We’ve all heard the term, “judgement day.” However, for me it’s more like judgement days, plural. How many times a day do you judge yourself? If you are anything like me, the answer is quite often. As a recovering perfectionist, my typical thoughts include plenty of criticisms for whatever it is that I have done, all of which lead to feeling blue. “Why did I eat all those cookies? I’m such a pig...Why did I have to keep rambling on and on? That woman probably thinks I’m crazy.”
There is nothing worse than feeling like I blew it. Even worse, feeling that I blew it again. Why am I so self-critical?
Many years ago, I remember feeling both awe and sadness while watching my two nieces jumping on their beds, in just their underwear. They were completely at ease, with no self-consciousness in any way, simply enmeshed in the moment and having a great time. I wondered if I had ever been like that. I certainly can’t remember if I ever was. Somewhere along the way I stopped being unselfconscious and started to develop a very loud inner critic. I began to put my attention on all of the negative thoughts I had about myself, which made me feel depressed and unworthy. And those feelings led me to behave in ways that kept me stuck in an endless cycle of misery and hopelessness.
For years I put effort into changing things on the outside, believing that was where the “problem” lay. I didn’t understand that as my own thinker, I chose to give any one thought its power. It’s only in the past few years that I realized if I wanted to change my life I needed to stop mindlessly reacting to my thoughts.
The good news is that this doesn’t mean you have to stop yourself from thinking. Trying to quiet your mind is like trying to hold your breath. You can only do it for so long and it’s usually brief. You can’t stop yourself from thinking; thoughts will always be floating around in your brain. However, you can choose not to react to them, not to attach yourself to them. What we focus on is what creates our reality.
Today I want you to ask yourself, “What if this thought is not real? What if the pain I’m feeling from buying into this thought could be avoided, simply by seeing this thought for what it really is: a meaningless idea that becomes friend or foe depending on whether I put my attention on it.”
“It’s not the thoughts that pass through your head that impact your life; it’s the one you take possession of and think about all day long. Once we agree to give our attention to a thought, it becomes more and more real to us over time and has more and more power over our life.”
- Michael Neill, master trainer in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
This is a truly powerful concept. The next time a thought brings up a strong negative or uncomfortable feeling, I challenge you to step back and give yourself some space before blindly reacting to it. Becoming curious will help you see that thoughts in and of themselves are meaningless until you cling to them, thus allowing them to create your reality. I know this isn’t easy, but you can start breaking your mindless thought-emotion-behavior patterns, one day at a time, one thought at a time.