We all do it. We make up stories. We conjure what others think of us, we invent what will happen if we speak up or take action, and we ruminate on what someone meant when they said, “that,” to us. The problem with all this is…almost always, 99.9% of the time, more often than not, the story we make up leaves us feeling like doggy poop! We tell ourselves the worst possible scenarios, with the most devastating endings. We heckle ourselves with, “They said that because they don’t like me, I am so weird, no one really cares anyway.” We conclude, “Something awful is about to happen (I will lose my job, be left, be rejected).” At the end of all this we feel very, very bad about ourselves.
Recently I made up the story that everything I said in my meditation class was really stupid. What every one else said was eloquent and enlightening. I didn’t stop there. I told myself that no one really cared what I had to say anyway. As I looked around the room I could read on my classmates faces that they agreed with me. “See,” I said to myself, “I am right, so just keep quiet. Don’t say another thing.”
I am what you may call a sophisticated self criticizer. I corroborate my story by interpreting the other persons non verbal cues-body language. “See they blinked, that means they are secretly rolling their eyes. They crossed their arms, everyone knows what that means. They cleared their throat…they sat down, they stood up, they scratched their nose.” I could go on and on. The beauty of this is it is one more way I tell myself my story is right. How I love to be right!
The truth, however, was I had no idea what my classmates were thinking about me. I just knew what I told myself they were thinking. Worse yet, I believed myself. I noticed what I told myself they were thinking sounded an awful lot like what I was saying about myself. “What a stupid thing to say, no one cares…” Hmmm. I see a pattern here.
I say nasty things to myself then tell myself some one else is saying it to me. Very clever, my dear Patricia. What a system. Too bad I lose…every single time.
My solution? If I am going to make up a story, make it a kind one. One that leaves me feeling loved and respected. Instead of assuming what I say is stupid, what if I assumed someone in the class liked what I said and that it had value to them?
In graduate school, my mentor, Ed Jacobs told me, “50% of the people are alway going to like you and 50% of the people are always not going to like you. Why not stand with the 50% that like you?” If I took his advise my stories, albeit still made up, would leave me wanting to hang out with myself.
I will no longer believe everything I think. Unless it is kind.