I was reminded by a new friend about an old lesson that I learned while going through a tough time. I remember this well because I thought the worst was about to happen. I figured everything was about to fall out from under me and at that point, there was no redemption.
The finality of what was going on at the time was certainly a lot more tragic in my head. I was thinking about the problems that were coming my way. And the more I thought, the worse they seemed. I made some careless mistakes. I put my position in jeopardy and in fairness, I allowed my insecurity to take over. This is what happens when we operate with an emotional mindset. I figured the worst was about to happen. And it did.
Next, enter the shame. Enter the constant rehashing and the regretting of old conversations. Enter the wishes that I said something differently or said nothing at all. Enter the constant questioning of myself with ideas like, “Why did I say that?” or “What the hell was I thinking?” Enter the wishes that I walked away when I had the chance and enter the regret for not listening to or trusting my instincts long before the trouble happened.
I was inexperienced in a new field. I was receiving attention but when the attention faded, I started to wonder about my validity. Was I still good? Or, oppositely, did the people that praised me turn around and realize that I was only an imposter.
There is a term for this by the way. This is called impostorism and also a result of emotional thinking. This was combined with a bunch of my fears and overly-emotional concerns, which all stem from self. And I pose this honestly (and humbly,) not from a position of weakness but more so; I explain this because realization and understanding allows us to recognize our personal inventory. This way, we can adjust and improve our personal skills.
Following the aftermath of a self-induced downfall, I assumed the worst about me. Ego stepped in and overwhelmed me with the fears of humiliation and exposure. I assumed the worst from everyone and literally walked with my head down. Expecting the worst, awaiting judgement and assuming my achievements were crumbled and destroyed, I began to believe the ideas were all true.
A good friend of mine spoke with me in the most understanding way. He said something that I will never forget. “Don’t play the movie out in your head.”
We talked about the conversations that I kept reliving and the wasted energy of the rehearsals of conversations that will never come again. We talked about the way we perform in our head and relive old talks that happened in the past. We talked about the energy this consumes because we wished we could create a different outcome but the outcome is already gone.
We talked about the acceptance of what “Is” and how unchangeable the past is. And as lovingly as a friend could be, he said it again.
“Don’t play the movie out in your head,”
Stop with the predictions. Stop allowing a mistake to define you. The one thing I say, which I always say to others but often forget to say to myself is remember: We make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make us.
I used to allow my projections and fears to create the ideas of what’s to come. I used to calculate my failures and envision the rejection and the conversations that followed. And be advised, none of this is real. However, the receptors in our emotional system do not know the difference between imaginary and reality.
The receptors overreact as a response to the internal narrative and next comes the anxiety. Next comes the emotional aftermath of something that hasn’t even happened. Meanwhile, we are not only living in the past recollections and the sad predictions of our future, emotionally, we move into defense mode. We personalize ideas, which are projections from subconscious worries that don’t even exist. And next, we speak out of emotion. We assume the worst. we envision an outcome and subjected ourselves to the emotions of a tragedy that isn’t even real.
Intellectually speaking, it is obvious but emotionally speaking; the outcomes are as real as we have proven them to be. This is what happens when we play the movie out in our head. I had to learn this. And unfortunately, at some point, I had to learn this the hard way.
It is okay to be your own superhero. It is okay to project a sense of positivity while remaining realistic. It is okay to set a realistic mindset and understand things will and will not always work. This is how we learn to maximize the potential of our time and how we learn to invest ourselves wisely.
There are business conversations that I know are going to need long-term attention. There are times when I will plant seeds and I understand this will need patience. I understand my goals will need long-term attention. And sometimes, I have to allow the universe to take its course.
My ability to move forward and look for my next goal is what helps me navigate away from problematic thinking. My focus on “The next best thing” is an action, which alleviates the stressors of the outcomes that did not go my way.
Something what helps me is the acronym N.A.T.O.
(No Attachment To Outcome)
I cannot control what happens next. I can’t control the ins or the outs and the wheres or the whys. I have no control over who goes or stays or who decides to listen or ignore the things we say.
All I can do is stand on my own two feet, keep moving, and keep planting the seeds for my next best day. I have to pay attention to my output; not the outcomes. I have to replace the narrative and the problematic or depressive thinking because it’s really just the ego screaming, “Please God, don’t let anyone see that I’m imperfect”. Ego is a fragile porcelain doll begging not to be shamed or exposed or seen as weak.
Hence, this is why I expose so much of me in my presentations and in my daily writing because A) by allowing a sense of truthfulness, this humanizes and normalizes the fact that fears, insecurity, and emotional thinking have a way of projecting us into a corner and B) a sense of honesty allows us to see where we can improve both, our personal and internal support to reduce the symptomatic problems of overthinking and lastly C) now that we know where to begin, we can learn ways to reinforce our internal foundation to live and respond to our life in a logical sense.
There are times when I catch myself predicting the future. I catch myself predicting conversations and adjusting myself to prepare for defense.
There are times when my anxiety gets too high and the receptors in my brain begin to overreact.
I have created a system of breathing when this happens, which I have found to be very helpful. When the anxiety is high, I breathe in through my nose, nice and deeply, and then I exhale through my mouth with an equal measure.
If I find myself projecting thoughts that aren’t real; I have found it helpful to remind myself “That’s not real” as I inhale through my nose and I follow this with a reminder that says “This isn’t happening,” as I exhale through my mouth.
(I have coached others with high anxiety levels and those that struggle with anxiety attacks and found this to be very helpful.)
If our thinking is a narrative that links us to emotion that results in a negative picture, we inevitably believe the negative picture is real. Since this is true then this can also work from the opposite perspective. Positive imagery creates positive effects just as well.
Don’t play the movie out in your head.
It’s too easy to allow us to be swept away by negative thinking.
Understand that opinion, thoughts, and feelings are only an opinion, thought, or a feeling. This does not make them real or necessarily important. And, plus, even if our suspicions about others and what they think are proven true – so what?
At the end of the day, my goal (or should I say our goal) is to be able to face the mirror and not be discouraged by what we see.
It’s okay to come to a constructive conclusion at the end of the day.
It’s okay to say “I need to improve.”
We need to be mindful of the internal narratives that put us down. Otherwise, we’ll end up playing the movie out in our head.
And we both know how that goes.