Originally Published On MomsGetReal
“You have to learn to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes everyday. Now that’s a power you can cultivate. You want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”—Richard From Texas (Eat Pray Love)
Somewhere in the Encyclopedia of Random Facts that’s developed in my head over the last (nearly) 42 years, there’s an entry that says we have 50,000 thoughts per day.
That’s a lot of selecting to have to do, Richard From Texas. It feels like herding cats. And now I’ve got a mental picture of my mind as a Manhattan high rise whose occupants are all feline in nature, each of whom has strings connected to my emotions, movements and choices. They’ve been on a steady diet of negativity for years, and they’re not exactly singing sweet, sweet music on a daily basis. So, before launching into yoga or belly dancing or strength training or what I know will be an ill-fated attempt at being a vegan, I’m going to take Richard from Texas’ advice, and I’m going to learn to select my thoughts and work on the mind.
I can remember having self-sabotaging thoughts when I was just five years old, and it’s all because of the Sears catalog. My mom was simply placing an order for school clothes (once upon a time, the Sears catalog ruled and you picked clothing out from photos of skinny, smiling children bound in a book that could also be used as a door stop and a weapon of self defense). Over the phone, I heard her say, “I need those in 2 sizes, slim and regular.”
I knew the slim was for my sister. I knew the regular was for me. I knew what slim meant. Slim was pretty. Slim was Farrah Fawcett and Wonder Woman and Isis. Slim was Donna Summer and every girl on the cover of every magazine. Regular wasn’t slim, which immediately translated in my head to “Regular clothes are for girls who are huge, awkward, ungainly, overweight and ugly.” Even if they’re only five years old.
37 years is a long time to hang onto that kind of baggage. So it’s time to learn to change it.
Now, while I can be a fantastic cheerleader, I’m also the first one to the self-deprecating punch and a bit cynical. You’re not going to see me jump on Tony Robbins’ bandwagon and saying “Holy CRAP, I am STUNNING!” Recording a new soundtrack for my thoughts, sans 50,000 cats, has to begin with the destruction of the old soundtrack. So here are my three steps.
Step 1 – Stop Circling the Drain
All of my dearest friends will tell you that I am FANTASTIC at circling the drain. I can go there without scuba gear or fear and happily spin there for days on end over the issue of the moment – take your pick from not dating anyone to not exercising to the pizza I ate Thursday night (worth every calorie, by the way). My commitment to myself is this: I’m not going to pretend like the drain isn’t there, but instead of using it as a hang out, I’m going to use it as it’s intended – to get rid of waste. The drain is a great place for me to visualize negative thoughts going when I have them – because I know I will have them. But the thoughts need to go there – not me.
Step 2 – Stop Looking for Problems with Me
I can practically guarantee you that no one would think half the crap I think about myself. What about you? Has anyone ever walked up to you and said “Wow, did you look in a mirror before you left the house? Your ass is huge in those pants.”
I’m betting the answer is “no.” (Unless you’ve been a contestant on The Bachelor). So why do I say it to myself?
I allow those negative self-thoughts life and energy every time I look in the mirror and find something to criticize, so my solution to that is simple – every time I have a negative self thought, I’m going to stop, take five deep breaths, and watch it go down the drain. I might even put a garbage disposal there, too.
Step 3 – Journal One Nice Thing Every Day
I’ve got journals on journals that pour through issues I’ve had with myself, but so few that talk about what a cool person I’m learning to be. So starting now, my favorite journal (a one-of-a-kind, handmade journal from http://ionahandcraftedbooks.com/ in Austin, TX – an indulgent must for anyone who loves the feeling of a pen sweeping across paper) is going to have a section dedicated to One Nice Thing Every Day.
Today, it’ll be that I was brave.