As I’m writing this post, I can’t remember specifically what inspired this thought, but I have a feeling it was either a TED Talk video or a podcast. Either way, what matters most is the lesson behind it – although I do believe in sharing your sources when you can! – so I’m going to get on with it.
Like everyone else on this planet, I struggle controlling my emotions most of the time.
I’ve spoken a lot on this blog about changes I want to make, habits I’m trying to break and so on yet I always seem to fall into the same patterns time and time again. I tend to break whatever promises I’d made to myself and then end up feeling even worse of a person because I’ve failed once more.
This is a common mindset for me, and if you’re here then I’m guessing the same goes for you too.
We’re constantly beating ourselves up because we can’t meet our own expectations, but what if this voice inside your head isn’t the one in charge?
That’s what I want to explore today.
Look Who’s Talking
The reason why it can feel so busy inside your own head is because of all the different thoughts, opinions, and excuses that are going on at any one time.
Now, before we go any further I want to point out that I’m not talking about any specific mental health illnesses or anything like that in this post but rather the everyday hum-drum that most people experience inside their own minds. Even without a diagnosis or anything chemically going on, it can get pretty loud inside our heads so please seek help if you need it.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of the times it feels as though there are several different versions of me arguing with each other inside my head any time I choose to make a decision or ultimately fail at making a change.
There’s the part of me that thinks I’m a loser and loves telling me I’m never going to get anywhere.
There’s the part of me that doesn’t want to try anymore.
There’s the part of me that is ambitious and wants to strive. strive, strive to be better.
There’s also a part of me that is compassionate and forgiving, but she tends to be a lot quieter than the rest.
It is enough to drive anyone up the wall! But there is something I heard the other day which gave me some insight into how we can control these voices; how we can quieten the noise going on inside of us to figure out what we actually need to do.
It’s pretty simple, actually – take a look at who’s talking right now.
This is not only a great excuse for me to reference a highly problematic yet favourite movie series of mine from growing up (John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Bruce Willis as a talking baby… Need I say more?) but it’s also a really good way of making our thoughts easier to handle.
When you’re in a bad headspace, and your brain is telling you that you’re a failure or that you shouldn’t try again or that you’re not good enough, it’s important to try and look at which part of you is saying that.
Who is saying that to you in this moment? And why?
But It’s All Me?
I get why you might be confused here, and that is totally my fault.
You might be thinking that if these thoughts are coming from within you, then they must all be coming from you and you alone right?
Well, yes and no. You see, certain parts of our brain (you can also say your conscious, your soul – whatever works for you) activate when they feel like they are needed.
For example, the anxious part of your brain comes out when you try something new. For some of us, our anxious brains are ‘on’ more often than others, but that doesn’t really matter here. No matter what kind of brain you have, a common feeling to have when trying something new is anxious or scared.
While we can link the feeling (anxious) to the experience (something new) pretty easily, this doesn’t really help us when it comes to moving past our thoughts to get what we need done.
But there’s a trick to that, and I’ve just learnt it.
I’m sure we’ve all seen that lovely, inspirational quote about how every cell within our bodies is working hard to keep us safe and they love us, right? Well, your brain works the same way (for most of us) even if it doesn’t feel like it! And that is the basis for this trick of managing your thoughts.
The thoughts your having at this time are the best that your brain can offer right now, based on what it already knows.
Whether they’re good thoughts or bad thoughts, your brain is just working with what it has to provide what it believes is relevant information for whatever it is dealing with. What your brain has to work with is based on your experiences, your beliefs, and your morals.
So, even if it doesn’t feel like it, the parts of your brain that come out during times of stress, upset or whatever are only trying their best to help you.
As I’m struggling to write this blog post, my brain is telling me that I should just give up and log off.
It’s saying that no one cares about what I have to say, that I’m a bad writer, and there is loads of other people doing things better than I ever could so I shouldn’t even try. This happens all the time I try to work or be creative, and I know I’m not alone.
It is easy to dismiss this part of my thoughts as a bitch and try to ignore it, but we all know that the same things will come up next time I start writing.
Instead, as Brene Brown is renowned for saying, it is time to deal with these thoughts with compassion. Being gentle and kind to ourselves really is the only way forward, as hard as it may be so rather than getting mad or upset with myself, or worse believe these thoughts and stop writing, I need to look into where these thoughts are coming from and why they might be appearing right now.
My brain is being mean to me in this moment, but why is that? If I sit a little longer in these thoughts (which is hard, I know) I can see that underneath it all there’s a sense of… fear.
These thoughts are coming from a place of fear, based on feelings of rejection and embarrassment that I have experienced before.
These thoughts are coming up as I’m trying to write to warn me about the perils of doing a bad job.
Because I’m struggling, my brain wants me to stop immediately and do something safer.
We don’t like to be uncomfortable, but what I want more than being uncomfortable for a couple of minutes is to write, to express myself, and to create something because it makes me feel good eventually.
When I can see that these thoughts are coming from a place of fear, it is easier to understand that actually my brain doesn’t hate me.
In fact, it’s the opposite – it is warning me against these ‘bad things’ because it wants to keep me safe.
What Does This Mean For You?
Dealing with mean or negative thoughts can be draining, so wouldn’t it be nice to be able to switch them around and see that underneath it all your brain is only looking out for you?
Next time you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself, or getting jealous about what someone else has, or procrastinating too much, ask yourself:
what part of my brain is thinking right now?
Or alternatively, who is talking right now.
Allow yourself to really sit in these thoughts for a minute to figure out where they’re coming from and which part of you is working in this moment. Are you scared? Are you feeling insecure? What are you feeling?
Once you’ve identified the feeling behind the thoughts, it is easier to see where they’re coming from which can then be used to twist it into a positive/normal brain thing.
For example, if you’re feeling scared about posting a picture on Instagram, where has that come from? Your brain is trying to protect you, and the insecure part of your brain is speaking right now as a way to keep you safe – that part of you is scared of rejection, of being ignored, and it wants to avoid these at all costs.
But the true you, the one who is waiting to post the image, understands that these things won’t kill you and that actually, everything is okay.
Separating our thoughts from who we are is super hard, but it is a key part of mindfulness and eventually a better mental state. This technique is a good way of starting that process, of separating yourself from your thoughts and seeing that what goes on in your brain doesn’t have to control all your actions.
I hope this makes sense and I hope you enjoyed this post. Stay safe, friends, I’m so happy you’re here.