“If you think positive thoughts, positive things will happen”
“You can change the future if you just think positively”
“If you can’t love yourself, how will anyone else love you?”
Have you ever heard these phrases or other phrases like these? Do you think they’re a load of shit like I do? Er, did. Like I did? Let me explain.
Ya’ll I’ve been doing some serious soul-searching. We will just say the events of this past year have set me off kilter. I’m not happy with who I am, or the choices that I’ve been making and I can say that now but I didn’t realize that until recently. I knew that things felt off, everything felt like a struggle. Like clearly the universe was working against me. If you’ve read this blog for any extended period of time, you know that with my humor and realism there is also a side of snark and a pinch of pessimism. That’s just how my life recipe has been for as long as I can remember.
Around October of this year, things started to feel unnecessarily complicated and I can’t really pinpoint what it was or why it was hard but it just felt like nothing was going my way and my attitude was changing. Before I was diagnosed with IBD I was a really negative person. Not just the funny ha ha version of myself but someone who literally thought luck was something I didn’t have, would never have and I was dealt a crap hand in life. I probably wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be around.
Then I got sick and it all changed.
I saw the beauty in what was happening to me. Of course, this took time. Go back and read early entries here. It wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns but there was a dramatic shift in my attitude. Fighting for your life will do that to you.
But this year I could feel that same old attitude rising up, but again, I didn’t really know it was happening. This is all hindsight talking. I just knew I was off and I’m sure a part of that was depression but this wasn’t my normal depression. It was something else. In October I knew that I’d be quitting my job and working for Girls With Guts. I was approaching our 3rd annual retreat, the tryouts for my derby league were moved up 3 months and there was some turmoil in my family. My cup had runneth over. I felt so overwhelmed it was like I couldn’t make real thoughts anymore. It was what I image mania feels like, just pure brain chaos and zero clue how to reel it in or change it or what to do about it. I was facing a full-blown breakdown at 30. I realize that the list I just wrote out doesn’t seem like much but added on to the emotional baggage I had this year after losing my Dad, some unexpected stressors at my job, pressure with GWG, pressure with keeping the family together, plus this huge life change in working for GWG….all of the small shit was big shit and my shit bag was already full. (Unintended ostomy joke there).
So I did what I do when I feel like I’m going to unravel…I went back to therapy. And thank sweet baby jesus I did.
After two session with my therapist, she had validated my feelings of being overwhelmed. She had given me some tips on how to calm my life down and still do all the things I needed to do and felt obligated to so. And she had said something to me that I had never heard before. We were talking about my dating history (which, as you know, is vast), and she said to me, “It sounds like you have a self-love and worth issue”. To which I said, “nu uh, I think I’m awesome”. There was no way in hell I didn’t know my worth. Worth is something my Dad spent a lot of time hammering into our heads as kids. I know I have worth. I know I’m a good catch. I know I’m a good partner.
But she said to me, “You can think you’re all of those things but still not love yourself. You can also think you’re worthy, but you may not think other people find you worthy.”
And much like when I usually think I’m right, I gave her an understanding nod and promptly thought she was full of shit.
I left that day feeling uneasy. It was like she had hit a button in me and it started a pulse and that pulse was slowly growing outward across my body taking over and making me …I don’t know…icky. Because of a change in my insurance, I wouldn’t be back to see her for 2 weeks to talk about how I was feeling so I decided I’d test her theory. I signed up for a 28 day online course in self-love, fully prepared to see all the concepts as hippy dippy horse shit that I was too smart for. The first day of the course was “Meet your needs”. And I was all, “pshaw I meet all my needs. ” But when I sat down to write about my needs and what they were, I realized there were a lot of things that weren’t getting done. Really basic things like cleaning the house or taking some time alone to just do nothing.
But whatever. I totally loved myself anyway. Day 2 was “Gratitude”. I started to write down who/what I was grateful for and again, I was like “DUUUHHHH, I already know this shit, I want $25 back”. But I started thinking about gratitude and I had remembered that I read a study about gratitude journals and how they change perception. Ok that’s a lie, I heard someone who said they read a study about that. So begrudgingly, I was like, “ok FINE. I’ll do a gratitude journal too, because clearly I love myself soooooo much. But I want one of those free apps because I’m not paying for that shit.”
I paid $4 for the gratitude app that I picked.
And I did these two things for like a week completely reluctantly, not yet convinced there was really a purpose. BECAUSE I WAS SMARTER THAN ALL OF THIS.
Then one day I was wasting countless hours on Facebook and I stumbled upon this article. It’s called “The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you” and frankly I don’t know why I read it because the title alone was enough for me to think it was stupid and close out the window. In hindsight, I think a lot of stuff is really stupid and in the end it just turns out I’m really stupid and should do all the stuff I think is stupid.
Anyway. So I read this article, and it changed my life. I KNOW people say stuff changes their lives all the time, but this one changed my perspective completely and subsequently is changing my life as we speak. Read that article. If you’re like me and tend to see life as the “glass is half empty so go get me some more effing coffee before I rip your face off”….maybe you will see how valuable that article was to me.
Here’s the cliffs notes:
- When you think a thought over and over, your brain creates a pathway for that thought. Over time that pathway gets shorter and it becomes easier to think that thought. It becomes the default, if you will.
- Our brains have the ability to create new paths all the time.
Ok that’s it. Life changed. Done.
Do you, dear reader, get why this blew my mind all over my face? That article told me that all the negative shit that I think on regular has become the default for my brain. I’ve thought it so much, it’s SO easy for my brain to think it. Nice job, Jackie. BUT! What it also said was that if you start thinking new thoughts…over and over…you can create the new pathways, making new defaults, and new easy to think thoughts.
You know all that hippy dippy shit about thinking positive thoughts and how you can make positive things happen by being around positive people…blah blah blah. Turns out…not blah blah blah. Its true. Science ‘n shit.
So let that sink in.
Ok so here is why this article has changed SO much for me in the last 3 weeks or so. Once I read that article, and realized that because of science, not because of some granola flower god, that I could create positive change in my own life by thinking positive thoughts….it was on. It was like I challenged myself to see how positive I could get and how fast I could erase negative things from my life. It’s been weird but you guys, it fucking working. It’s slow and I won’t say its a magical thing that happened over night but I can see small significant changes in my thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes it’s completely fleeting but I feel it.
Once I decided that I was going to go all in on positive thought I went back to the 28 Day Self-Love Course and took it seriously. Except that since I was so dedicated to actually learning to love myself this time, I found a better course. I paid AGAIN to someone else for a more robust course. Then, I found an even better one and that one is super spendy (and I’m super poor) but there is a scholarship to take the course. I applied for that scholarship and I’m still hoping to hear back soon. I went back to my gratitude journal and set an alarm to fill that sucker out every day with a minimum of 3 things and 1 photo to remind me why I’m so god damned lucky in this life.
I started to meditate. At first it was a few minutes maybe before I rolled out of bed and I’d listen to some breathy earth weirdo talk to me about welcoming the day. But even that changed once I decided I wanted it to be valuable for me. Now? I try to do a guided meditation 2 times a day. I found another great app called Breathe, that lets you do a mental/physical/emotional check in and based on what you say it gives you suggestions on the types of guided meditations you should do. Two nights ago I had a break through, where my plans had unexpectedly changed. I was in a real shit mood, and ready to make some choices out of anger and before I make that final choice I was digging around my phone for something and my finger accidentally hit and opened the meditation app. I thought, “what the hell” and did a check in and then a meditation that turned out to be about making choices out of anger. After the 6 minutes was done, my attitude had shifted completely. I kept my original plans and was happy I did. Yup, you read that right. I meditated on a topic and it changed my mood and I felt great after.
Who the fuck am I?
I also keep a journal too. A journal that is actually private that literally no one reads, which is new and weird for me.
The minute that I really knew I was serious about making these changes and doing this work was when I told my friends what I was doing. My best friends, who are amazing and supportive, who clearly would support me in anything. But old me would think this was weird ass new age stuff and it would have felt weird to admit that I struggle with loving myself and that I felt like I had to work to do it. The new me wanted them to know, to keep me accountable, and because I know I will likely need their help. Vulnerability is something that I’m pretty ok with here. On this blog, behind this screen. In person it is not something I’m very good with. Telling my friends as they sat next to me about this spiritual stuff that I was doing was a huge step for me.
So ask me today if those three quotes at the top are true? I’d tell you that I can’t say for sure but I’m taking a hard lean towards yes. For me just hearing people say, “think positively” was never enough to think I could change my own perspective. But now that I have the science, that I can understand, it’s so hard to find a reason not to change my thought process. And through this process, I am learning to love myself, slow and steady. Doing all the hippy dippy shit that I’ve criticized for decades. I’m learning that I have worth in areas other that my professional life. I am single and I’m actually happy about it. I’m learning how to take time to decompress my thoughts which have desperately needed it. And I am learning that doing this takes practice. Loving yourself is like working out, it takes time and dedication. And the second you give up all of your work can be undone.
Guys I feel like I’m getting to know myself which is one of the most self helpy things I’ll ever say but have you taken the time to ask yourself tough questions and map out your answers? Do you put yourself first in your life? Are you happy with the way you do things now? Once I looked at my friends who do the internal work and read self-help books and I saw how happy they are….I realized I had to be doing something wrong. And I was. And I have made the choice to work harder to be a happier person.