The other day I got everything all done and early. I had time for extra thesis reading, too. Woo hoo! Hallelujah! Those are the days that I tell myself: You are organized. You are responsible. You are capable. And then, since I’m in the mood, I throw in: You are cool, sexy, fun, funny, creative, generous, healthy, in-shape, brilliant, rich, good at cooking (and everything else I wish I were). Is it as obvious to you as it is to me how desperate I am for compliments from my own self?
Because other days, like today, I’m not so full of compliments. These are the days that I notice only the sourness of the pasta sauce I made, the comment I made that I now realize made absolutely no sense (I think faster than I speak), the time wasted on EVERYTHING!, the stupid paper I wrote, the stupid syllabus I made that doesn’t work, etc., ET CETERA.
Someone recently told me that instead of approaching each day as “I HAVE TO DO/BE THIS!” or “I NEED TO DO/BE THIS!” I should instead approach it like this:
I prefer to get BLANK done.
I hope to handle BLANK like this.
Or, when reflecting back on the day, to think:
I wish I would have handled this in BLANK way, but I didn’t. I hope to handle it BLANK way next time.
I would have preferred to get BLANK done, but I didn’t. I hope to do BLANK next time.
The reason I like this paradigm of thinking and the reason I write about this is because of a few reasons:
(1) In my recent studies of the brain, I’ve learned that your brain makes little, if any, distinction between thought and action. As in, your thoughts really do matter when it comes to your experience of the world. Your thoughts can actually shape your experience and interpretation of the world. AKA: How I think influences how I act. This is a big deal.
(2) The person who came up with this paradigm of thinking was some hot shot psychologist or psychiatrist* who noticed that when we approach tasks with a “have to” attitude, we either approach it and finish it begrudgingly, or we approach it begrudgingly and then don’t finish. And then we automatically feel like big, fat losers. We feel more motivated when we feel like we are choosing, rather than “having to”.
*Sorry-I don’t remember his name. (“I wish I could remember it, but I don’t.”)
(3) I can, at times, be extraordinarily hard on myself.
Perhaps my weakness in humility is not how I approach others or how I believe others view me, but how I form attitudes about myself.
Though I do, much of the time, love who I am and praise who I am (in a way that I hope is honest and healthy), there are so many other times when I drop all of those feelings, and replace them with really bad ones, like “Woman, you suck,” and not in the joking HA HA HA HA, I just slipped down the stairs and rug-burned my butt kind of way. But like, genuine, “You happen to be failing in life” kinda way.
What does it mean to say I genuinely love myself one day and the next day define myself by how much I get done, or rather, how much I don’t get done? Perhaps our love for others is most evident when they disappoint us–after they’ve hurt us, acted immaturely, foolishly, or even, spitefully. The same, I think, applies to ourselves. How we treat/feel/think about ourselves when we’ve really, full-blown, outright, supremely disappointed ourselves.
Sometimes I disappoint myself. But the key is to learn from that disappointment (Why? What could I do better next time?), not smash it against my head over and over again until I’m coughing or gagging or gasping for air, metaphorically speaking. (Okay, that’s kind of an exaggeration.) These things are all obvious. But I’m still learning, people, so bear with me.
Or perhaps, the key is to give myself a break and then think about other, more important things. Like autumn. Future babies. My wildly beautiful family.