Updated: Nov 5, 2021
What's covered: Why it's so much easier to be judgmental & negative than positive; Understanding "negativity bias" & how to re-wire your brain right now!
Hmm, how shall I put this?
My partner is clean, but boy can he be messy!
In a cute, mad professor kind of way. (That's how I describe it on a good day... He's also going to be reading this, so I'll semi-watch my words.)
Let's just say his approach to cleaning and my approach to cleaning is like a classical ballerina trying to choreograph a dance with a rock-mad mosher.
The other day he proudly announced, beaming like a kid on cordial: "I've spent the whole morning cleaning!"
My hesitant and dubious response: "Oh, really honey?" (Because his idea of tidying can end up more like a treasure hunt for everyday items and an avant-garde arrangement of the furniture.)
He swept his arm around the room like a game show model displaying the winning prize.
As I looked around, my eyes couldn't help but be drawn to the things he hadn't done.
It took all my self-control not to take my metaphorical pin and bust his balloon, blurting out: "But how about that! You call that clean! And, honey, where have you put my car keys and the clean tea towels?"
You know what stopped me from running my obsessive semi-trailer over his exuberant enthusiasm?
I knew where my comments were coming from, and it had nothing to do with his cleaning "style" or even him.
Instead, it had everything to do with me: I'm a reformed task-master, high achiever, perfectionist and all those other attractive descriptions you're unlikely to list in a self-written bio on Tinder. ;-)
I know I'm not alone in this.
Every day I hear self-scathing comments from friends, family or clients who are letting their inner critic run riot: "I'm just wasting my time... I'm not getting anywhere... I'm too this... I'm not enough that... Nothing's working! How come I'm not much further ahead by now? What's wrong with me?"(And often these comments are casually thrown into conversations, because they've become such a conversational norm.)
In other words: We are so ready to see what hasn't been done as opposed to what has (like me in the cleaning situation), and we're so geared up to see who we aren't that we totally miss the magic of who we already are.
Here's a fancy fact that helps to explain why we are so *freaking* hard on ourselves - and others: The human brain has a "negative bias," an evolutionary adaptation that hardwires us to focus on potential pain and negativity in a danger-filled world. Cave-man days: very helpful. Modern times: not so much (i.e. the bad drowns out the good).
Self-acknowledgement and appreciation re-wires the brain and flexes our mental-strength muscles. (Check out Dr Rick Hanson's book RESILIENT if you'd like to delve deeper into neuroscience and mindfulness.)
Remember, when you're intensely critical of yourself, it can't help but leak out to others. The reverse is true too.
So, I'd really like you to do ONE THING TODAY: Acknowledge what you have done, what you are doing and who you are already.
I mean it! Stop dragging yourself over the coals of your past or holding yourself up to an impossible-to-achieve image in the future.
You might be thinking, Oh no, here she goes getting all life-coachy, BUT I'M SERIOUS! <- See capitals and exclamations to prove it!
I don't want you to click out of this blog until you acknowledge something about yourself that you are already doing or already are. Start creating those new neural pathways that will serve you for life! (Find it hard to acknowledge yourself or feel a bit cringey? Click here for some quick tips.)
It doesn't have to be big, clever or impressive.
Celebrate the simple and mundane, because the small things are really the BIG things, and if that's not already a quote, it really should be! :-)
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you'll be celebrating, acknowledging or accepting about yourself today.
Keep listening to your body and trusting your wise self,
P.S. I've included a cute and apt pic by Kate Knapp from her book It's not always black and white - A colourful take on life's grey areas. Good isn't it?
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