I have always been immensely, cruelly tough on myself. Not in a cute Sad Girl way. And certainly not in an ambitious, I-just-know-I’m-destined-for-success kind of way either. Think more irrational, messy, anxiety-fueled.
I begin almost every single day filled with dread. I chip away at it gradually, hour by hour — through distractions, bouts of productivity, a hint of exercise and quality time with my husband — until I feel some semblance of normalcy and contentedness. By then it’s usually the end of the day and I have a brief window to breathe before I have to head to sleep and start all over again.
Though this has afflicted me for as long as I can remember, only in the past year have I made any sincere effort to counteract negative thought patterns and fundamentally ‘re-wire my brain’, in therapist speak. This morning, I woke up determined to look that dark pit of dread square in its monstrous eyes. So I jotted down each thought that is fueling it at this moment and listed a contradiction to each point. Here’s what I came up with.
- I’ve failed / am failing / will fail
- I am unworthy, unimportant and do not matter
- I don’t belong anywhere
- I am not good at anything
- I keep letting others down / disappointing people
- I act selfishly and without gratitude
- I am constantly embarrassing myself
- I am lazy — I don’t put the work in, which sets me back and makes me angrier with myself
- I don’t know how to spend/use my time in a way that’s true to myself, because I have been wrapped up in societal expectations for so long
- I don’t feel or seem impressive
- Failure is impossible when you are in learn-and-grow mode
- You foster quality over quantity of relationships with people who love you and whom you love
- You are exactly where you need to be. Where you are right now is where you belong, but not where you will remain (belonging can be variable, not static)
- Capitalist values aside, skill level is not equivalent to worth. Allow yourself to gravitate toward what feels good — or even what feels okay. The rest will come together
- Everyone’s busy enough in their own minds without harboring eternal disappointment in you. Your own expectations of yourself are higher than anyone else’s of you
- We’re all a bit self-absorbed, aren’t we? You already make a conscious effort to give for the sake of giving. How about turning it into a habit?
- Embarrassment often comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone (see: learn-and-grow mode). Stay self-aware, stay accountable, but there is no shame in putting yourself out there, no matter the results
- The more you beat yourself up for being lazy or behind, the less you will accomplish. Go at your own pace and rest as needed. When you’re resting, truly rest — half-assing it helps no one
- Once you start to think of time as a blank canvas or a block of fresh clay, something you can mold and make completely your own, you realize how much opportunity there is out there. Of course, no one has the luxury of doing whatever they want, whenever they want. But listen to yourself; notice which uses of time make you feel good, and what renders you depleted and self-deprecating. Write these down so you remember. Do more of the former and as little as possible of the latter
- Craft your inner monologue in the the style of a conversation with a casual acquaintance. They’ve just given you a 30-second rundown of what they “do” — chances are they’ve summarized an impressive highlight reel, leaving you feeling a little inadequate. Now come up with your own highlight reel, and say it out loud for maximum effect
All of this has probably already been said by some self-help guru or other. And more likely than not, I’ll wake up again tomorrow with that familiar knot in my stomach. Typing this up and putting it on the internet isn’t some grand, sweeping gesture that is going to permanently alter my outlook on life. But I must admit—after doing this little exercise, I feel significantly better about going forward with my Monday.