I think back about the days when my little girl was still little. She would try to do something and say, “I can’t do it.” It used to be that she couldn’t tie her own shoelaces. But then she learned how. Then she couldn’t climb across the monkey bars on the playground. I told her, “Just try it. If you can’t do it, then I’ll help you and we’ll try it again together.”
My little girl is not so little anymore. The world she lives in is different now. She encounters different pressures now. She has friends and tries to socially fit in with the different circles at school. I can see when she is frustrated. I can tell when something isn’t working or when she tries but feels like she just can’t do it. The word, “It” in this case means so many things. Maybe in this case, perhaps my little girl feels like she cannot compete with the others in her grade. Maybe it’s sports; maybe it’s academically, or perhaps it’s the social pressures that turn to anxiety. And sometimes, she just gives in. But I understand.
Sometimes we give in to the “Self-talk” that reprimands our best efforts. We give in to doubt and we lose ourselves before we even try because our cognitive way of thinking tells us, “Why bother?” We are all this way in some regard. Many times, the worst talks we have are the “Self-talks,” which are based on emotion and on our inaccurate perception of ourselves.
Our world of truth is not always an accurate science. However, and more accurately, our world of truth is based on our cognitive thinking.
It’s not always what we see . . . it’s what we think we see. Understand?
It’s our view and our point of angle which tends to create a picture that is not always accurate.
We are like Pavlov’s dog running to the bell when feeding times come. In which case, we respond to our outside surroundings. We respond to our interpretation of events. Similar to the lessons of a dog after receiving a shock from its collar when running beyond the property line, we react out of previous assumptions. Essentially, we are a series and combination of learned and programmed behavior. This stems from our early lessons in life and are ingrained in our behavior.
Thinking about my daughter at a young age, I understood her reasons to quit. I was this way too. I was too frustrated to try again. I gave in because of insecurity. I gave in because I thought I would be laughed at, made fun of, or looked at as undesirable, unwanted; and then furthermore, I would quit before ever feeling unwelcome.
This of course was my perception of the world around me. This does not mean what I saw was fact; however, this is the way I saw myself which made it fact to me. This is the way I saw my youth and how I felt about the pressures in the classrooms and crowds.
I would say words like, “I can’t do it,” and I believed it was true. And I wouldn’t try again. I wouldn’t dare because the feelings I had and my perception of my ability would cripple me from taking another chance. Our behavior and responses are made up from a combination of past experiences. As a means of survival, we tend to hold these experiences to defend ourselves and keep them from ever happening again. We hold them hostage, so to speak. We assume, “This is just how it is,” and we often prepare for imaginary problems based on previous experiences.
We forget that thoughts and feelings are neither fact nor fiction, — they’re just thoughts and feelings, nothing more, nothing less. We are all our own trinity. We are mind, body and soul. We are both intellectual and emotional beings and while intellectually, we understand the world around us, emotionally, we respond in ways that keep us from moving forward.
In second grade, I tried Karate. I remember the other students picked on me. The other students knew each other and I was a stranger to them. I was “The new kid,” and well, you guessed it, I was hazed and picked on. I was not physically strong or able to do well with the starting warm-ups. I was new. I was unfit and could hardly do one push-up, let alone, keep up with the rest of the class.
I remember the teacher hitting me with a bamboo cane. Not hard, but still. It was more corrective than punitive. I recall not feeling as if I belonged. I remember believing as though I could never compete with the rest of the class. So what happened? I went home and said, “I can’t do it.”
In seventh grade I thought about playing football. I remember everyone on the team was bigger than me. They were stronger too. They were faster and had more athletic ability.
I also remember my fear of heading to the showers after practice. I was afraid of being compared to others or made fun of. I was scrawny and my body had yet to sprout. I was painfully thin, terribly small and boyish looking. Rather than face this, i came to my own conclusions. I had arguments that never happened. I imagined insults which were never delivered. Rather than face this, I ran from it.
I went home and said, “I can’t do it.”
I wanted to quit
The Old Man told me, “Quitting is a habit.”
He said, “You gotta stop doing that.”
He told me, “You never stick to anything. If something doesn’t come easy, you just quit,” and he was right.
Since quitting was not an option, I would fake being sick. This made sense because my feelings of discomfort were more than just on the football field. I was uncomfortable in classrooms. I was uncomfortable in the social settings, in the hallways and in the cafeteria. I stayed home from school as a trick but I pulled off my trick once too often. Eventually, my Mother became concerned and she took me to the Emergency Room.
I couldn’t confess now. I was in the hospital. I had no choice but to stick with my trick. Put simply, I had to keep up with my lies and stick to the story. The hospital gave me a spinal tap that first night. Now I really had no choice but stick with my story. I repeated my symptoms and underwent Cat Scans. I went through an Upper G.I. Series. They placed a scope down my throat and looked all the way down into my stomach.
I sat through painful needles, I.V. Bags, exploratory treatments, and hospital stays….all because why? Because I thought, “I can’t do it.” And I would always quit before I ever tried. The deeper I fell into my story, the more I had to stick to it. I memorized my symptoms. I learned different terms from the doctors and fed from the information they gave me.
Saying, “I couldn’t do it,” was not the result of my inability to play football or fearing the showers after practice. This was said because of my social anxiety. This was because of a condition I worked up in my own mind, which was based on my own perception. My behavior was a result of an overwhelming awkwardness and lack of comfort ability. I grew tired of trying and I became lazy in effort because hey, why bother? However, in this lesson, I found it takes more effort to be lazy than it does to try. I learned the price of living in fear. I learned how crippling insecurity can be. Rather than face rejection, i faced physical pain because pain made sense to me — and everything else seemed like a mystery.
Instead of trying to acclimate to my surroundings at school, I gave into “Self-talk.” I gave in and kept to my story. Instead of going to school, I went to different doctors. I took medications that made me sick. I went through unthinkable procedures, and why? I’ll tell you why. It was because I thought I couldn’t do it . . .
I missed more than six months of school. But more, I missed the opportunity to be a kid and learn what an amazing concept it is to be 12 or 13 years old. Suffice to say, the pain I went through under the needle and different medical procedures was worse than anything that could have happened to me at Woodland Junior High School.
Being made fun of hurts; then again, so does a six inch needle when it was pushed into the base of my spine as the doctors warn, “You might feel a little pressure now.” But that wasn’t pressure.
That was pain . . .
I could not stand or walk for more than two weeks after that. Due to a bad reaction from the spinal tap, the pain I felt was unimaginable. And quickly, I was “That kid.”
I was “That kid,” screaming from my hospital bed. I was, “That Kid,” who cried so loud that no one in the other rooms could sleep. I was the kid the nurses had to tend to. I was also the kid the nurses began to hate. I was that boy, so painfully frightened and so terribly misled.
I have a memory from an early spring. In the quiet of morning; the sky was overcast and the grass was still wet with dew and the previous day’s rain. In a place known as Cantiague Park, I stood at the fourth tee of a nine-hole golf course.
The wind was soft and the park was quiet. I had a fair to decent swing, but I often lifted my head, which gave me a horrible slice and my ball never traveled very far. In order to keep the games moving quickly, The Old Man and I played long ball—short ball.
To keep the game moving quickly and to make up for my inability to play very well, The Old man would play the short ball (or the one farthest from the hole) and I would play the one closest. He’d coach my swing. He’d stand behind me. But in the end, I would pull my shots and the golf ball would land on the side of the fairway and be farthest from the hole.
Instead of shaming, the Old Man encouraged me. I recall that morning when I stepped up to the tee. I practiced my first swing. I took a deep breath and without overthinking or giving in to “Self-talk” I looked down at the ball, drew back, and when I began my pivot, I let go with the club and followed through without lifting my head or creating a slice.
This was the first time I was ever able to play my own shot. I landed just short of the green and my ball shot further than The Old Man’s.
What I recall most were the cheers from The Old Man. It was a quiet morning. It was painfully early and we were among the first to head out. The Old Man screamed for me. He cheered me on. He never shamed me. He encouraged me. He was so proud. And so was I. In fact, I remember feeling so proudly about my shot that a tear welled up in my eye. And why? I’ll tell you why.
Frustration and depression is a sickness. It’s like living in pain all the time. And when I finally learned that the “Self-talk” and the inner conversations I had were all inaccurate, I was overcome with emotion because it’s not that I can’t do it . . . it’s that I can do it, and finally, I saw the results.
Even now as an adult, I need to understand the damage, “Self-talk” can do. I need to remember the benefits of encouragement. I need to be mindful about the different problems like actual problems, assumed ones and imaginary problems.
I will be going over a lecture for younger classrooms soon. I think I will need to incorporate this lesson as part of my plan.