OK, I'm just gonna jump into another category of stinkin' thinkin'. You'll notice that there's a fair amount of overlap on these, and that the messages are pretty similar. Remember, when you feel bad about yourself, you've already told yourself something that probably sounds like one of these phrases. So it's useful to try to note when you're using these and try to change the thought. Today's category: Overgeneralization!
"Nothing ever goes right!" "The world sucks." I remember in the depths of my worst feelings, I said, "There isn't a major decision I've made in my life that was a good one." That felt like a sudden realization -- every time I've tried to make a big life choice, it's been a disaster. Suddenly, I slipped further into utter despair. And I couldn't stop ruminating about all the disastrous choices I'd made and how awful it was, and how helpless I felt to ever do anything right. I didn't see any way out.
Well, you know, in hindsight, in thinking about all the major decisions I've made about the direction of my life, I realized that I made some dandy ones. And some of the decisions I made that didn't work out that well had some terrific surprises and benefits to them. And sometimes, when I've let go of what I was hoping or expecting to get from a decision, I've found that I was plenty content with the outcome anyway. The thought that I had never made a good decision absolutely paralyzed me from making any headway on the issues at hand while my life fell apart around me. But when I stopped and clarified, and thought about the actual facts of the matter, I realized that sometimes it wasn't the decisions I made but the self-loathing I felt and the bad messages I was giving myself that sort of set up a self-fulfilling prophesy. It wasn't going to go right if I can't ever do anything right, right?
These things are so powerful sometimes that they can just knock you to your knees. Sometimes we don't want to take too close a look at these things, because it can be painful to change, even though we're already in so much pain. It may seem impossible to tolerate even an improvement in the way you think about yourself, because you're so used to feeling lousy. But if you hear yourself saying something that's clearly an overgeneralization, maybe you can hear that and think, "Whoa, wait a minute. How can everything be this lousy? That can't be right! Let's see if I can name one thing that isn't lousy." Evidently, if one thing is pretty good, then everything isn't lousy.
You know, another issue with this is that I think we think that we are supposed to talk about ourselves this way. I think it's especially true for women, although men aren't immune to it obviously. If I project comfort in my own skin, maybe people will think I'm too big for my britches. If I take ownership of my life, perhaps my friends won't like me anymore. I'd better say out loud to people how awful I am, or how awful my life is, so they don't think I'm being too fancy-pants happy.
The thought has crossed my mind while I've been writing these things that maybe my pretty new feelings of self-worth and self-compassion are coming across as somehow suggesting I think I'm better than someone else, or like I think I have all the answers, or that I'm trying to write some sort of self-help guide. (Huh, maybe I am trying to do the last thing, I dunno.) Anyway, I decided to let those doubts go, because what the hell. Maybe no one is reading this, but that's ok. I like writing it. Maybe someone somewhere will try this out and say, "Oh, gosh, you know, when I caught myself thinking I wasn't lovable, and I reframed the thought, I felt better." And that would be pretty cool. So yeah, I can't control what other people think about what I'm writing or about me. I'll let other people worry about that. It's making me feel good to write it. So, that's that.