3 Things I Would Tell You If You Struggle With Negative Thinking
I’m not alone. I get this in an intellectual way. There are so many people, right now, who feel the same way I do. They may not look it. They may do what I do: plaster a smile on their faces and head out into the world, telling themselves
“If you’ll only make it to lunch,”
“If you’ll only make it to the end of the work day,”
“If you’ll only make it till bedtime,”
it will all be okay.
But then another thing comes up, and all the things are there, right in your face, and it feels as though even the plastered on smile is cracked, and what then?
So then I wondered, if I were someone else and felt this way, what would I tell me? What would I say if my child, or my friend, or a person out there struggled with negative thoughts and felt alone?
So, here’s what I would say.
It’s Okay to Say the Things to Others, But Make Sure You Actually Want to Fix Them
When you tell other people your troubles, mostly, they want to help you fix them. They don’t want to just listen to you complain.
I go back and forth between wanting to address my struggles, and wanting to keep them to myself so I don’t come across as another of those whiny people who complain about tiny, tiresome things when there’s so much to not complain about.
I guess the first step would be to decide if I simply want to complain and throw myself a pity party, or if I actually want to address the issues that are plaguing me and come up with solutions?
Because there is a difference. Complaining just allows us to spew the negative out, hoping another person will listen sympathetically and tell us it will all be okay. Complaining here and there is fine, but it’s when it becomes a death spiral of complaints, and worry, and fear, and self-pity, complaining starts to look like what it really is: an excuse to vent with no real intent to change anything.
While it may feel good in the moment, venting and complaining with no intent to fix it is a lot like eating the carton of ice cream or gossiping about a friend behind their back: It won’t feel good for long.
If complaining is needed, try writing it down. Tell your pet about it. Go for a walk or run and complain in your head the whole time. Give yourself 10 minutes (20? Maybe, but that might be pushing it) to wallow in your anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. But when time's up, stop. Move on and do something else. Don’t stay locked in that place.
A Hundred Million Times: You’re Good Enough
This is my downfall, my Achilles ’ heel. When someone says “You left the milk out.” “You forgot to return this.” “You said this.” “You did this.” My ears hear the words. I understand them. But somewhere in the travels from my ears to my brain, my brain takes those words and brings them to me and says, while handing them over, “Someone said you didn’t do this good enough.”
Even when I know better.
It’s like a knee-jerk reflex, and the thought is there before I really have time to be rational. So instead of approaching things from a place of “Oh, you’re right,” I am instead coming from, “Once again, I’m not good enough,” and everything is filtered through that layer of hurt and shame and insecurity. I am defensive and upset. People on the outside probably think there’s no reason for me to be upset. But the inside me knows it’s because I am Not Perfect, and Never Will Be. Never mind that I know it’s impossible to be perfect. At that moment I am not a rational adult, I am a shy little kid who did something wrong.
So, a million times and then a million times more it has to be said. You’re good enough. You’re good enough. Don’t ever let anyone say you’re not. You are and you always will be.
You’re Never Alone, Even When Your Mind Gremlins Say You Are
You know the feeling: Nobody understands, nobody cares. You want to cry or punch a wall.
Nobody gets it.
Nobody gets you.
It feels that way, I know it does. Your day is bad and nothing seems right and everything you say and do is taken wrong and Nobody Understands. The person you thought you could tell your troubles to says you’re making excuses or tells you something you weren’t prepared to hear, and that just reinforces your nasty thoughts.
In that moment it feels right, noble even, to carry on stoic and independent, to believe that you are the only person who could possibly ever feel this way about this situation on this day. Okay, so while that might feel true, it’s not entirely true. Even though all the other 7 billion people on this planet are not dealing with Your Exact Situation, they have all at one time or another felt hurt, betrayed, scared, anxious, sad, angry, tired, bored, frustrated, and a hundred other shades of feeling that mean: they get it.
Someone (in fact, many someones) out there gets it.
Your aloneness is your mind’s pity party, your brain’s negative loop to keep you feeling scared or upset, because then you can fall back on one of those comforting habits of yours that will Make It All Better. Except, you and I know, those things will only make it all better for a second, or a minute, or a day. Your brain is just trying to protect you from doing things it thinks might put you in real or imagined danger. So it tells you you’re alone and unloved and not good enough and dumb and overreacting and crazy, and tries to direct you to one of the ways that always dulls that loud feeling so it will go away. So then you have a smoke even though you’re trying to quit, or reach for the snacks, or turn on the reality TV, or bite your nails, or something worse, something self-destructive. Any of the other ways you can blot out that feeling of being alone and nobody understands.
Your brain is trying to trick you. Don’t let it win. Say it out loud if you have to: Brain, stop it.
You’re not alone, even when you feel like you are. Other people are bored and scared and sad ALL the time. These are feelings and they’re normal. There are not only happy and content feelings in this life. That would be like saying there’s only the colors blue and green, but no others. When you think about it, you start to realize those thoughts are bullshit and don’t really make sense.
If you really feel like there’s not one person, anywhere at all, who gets it, listen to music that feels like you feel, read a book, donate your time somewhere, and if all that fails, get help. There’s one, and in reality probably many more than that, of the 7 billion who do care about you and your struggles, no matter what size struggle it is you’re facing.
Those are the three things I’d say to someone who struggles like I do. It’s what I’d say to me. I hope it helps.
Do you struggle with the negative critic in your head? What advice would you give? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Photo credit: Unsplash.com by Lechon Kirb