Do you ever carry stories from childhood with you? How many times have you listened to someone tell you something negative about yourself and then adopted it, and repeated it through that inner voice in your head…. ‘You eat too much, you’re not pretty, you’re not very smart, or girls aren’t good a science’, etc..
I can relate, I was the ‘short/fat’ one in my family, my brother called me ‘tubs’, or something similar, I remember objecting and being told it was a term of affection. In my teens, my mother told me I was fat, and for many years kept suggesting I lose weight! I was much shorter than my siblings (by about 6 inches) and it took me a long time to realize that I was pretty normal in height and actually in no way overweight, but I had adopted that way of thinking and it kept me stuck for a long time.
How hurt are you when you learn someone has spoken of you in a negative or ill way? What happens in your mind and body, do you curl up inside, do you feel anger, shame or hurt. What about the person who has done so, what do you think about them? How do you deal with them, and your feelings?
I constantly worried about my weight, and what I ate, always felt short until one day I woke and realized that it was my choice whether to accept or reject these labels. I had believed the stories, and lived as if they were true. But I did have another choice, and that was to reject the stories I grew up with – it wasn’t easy, still isn’t but it’s my battle and my win!
The Buddha’s Way of Happiness:
Reading ‘The Buddha’s Way of Happiness ’https://www.amazon.ca/Buddhas-Way-Happiness-Transforming-Well-Being/dp/1572248696 by Thomas Bien, PhD, I was struck by his metaphor of comparing watering a garden to looking after our mental well-being. He suggests and I paraphrase that ‘we learn to selectively water the positive seeds and flowers in ourselves by attending to them’ (pg. 104).
He tells us that when we encounter something positive, pause to savour it, don’t rush by as if it is unimportant. He also suggests that we sometimes encourage weeds within us by ‘voluntarily exposing ourselves to toxic and destructive things’. That we need to be aware of how external things can positively or negatively affect us. These can be people, situations, even conversations and as we become more aware, learn to avoid them.
Savouring the Positive
I belong to a number of groups on various social media sites, and recently there’s been a lot of discussions around ‘wearing’ what others have told us. We’re so intent on encouraging the destructive, toxic things that we hear, about others, about ourselves that we often don’t even notice we’re doing so. When was the last time you caught a negative thought and looked at it and thought, where did that come from? Just by being curious about why a thought pops into our heads gives it less power! But how much better it is to change the thought into something positive.
I love the Bien’s idea of savouring the positive… not just thinking about what we’re grateful for as everyone is telling us to do today, but savouring it…. Sounds magical…
The Power of Words – Be Kind
As individuals we have so much power in our words. And often we aren’t aware of the impact of that power. How it lands on another, that flyaway comment. We’re unaware of the day someone else has had, or how they feel about themselves right now. What if our unthinking comment pushes them over the edge.
I love the movement to be Kind that’s happening today, kind in our being, who we are, what we think, and how we treat others. Our thoughts, what we say to and about others, what we think and say about ourselves. If we can begin to catch ourselves when we speak of someone else unkindly, or begin to think negatively of them we can turn both ourselves and our thoughts around.
There’s the saying ‘ let him without sin throws the first stone’. So when we think negatively about others what does it say about how we feel about ourselves? What if we were to write every negative thought about others or ourselves each day, how many pages would we fill? Try it, I wonder how tired you might become. It’s an experiment I think I try, and let you know – 24 hours and see what happens – two columns; others and ourselves, anything we think, or speak that’s negative.
Life has a funny way of turning the tables we feel miserable, we begin to act miserably, and the actions we take may be ones we wouldn’t even think of if we were feeling good about ourselves.
So I challenge you to: Watch your thoughts about yourself – catch and examine them. Why did they appear? Are there triggers? Is there a pattern?
Think daily about how great you are
Catch your thoughts or what you say of others, think before you speak and be curious about why you make that negative comment In Louise Penny’s (https://www.louisepenny.com/) Three Pine novels her main character Armand Gamache asks: ‘Civility, how can we expect it if we don’t give it?
He teaches his subordinates/colleagues to ask three questions that so resonate with me ‘Is it true? is it kind? Does it need to be said?’
So before you begin talking about yourself, or others think of his three questions and let me know how you do. I’m also curious to hear the stories you have told yourself, do tell: CONTACT US