When life gets hard, our minds come up with all sorts of stories about what’s going on.
“It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens” – Pema Chodron
We attach meanings to experiences. You know you do. We think “This happened, so it must mean ______.”
And we completely ignore that there usually is an infinite number of ways to interpret any experience.
When life gets hard, your stories define your life
What you tell yourself about what’s happening determines how you feel about it. And you know what?
The meaning you attach to an event or situation can seriously mess you up.
When you’re freaking out you create a sort of chain-reaction that can make everything worse.
Because you physically feel bad.
When tons of stress hormones are flowing through your body, you’re tense and you can’t think straight.
Unfortunately, that influences your behavior and how you come across.
Others pick up on it when you have a pit in your stomach or feel nauseous. You’re sending out bad vibes.
If they are your friends, they’ll want to help you feel better.
If they are not your friends, they may think you’re weird, that they should avoid you or even that you’re suspicious.
You don’t want that.
And you don’t want to put yourself through all that stress over nothing either.
Freaking out doesn’t feel good, does it?
Here’s the good news
When you realize that the story you tell yourself changes how you see a situation or event, you can catch yourself.
You can manage how you react to whatever is happening by checking your story. Even if your first reflex is to feel:
you can close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself if this is the right reaction to what’s going on.
Even when life gets hard, most events are neutral. It’s your story about it that makes you feel a certain way. Your (irrational) story causes the drama.
Naturally, this happens when you already feel self-conscious about a subject or when it always triggers your anger.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t make up the story on how this confirms what you’re already thinking. Perspective is a powerful thing.
Let me give you a few examples
If you believe your own negative stories, that’s when life gets hard. At least harder than necessary.
You messed up something at work. It’s not a big deal and no one knows about it anyway.
One day your boss comes up to you and says “Can you please come and see me in my office?” or “HR wants to see you”.
Now, where did your mind just go? Nowhere good I guess.
You’re walking through the mall and someone is giving you a strange look.
Or you’re in the office and your colleagues are whispering behind you…
Do you start wondering what’s wrong with you?
Are you looking for reasons why people would give you strange looks or talk behind your back?
Or do you just ignore them because whatever is going on simply has nothing to do with you?
The person in the mall wasn’t judging you, you just caught him remembering something bad.
And your coworkers were whispering for whatever reason and were absolutely not talking about you.
But if you get all worked up about them judging you, you start acting weird around them and that hurts your relationship with them.
“We need to talk” is another sentence that probably doesn’t feel so good…
When I was 17, my mother had a talk with me about how it would be okay if I were a lesbian. She really kept insisting on it.
It went on forever.
While I was sitting there pretty bored and honestly confused, I was wondering why she was going on and on about it.
I came to the conclusion that she’d like it if I were gay so she would get praise for being “so tolerant”.
I think that you love who you love and that’s just that.
Who you’re attracted to doesn’t make a difference.
Anyway, about 12 years later I was thinking about this conversation with my mother again.
And it suddenly hit me that she wanted me to come out… “Duh” you may be thinking right now.
But there was no reason to think that. It was just because I spent a lot of time with my best friend.
And it was so far from the truth that it never even occurred to me that anyone could think we were a couple.
Why am I telling you this?
- When you have no story attached to something, you don’t worry about what others think
- People can jump to ridiculous conclusions about you based on nothing. Let whoever think whatever.
If you’re constantly worrying about what other people think, you put a lot of unnecessary stress on yourself.
When life gets hard, you really don’t need any additional, unnecessary stress.
You can control what you think.
So whenever bad feeling thoughts come up, take a minute to check your story.
Is your interpretation the only possible explanation? Or can there be a completely harmless reason?
Once you’re aware that you’re freaking out, you have the power to choose a different story.
Choose one that makes you feel better and see how this improves your life.
Especially when life gets hard, you shouldn’t believe everything you think.
Thoughts are not facts!
I hope this gives you a new perspective when life gets hard.
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