We are very good at playing tricks on ourselves.
That is to say, we are very good at creating a narrative in our heads that is rife with emotion, full of drama, and allows us to sit in a state of discomfort. We are so good at this, in fact, we can convince ourselves that anything we’re thinking, at any time, is completely and utterly true, which for a lot of people, leads to a lot of anxiety. Fast.
But because we have the ability to have thoughts about our own thoughts, we are also able to choose what those thoughts are, and to change them if we don’t like them. Although the process of changing your thoughts, which changes your perspective, which changes your behaviour, which changes your whole freaking life can be a lengthy, paradigm-shifting process, there are six little words that will expedite you to write (and rewrite) your own story, right here on the spot:
The story I’m telling myself is…
Within those six little words is the power to trace the origin of your thought, and to confront your self on whether or not it’s actually true. Usually what happens is that there is a triggering incident in our lives which sparks a thought, which in turn leads us down a rabbit hole of negative, anxious, self-deprecating thinking. A few examples:
He’s dating her?? What do you know, I’m rejected again.
Just had a miscarriage; this must be a sign I’m not cut out to be a parent.
What do you know, I didn’t get the job. I knew I wasn’t smart enough.
It’s ok to have adversity in your life. It’s ok to feel upset. It’s not ok to plunge into despair at every turn.
Think of an example recently when you had one of those negative thoughts that started to lead you down that spiral-y path of tears, fears, slumped shoulders, and extra ice cream. When you’ve identified the thought, identify the feeling that goes with it, then say to yourself out loud
“the story I’m telling myself is…”
And finish that statement honestly. For the above list of examples, it might look like this:
I feel rejected, and it’s not new to me. Every time I feel rejected I actually feel the fear that I will never find my person, and will end up either settling or alone. Either way, the story I’m telling myself is…that I am not going to find love, and am unlovable.
I am gutted that we just lost a pregnancy. It makes me feel like it’s a sign that I’m not fit to be a parent; The story I’m telling myself is…that I am not good or worthy enough to have and raise my own kids.
I feel really angry that I got passed over. Now I feel like I am not living up to my full potential, and that I’m not being seen, nor will I ever have the kind of career I really want. The story I’m telling myself is…that I will never feel like a success.
It’s very easy to get bogged down by our own mind, and by the immediate context we are in. But when you force yourself to examine what it is you’re feeling, and what narrative that feeling is fuelling, you can start to coach yourself towards the truth in a more rational way:
Clearly we were not a good match. Yes, we had some good times, and no, for me it didn’t feel quite “over” yet, but if he has already moved on to dating her, I know that he felt less strongly than I did. And you know what? That’s ok, because somewhere right now, there is a fantastic match for me who is looking for someone with all of my unique qualities. I’m not destined to be alone, this just wan’t the right one, and if I’m honest, I knew that from the beginning. I know I’m lovable, and I’m really excited to meet the person who gets that, and truly sees me for me.
Wow, that was a difficult loss. I also know that one miscarriage doesn’t mean a childless future, it means I am the one of four pregnancies that sadly, end like this. I know I will be a great parent, and I know I have a hella lot of love and gifts to give my whole brood of kids coming my way. This was hard, but it’s only a part of my story, not the whole plot line.
I am really upset that I got turned down, I thought this was a good fit for me professionally. I know I am smart and capable, and if anything, I feel more motivated to never be turned down again. I think I’m going to revisit my portfolio and see where I can tighten things up; I have a lot to offer, and I know exactly where I want my work to take me in the next five years. I think I can make strides at my own pace, in my own way, and I also know I am more than able to figure it out till then.
Just the process of slowing down and giving language to your thoughts will reframe your perspective. Inside each of us lives an inner drama queen, and although she is great at parties and karaoke nights, we can’t let her run the show. When you stop and identify what the story you’re telling yourself is, you will be able to nurture yourself back to reality faster and faster each time, and get on with writing out the manuscript of the story you really want to live.