love, and tell yourself: time to go, get ’em! Or, you ask yourself, “whose life will I save today?” “Whose life will I better today?” Then, at work, you prioritize 5 things you will accomplish that day. You say “no” to meetings that bring no value to you. You say “yes” to an opportunity to help someone. Maybe it’s holding the door, or smiling at a passerby. You are grateful that you can pay your bills and that you have a job. You also text Jenny and tell her you’re way too busy at the moment to see her. You think of an awesome dinner you’ll cook that evening, or a show you’ll watch, or a book you’ll read. You tell people you love that you love them. You send them a funny cat video, or set up a get-together.
You take a deep breath and realize that you are a human being, flawed and all, but also a good human being. You’re not expected to be anything other than what you are.
This is hard work. We’re all socialized to look at the bad stuff. We rarely get a phone call from someone excited that their friend got a promotion or published a book. But we definitely get more than one call or text to tell us how something went wrong. That’s just our human condition. It’s also our society: it’s all about sensationalist news. We don’t highlight heroes; we highlight Donald Trump. Please.
A good way to stop this chatter is to pay attention to our thoughts. If they’re mean, if they’re sabotaging us, if they’re judgmental or hurtful or fearful … tell your brain to stop, just like you would to someone at a theatre who wouldn’t shut up on their own. Then, instead of engaging in a rationalization match with yourself, pay attention to what’s in front of you: a plant, a dog, a person. A twinkle in someone’s eye. Feel the water as you shower instead of thinking million other thoughts. Take a deep breath.
Stop being so fucking mean to yourself. Then watch your life change.