Monday Postcard #88 – If You’re Happy and You Know It, Overthink
That voice in our head… When good things happen and instead of enjoying the moment it starts fuelling our doubts. “Do you really think this will work?”, “You aren’t good enough for this?”, “Who cares?”. Instead of being on an emotional high, we take ourselves on a rollercoaster ride downwards the negativity spiral. Only the negative thoughts are reinforced making us forget about the good things happening. Eventually, they may even result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
My mantra used to be “I’m a pessimist because then things can only get better.” I guess it may have been a kind of self protection mode. I did not want to have expectations which later on could not be met. Instead of planting positive seeds like “This project will be super successful”, I used to think “Let’s hope it works out.” I am telling you this is the absolute worst you can do. Because I did not have a positive attitude, I only waited for things to go wrong. In the end, they did due to my lack of belief. I took myself on the negativity rollercoaster every day making up worst case scenarios and imagining dragons. Very often, without any reason. Even more often, they turned out to be self-fulfilling prophecies indeed. Afterwards, the negative voice in my head talked me down – it told me it was my fault, that I was not good enough, that I had not worked hard enough. It got so bad that I could not even celebrate small victories, because even then I looked for negative points.
A while ago I read a book which described the negative voice in our head like a mean friend. (Some authors even call it the “inner asshole” (sic!), but I will stick to the mean friend allegory.) If this voice was a real person, or even a friend of mine and this person talked to me like this, would I still be in touch? Would I maintain a toxic relationship with somebody who always makes me feel down?
Whenever I realise that the mean friend is talking to me, I literally tell them to shut up. Sometimes it takes a while until I realise that I started a ride on the negativity rollercoaster. But whenever I catch myself, I try to focus on the good things. The problem of our minds is that for every negative thing which happens to us, we need nine positive things to make up for it. This is kind of sad is it not? Therefore, I remind myself of the beautiful things. I also taught myself to look around and see the beauty.
This morning, for example, I was almost one hour early for an appointment as I thought traffic would be way worse. (Bangkok has trained me well obviously.) When I arrived, I was a bit annoyed that I got up so early and wasted an hour. The mean friend in my head already tried to see this as a negative omen for the appointment. But then I decided to make the voice shut up by going for a walk and enjoying a beautiful summer morning. I ended up sitting in a park on a sunny spot, watching the people walk their dogs. It ended up to be an amazing start of the day and I am sure my smile helped with the meetings later on in the day.
Don’t let this mean friend ruin your start of the week, show them the sunny finger today instead!