Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autocognition, Subliminal Messages, and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

I've been thinking a lot lately... about how I think. I haven't posted in a few days because my mom taught me, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Obviously, I don't follow this rule most of the time. But I posted a quote the other day that said, "Change it or let it go. Complaining is a waste of energy" and I'm really trying to listen. I cannot control other people. I cannot control the weather or time's inevitable march into a colder, darker month. I cannot control the nonsensical layout of our new apartment's kitchen. Do I really need to whine about it and put another negative thought out there in the world?

There is some merit to "getting things off your shoulders," but where's the line between commiserating and straight out making other people miserable with my incessant whining? On the other hand, simply trying to, not complain out loud isn't doing me much good either. After all, who wants to be the silent person sulking in the corner? They may not be moaning and groaning, but you can tell they're not happy. (Why am I saying "they"? This has been me more often than not. I apologize to those of you who have witnessed this.) 

I think something more fundamental has to change. Once I've dug myself deep into the trenches of negative thinking, it's too late. Even if I hold it all in and remain silent, it's going to seep out around the edges. An individual's thought process is a messy place, but there are some messages that play over and over again, once we start to pay attention to them.

My thought reel looks something like this: "I'm so tired, I don't get enough sleep, I hate work, I need to take better care of myself, I think about myself too much, I love working out and eating right, I am too hard on my body, I don't push myself enough, I eat way too much, I don't fuel properly for longer runs, it takes me forever to recover from a hard workout, I'm not meant to be fast, I get bored too easily, I quit too easily, I'm too hard on myself..."

Just typing those out allows me to see the extremes I can sometimes think in. From the vocabulary (never, forever, way, too, don't, hate) to the actual messages I'm sending myself, (yes/no, do/don't, will/won't) I'm setting myself up for failure.

I even label myself. Depending who I'm with, I see myself as the messy one, the flaky one, the dumb one, the whiny one, the fake one, the self-absorbed one. Very few times in my life have I felt like the smart one, the pretty one, the gentle one, the genuine one. And usually when I do feel like that, it's a reflection of who I'm with more than anything. I want that to change. 

I want to be the kind of person you interact with and it improves your day. You know those people. The people who leave you feeling better about yourself than you did before they came by. These people are not self-serving and don't draw attention to themselves, but there's a magnetic pull toward them. People want to be around them. (Now as I type this, I'm wondering if the fact that I want to be this type of person precludes me from actually becoming this selfless person?)

My dad used to tell me that enough people in the world would say bad things about me that I shouldn't waste time saying bad things about myself. Then he'd stand up and try to make me say, "I'm smart, I'm good-looking, and gosh darn it, people like me!" I'd giggle and blow him off as my corny dad, but it turns out he's right.

I'm not saying mind over matter works all of the time. And I'm not claiming to actually have control over anything in my life. I'm simply going to try to think less negatively more positively from one minute to the next.  What are your thoughts? Any help would help! How do you balance humility vs. self-depreciation?

"If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of becoming a prophet." -Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish-American writer (1904-1991)

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