“She’s more flexible, but I’m doing the pose better”.
I noticed the comparison in the midst of a yoga class (and yes, there is yoga in Uganda). Why am I doing this, I thought. Here I am, trying to be zen and focused on my own journey, and yet my head still automatically targets other people as a way to judge my worthiness.
Thankfully, I’m at a point in my life, where while I still find myself making comparisons to and judgements about others, those comparisons don’t automatically drag me into a downward spiral of self-loathing. Mindfulness teaches us to notice our experience. To notice the thoughts, acknowledge them, but let them go. Observing in this way offers us insight into our brain’s innerworkings.
Using some of my therapy skills, I decided to explore what all of this was about. I could debate my thoughts. Challenge them as not being truthful and pretend I hold the opinion of some entity other than me. But in this case, that doesn’t quite work for me. I mean, the thoughts wasn’t wrong. The woman is more flexible than I am.
So I follow the thought further. Why does it matter if she’s more flexible? She may be better than me in one way, but I’m better than her in another, more significant way. Okay, but again, why does this matter? Dig further. If I looked at the person next to me in class and saw that she was more flexible AND nailed the posture, what then? It would indicate that I’m less than. I’m not good enough. I won’t ever be good enough. There is something inherently lacking about me.
OOfta. That gets heavy quickly. And yet, there it is. This belief stuffed way down into my core.
There is something inherently lacking about ME.
All day, every day our heads bombard us with thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts are helpful: Don’t forget to go to the store. I need to call my mom today. I wonder if the subway would be faster today. Those apples are more expensive than they were last week. They’re part of the day to day chatter of our brains as they navigate the world. And then, in the midst of those thoughts, other more nefarious characters arise. You WOULD forget to go to the store. Now there’s no toilet paper you dimbulb! I can’t believe you said that to your mom. I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t talk to you for a week. Why did you decide to take the subway today?! Now you’re going to be late and probably get fired!
Do you see the running theme in the second batch of thoughts? I do: YOU SUCK! YOU’RE THE WORST! But let’s be honest. Your thoughts can get way harsher than what I just described. They’re straight ruthless. They’ll tear you apart in microseconds because they know just what to say to target your most vulnerable insecurities. And the crazy part? WE BELIEVE THEM!
I’ve had conversations with clients who, without a hint of sarcasm, will say that they are clearly the worst person that has ever lived. At some point in their life they have acquired this message, and not only decided it was true, but decided that it was a belief worth defending.
Fortunately, beliefs can be changed. Because I’ve been doing my own inner work for awhile, when those little beliefs pop up now, I’m generally able to tell them to screw off.
Which of your beliefs do you wish you could tell to screw off? What do you wish your thoughts would tell you instead?