Friday, March 29, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Taming Your Thoughts

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Taming Your Thoughts

Periodically I go through this phase where I’m convinced that I’m living someone else’s life.  I know it sounds silly.  Yet the way I envision myself and the life I’d like to live is such a sharp contrast with my reality that I feel I’ve been robbed of my true identity.  And so I begin my trek towards a reality I feel is more in tune to my inner being.  That usually results in a long look in the mirror.  I slowly pick myself apart.  Do I speak well enough?  Should I smile more?  Is my tone friendly enough?  Am I approachable?  Is my demeanor offensive?  After I’m convinced that I have all the social skills and etiquette in check, then comes the difficult part.  Because I can change my tone.  I can control my attitude.  But I can’t change what I look like.  Don’t get me wrong.  I realize that I can polish my appearance, but the way I look was genetically assigned and is difficult to alter unless I have a plastic surgeon and a few thousand grand on standby.  Then comes what I call the “too not enough” talk.  Perhaps you’ve engaged in a dialogue with yourself similar to this before.  It goes something like, “You’re too this.  You’re too that.  You’re not enough of this.  You don’t have enough of that.”  When this starts to happen, I’m in need of an emergency evacuation plan.  Abort!  I’m self-destructing in T minus 05…04…03…02…01!

My battle set ablaze, that’s when I begin to reconstruct my thinking.  What I’ve done is focused on negatives to the point that I’ve drowned my confidence, self-esteem and more desirable attributes beneath layers of internalized inadequacies.  I have an index card that lists questions to reflect upon.  These three questions help ground my thinking.  I guess you could call it my emergency evacuation plan because after truthfully answering these questions, no matter what the situation or preconceived notion, I can bail on whatever process of thinking I internalized that led to this point.  I’d like to share them with you.

?    What am I asking myself to believe?  What am I saying?  What’s the message?

This question helps to identify the original thought so that I can begin to undo the damage that has resulted from it.  The purpose is simply to be conscious of what I’m telling myself.  In the case of the negative self-talk described above, I told myself that I wasn’t enough of those qualities I feel would help to achieve my desired outcome.  But the way I went about it only compounded the problem.  It’s difficult to make positive changes if I only respond with negative energy.  Also, could it be that I’m blaming something that’s beyond my control for not having gotten the results I wanted?  Am I making a scapegoat of myself?  From what I’ve described above it seems the message is, “Oh, poor you.  You are such a great person with so much potential, but no one can tell because you’re hidden behind too much superficial crap and there’s not enough of the good stuff projecting.”  Inadvertently, the message becomes that the reason for my failure is some grand scheme of genetics that has masked my potential and ruined any chances I posses of improving myself.  And that’s terribly convenient because now it isn’t my fault that I’m an underachiever.  Thus, I’m no longer responsible for this mess that I have deemed an ascribed status. 

?    Why do I need to believe this about myself?  Is this true?  Is this constructive?

The truth is that when a person results to scapegoating it’s usually out of fear.  There is a fear of failure that makes it much more bearable to assign blame as to why I’ve fallen short of my goals to some extraneous factor and flawed logic than to put forth the effort to try, and risk the failure.  I could very well need to brush up on those qualities that would be tremendously useful in catapulting myself towards a life more ideal for who I am.  But by reassigning blame or eluding responsibility, I’ve not constructively veered towards a better outcome.  I’ve told myself that it’s ok not to continue to try with my “too not enough” talk because I’m genetically inferior.  My negative self-talk has sabotaged my confidence and self-esteem.  I’ve spoken and thought as though I’m a self-declared failure.  If I feel that I’m such a worthwhile person and want that goal or desired outcome enough, I should change my declarations and thoughts to build the person I hope to grow into rather than destroy her before she even has a chance to thrive. 

?    How can I convey a more accurate message positively? Constructively?

To undo the damage, I have to make some changes in my conversation with myself.  That comes with an adjustment in attitude.  To begin with, I’ll replace my “too not enough” talk with positive affirmations.  No, I’m in no way genetically inferior nor of some lowly ascribed status.  That is untrue.  I’m competent to have control over my thoughts, achieve my goals and value myself as a human being, well worth the effort.  Rather than tell myself I have too much of what seems a less desirable quality, perhaps I would be better receptive to focusing on what I hope to add or improve.  “I’m too shy…or introverted…or closed” could be better noted as “I’ll allow myself to be more transparent… or I’ll participate more in social activities… or I’ll risk making a fool of myself in the name of fun.”  If it’s “you’re not enough… or whatever area of lack I’ve focused on, once I change the language that I use I’m certain to feel better about myself.  Statements like, “There is an opportunity for you to improve…” subconsciously help build a better person rather and deconstruct an already fragile one.  Followed through with action and purpose, I can constructively guide myself towards a healthier attitude, generate more confidence in myself, increase my self-esteem and maximize my potential towards achieving whatever goal.     

Putting myself back on track is sometimes the easiest part.  The challenge is to stay on track.  Once I have reunited with my self-esteem and confidence I have to make a conscious effort to remain in a place where I posses and exude these qualities daily.  To refrain from allowing them to dwindle, one thing I can do is make peace with myself each day.  I playfully refer to this as my “comeback plan” to restore self-esteem and confidence as needed.  No matter what failure I have endured, a routine “mental cleanse” will help to guard against engaging in “too not enough.”  Put whatever failure or disappointment in proper perspective.  Everyone has encountered both.  Instead of nursing it and feeling as though the world has come to an end, it would be more constructive to learn from the mistake, failure or disappointment and include the lesson in my revisions to whatever future plans I have.  Also, I can commit to keeping a focus journal where I can manage my thoughts and how I respond to life’s impromptu moments.   Doing so will create a concrete point of reference of my growth as well as what areas are in need of improvement.  Summoning my support system for encouragement is an important building block as well.  Whether it’s a family member, friend or combination of people, having someone to reaffirm my worth helps improve my outlook about who I am and how I feel about myself.  After all, being there is what family and friends are for.

 Your “comeback plan” can be whatever you envision will help restore you to a more positive and productive thought process.  Engage in a favorite activity that will help maintain serenity and balance, making certain that it remains stress-free.  There are some things we enjoy that are stressful.  Save those activities for after you’ve regained focus.    Once you’ve grounded your thinking, continue to reevaluate your goals, what’s needed to achieve those goals and create opportunities to master those qualities that will put you closer towards your desired outcome. 

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