I don’t know what age this started. Safe to say that I’ve always been me. Safe to say that I’ve always identified with some kind of concern. Perhaps not everything was always so tragic but nevertheless; for as long as I can remember, I have always connected my thinking to a concern or a worry.
I never knew why. I never understood where this came from and at best, I thought this was only me.
Who else thinks this way? Who else worries all the time and feels like something is always lurking around the corner? Who else believed there was this impending doom, lurking and waiting for me around the corner or hiding in the dark.
This was my thought machine. These were my challenges and this was my struggle.
I wasn’t sure how to coincide with other people. First of all, there was something different about me. There was something about me that was unlike everybody else.
I never learned how to express my thoughts or discuss my feelings. At the same time, I never felt safe enough to tell someone what I was feeling or thinking. As for my feelings, I stuffed them. I denied them. I tried to hide from them but the more I hid, the more my feelings would follow. I could turn left or right, back up or run ahead. No matter where I went, there I was. Always . . .
We talk about the internal narrative and the inner-voice. We talk about self-talk but, in all fairness, no one openly talks about this. Nobody talks about what’s going on inside or “The thing behind the things.”
We live our surface-level lives. We go and we move and we pretend to feel free enough to move around the country. Meanwhile, there’s a movie playing in the background. There’s a conversation that goes on in our head which makes it hard to understand what’s going on around us. Sometimes, the inner voice talks so much that it’s hard to hear what someone says. It’s like watching television while someone’s talking in your ear. It’s enough to drive you mad. It’s enough to frustrate someone to the point of lunacy.
There is the popular thought about being our own worst enemy. There’s enough to be said about having self-deprecating conversations in our head.
There is a true saying that goes, “You will never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself in your head. Be kind to yourself.”
The concept is simple; yet as simple as this sounds, it’s not always so simple.
I have discussed the word “Just” at great lengths. I have talked about the word “Just” in motivational presentations and asked if anyone in attendance could define the word.
“Just” is a simple word. It shouldn’t be too hard to define, right?
I’d ask for a definition and then I’d say, “Well, ‘Just’ tell me the answer.”
The word “Just” devalues content. This cushions or downplays meaning; as if to say, “Just do this” as if it were “Just” that simple.
To tell someone struggling with their internal narrative to “Just” be kind to yourself is not a simple task nor is this something that makes sense. This type of thinking is habitual and degenerative. Thoughts like these are weeds that swipe the nutrients from the roots of our best potential.
What happens is we tend to rot from the inside out. No one can see this but we can feel it brewing. Maybe not at first, but thoughts like this creep up. The weeds grow and the roots to our best interest become malnourished.
This is when our thinking begins to veer from the path. Realistic thinking becomes overtaken by irrational ideas. Here’s where the worst enemy comes in.
This is when all the old tapes and ideas play in a loop. This is when the movies in our mind turn to tragedies. This is where the concepts of catastrophes come into play and next, we find ourselves ready for war.
We are amplified and sensitive to the touch; meanwhile, none of our thoughts are accurately true. In fact, most of our thoughts are exaggerated and emotional. This is the thought machine.
It’s the misinterpreted and the misperceived ideas that lead us to troubled thinking.
And then what?
We overreact. We deflect. We project. We argue and find ourselves hysterical over thoughts and ideas that are not within our best interest.
Don’t believe me?
Ever make yourself mad, simply by thinking about a person or situation. Ever find yourself interacting with thoughts that somehow grow so big and become out of control – the next thing you know, you’re facing down arguments that never happened. This is what it means to be your own worst enemy.
This is self-harm at its finest. This is when the thought machine is hijacked by the emotional terrorist in the mind, who divide and conquer. But of course, the question is to conquer who.
And the answer is to conquer you.
The real question is how does one not only become their own best friend, but how can we become our own superhero.
There was a time when I was at my absolute worst. My thoughts were clunky and my life was uncomfortable. I could not think straight or focus clearly. I was prewired to believe that I was going to fail, that something would always be wrong, or that in terms of happiness, mine would always be quick and fleeting.
I was offered a suggestion and to be clear, I am not one for slogans or catchy affirmations. On the other hand, this time was different. I was in a desperate place. I was tired and beaten, which meant I was ready to surrender and listen.
I was told to start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible. This is a quote from St. Francis of Assisi. While I steer away from religion in my writings, the fact is the saying is still true.
I was told to replace thought with action. It was clear that my thinking was part of my imbalance. So, to improve my thinking and self-esteem, I held myself accountable and responded with esteemable acts.
I used the word “STOP!” quite a bit.
Whenever my thinking started to run away from me or whenever I found myself lost in my faulty assumptions, I said the word “STOP!” either out loud or in my head.
I refrained from speaking with people who degraded me. I changed my surroundings. I changed my behavior to change my thinking, which was odd and uncomfortable at first; but eventually, this changed the way I felt about myself.
I walked away from one-sided relationships.
I stopped interacting with the internal voice. I learned to detach from thoughts that would limit me or promote anxiety. I took responsibility for my change; but more, I held myself accountable which meant that I had a sense of answerability for my beliefs and behaviors.
Change is work, which means that I had work to do. I had to hold myself accountable for the work behind my changes. This means I had to lose my sense of inherent laziness.
I had to move. I had to get up and get out of bed each day. I had to put my feet on the floor, wash up, dress up and then show up on a daily basis.
I have seen people move through their transformational process and watched as they failed themselves with a sense of complacency. Maybe they believed they were out of the woods. But not quite.
I have seen people lose their momentum. I have seen people slide back into old ways and default settings. I have seen people start strong and then slowly and inevitably come to a complete stop. What does this do?
I had to be better to feel better. I admit it was difficult at first. But habits form and new routines take shape.
According to a 2009 study in a European Journal of Psychology, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. I don’t know if this is true.
I’m not sure about the science of this but I do know that the mind never forgets old pathways. The idea is to teach new patterns of thinking and make them equally unforgettable.
By understanding our triggers, we can understand our reactions; therefore, we can understand the consequences of our reactions.
And again, if we don’t speak to anyone more than we speak to ourselves in our own head, then perhaps we should make this habit a priority. Rather than be our own worst enemy, we can learn to speak to ourselves as if we were our own best friend.
I prefer friends over enemies.