In the last post, I focused on the importance of lifestyle changes (eating nutritionally, sleeping consistently, and exercising regularly) to both wipe out a couple of your “symptoms” and allow us to get a true baseline (that can only be achieved when our bodies are working for us rather than against us) before moving on to the emotional well-being piece of this puzzle.
You did a great job!!! I know. I told you it was going to totally suck, but it seems that you experienced some relief, too. Each time I opened my email and saw some version of, “I did it!!” or “I am trying, but I can’t get myself to do it.”, I was like, “Yesss!!!” Remember—the only goal was to start the process. And, you did! The best part—the first step is the hardest step. Done.
I noticed several similarities in tone and content in your emails. For those of you who didn’t take me up on the offer to troubleshoot with you to get over the humps impeding follow through, we’ll start with the most common struggles this week. We’re all much more similar than we are different.
The common denominators.
The age-old, learned response to society’s bullshit, GURLS apologizing for their presence.
Just about ALL of you showed up and disappeared simultaneously. No joke. The first sentence in the majority of the emails I received was, “ I’m sorry to bother you” or “ I understand if you don’t have time to respond.” or “ I don’t mean to be a pain.” Ohhh, I get it. I hate that feeling—the one that feels like, “ Oh, just little old me over here, and your comfort level is more important to me than mine—actually, your comfort level seems directly correlated to mine right this second. So yea, hi.” I used to start off every communication with, “It’s just me” and end with “ Never mind, I know you’re busy.” FUUUUCK THAT. Seriously.
Been there. Done that. I’ve learned that there are two things that contribute to this problem—us apologizing for our presence.
First of all, there’s projection happening here. Projection ( or, projective identification) is when we attribute something going on inside ourselves to someone else. This is a telltale sign that you have trouble saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and not saying it mean. You’re likely more like a weathervane (—going with whichever way the wind blows) for fear of rejection, than the wind (—the force that you are). We’ll save that lesson for another post, but take my word for it. I’ve learned to only offer what I can deliver, and only say what I mean. I said to email me with questions, I mean email me with questions. I said that I’m committed to walking through this with you, I mean that I’m committed to walking through this with you. I’m here. Use your communications with me as practice—practice showing up, speaking up, and holding others accountable. Hold me accountable. The idea is to get from our communication here all that you can use in your life out there. Got it? Good.
Secondly, you’ve been socialized to “act like a lady” and “ be polite”, which is defined as “behaving or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people”. Here’s what they didn’t tell you—when being considerate of other people isn’t synonymous with being considerate of yourself, always choose you! Don’t you worry about me. Let me worry about me. I am my responsibility. You are your responsibility. End of story.
Internalizing devastating societal messaging.
It seems that many of you feel overwhelmed, ashamed ( mostly re: a specific body part or physical quality), and say things like, “ It’s an uphill battle”, “ Life got the best of me”, and on and on.
Listen up! Those are subjective feelings. Feelings are not facts.
You can’t feel anything without thinking something first. That’s an evidence-based principle of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a set of interventions that are proven effective for a variety of diagnoses, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders, bulimia, general stress, and the list goes on. The idea is that thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behaviors. So, if you’re carrying on, doing something you don’t want to do, or not doing something you’d like to start doing ( i.e., the lifestyle changes from last post!! wink,wink), you’re feelings are acting as a barrier. Because the feelings emanate from a self-destructive thinking pattern, we’ve gotta hit this hard at the thought level.
Each one of us has both a positive and a negative thought voice, the part of you that has internalized all of the shitty messages thrown at you by society since birth and works overtime to shame you into fitting in with societal norms. The negative voice is actually trying to save you from rejection much of the time. Traditionally, psychology has told us that the negative voice or inner-critic spews irrational thoughts. I disagree. Society fuels self-destructive thoughts. Make no mistake! You are not crazy. You’re an intuitive good-listener, which is the very reason that many of our self-destructive thoughts look so similar, “I’m ugly”, “I’m stupid”, “I’m a pain in the ass”, “I’m a burden”, “I’m a loser”. Bottomline—It’s no coincidence that our so-called “irrational” thoughts correlate significantly with what we’re taught. When not overt, all you have to do is read between the lines of societal messages, and that’s what you get.
I remember when I first learned that this was a thing. I was 19-years old and in therapy for the first time. I was like, “Holy shit! Everybody has this? I could’ve sworn everyone else was completely “normal” and I was the effed up one with an internal dialogue that could compete with the most abusive of relationships. The thoughts were constant. And, my inner critic—a nasty bitch to put it mildly. I named my inner critic in an effort to externalize the voice, so that I’d no longer confuse it as being part of me. I chose the name STUCK—because if I continued to listen to it’s banter, I’d be just that. STUCK—for life.
From there, any time I felt sad or anxious, uneasy or like a total loser, I went to the thought level. What is STUCK saying? STUCK, hello!!? A lot of times it didn’t feel like I was thinking much of anything. I just felt this impending doom, I might die kind of feeling. Afraid to live, afraid of die…Fuck. Not good. So common. So human. So treatable.
Good intentions aren’t always enough.
In attempting to implement my recommendations, many of you indicated that your moms and grandmas, coaches, teachers, nurses say things that foster your self-destructive thinking. And, it makes it tough. Please know—Just like your negative voice takes it’s cues from warped societal messages and torments you to fit-in with societal norms. Your loved ones have been listening to society, too. This pattern of unhealthy self-destructive thinking didn’t come with us. We, women, have been fed this shit for centuries. They love you. You love them. Beautiful! And, to feel better and be you, you’re going to have to go against the current. We’re swimming upstream here. With enough of us performing purposeful strokes, we’ll have the power to change the current for ourselves and future generations.
Name it— (—the negative thought voice)— From this point forward, whenever you’re feeling anxious, sad, worried, less than, jammy, shitty, go to your thoughts. What is X saying?
Thought watch—We give our thoughts too much power! Thoughts only have power or value if we give it to them. Think about it: these shoes are horribly uncomfortable… kids believe in the tooth fairy… I suck. Each of these are thoughts with the same value—none! But much of the time, we get caught up in the ones that resonate with what we fear most and we’re off to the races. The goal is a practice I call “thought watching.” Watch your thoughts in much the same way you watch the cars drive by, as you sit on your front porch. There’s a red Buick, a black Cadillac, and look at that, a grey Honda Accord. Watch them. There’s no need to jump into the passenger seat and go for a ride. The same goes for your thoughts. Watch them pass—no jumping in, no judgement.
Not gonna lie, there are going to be some thoughts that keep coming around. I’ve come to call them “stickler thoughts”. The sticklers take more effort.
Thought stop—Take note of the sticklers that won’t quit and are causing you to feel this way. Stop ‘em dead in their tracks.
Thought log— Write down your self-destructive thoughts (—and the resulting feeling!). Read through them. Are there any themes to the thoughts? I’ve noticed that most of us have approximately three major themes that are reinforced by our current friendships, relationships, in current situations, etc. Get familiar. Like this.
I suck, nobody likes me.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Sad, despondent.
I’m so ugly and unloveable.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Sad, anxious, lonely
I’m stupid, and I’ll never amount to anything.>> Scared, pathetic, sad.
Collect the data— Okay, so that’s bullshit. Where’s the evidence? Wrack your brain for evidence to either support or refute the self-destructive thoughts. Write ‘em down. Like this.
Thought: I suck, nobody likes me.
Feeling: Sad, despondent.
Evidence: First, I don’t even know what “I suck” means. I have my best friend and several other friends, too. Some people think I’m kinda weird, but—deep down—it’s probably better that I’m “weird” to them. For them to “get me”, I’d have to lose me. They’re not into the same things I’m into. I guess I just wish I had more friends, but I don’t allow a lot of people to get to know me too well. I push people away.
Change ‘em up— Use the data to change the way you think to change the way you feel ( and behave). Like this.
Truth: I’m okay. I like the things about me that people might think are weird. I’d like to have more friends, so I want to learn to feel more comfortable in social situations, so I can connect with others in a meaningful way.
Lastly, reach out! If you have any questions about CBT or need help with getting started, I’m right here. Send me your thoughts. I can help you restructure them and change them to feel better. Remember—I mean it! Use our communications as practice. #NoApologies.
Do your damnedest to keep up the lifestyle changes you made last week, and I will, too. Next time, we’re gonna take this lesson one step further. You’ll see—it will all come together. One step at a time. One day at a time.
I’m in this with you.