(📷: Roger Helgeson)
“Don’t let people rent a space in your head unless they’re a good tenant.”
It’s 1994, and I’m getting ready for my first day of kindergarten. My stomach is fluttering, nearly carrying my feet away with it. I’m intoxicated with excitement knowing I’ll get to meet new friends to play with, and learn — whatever that means.
“Brush your teeth!” My mom shouts from the bottom of the stairs.
I turn bathroom sink on and run my toothbrush through it, but I don’t put it in my mouth. Instead I stand there, water running, wishing it was time to go.
The stairs begin to creak louder and louder as my mom makes her way into the bathroom. She brushes my hair and uses a lime green scrunchy to pull it into a tight pony tail. My eyes begin to water because she pulls it too tightly, and for a second I wince in pain.
“Alright, all done. Time to get dressed.”
Taking my right hand, my mom leads me into the bedroom I share with my little sister. Our beds are covered in Disney princesses and neatly stacked with stuffed animals. We walk to the closet and she picks out a pair of lime green stretch pants to match my scrunchy and a white t-shirt.
I arrive at school and am immediately welcomed by my teacher, and a small group of smiling students. We all sit in a circle exchanging names and favorite things. Lindsay loves the color purple. Jason has a dog named Fred. Dustin’s favorite sport is soccer. School is everything I imagined it would be.
It’s 2002 and I’m getting ready for my first day of high school. My stomach is turning with nerves, and my palms are sweating uncontrollably.
“I can’t do this.” I think to myself, panicking in fear.
“Hurry up! We’re going to be late!” My mom yells impatiently from the stairs below.
I stare at myself in the mirror. My hair looks awful. My makeup is ugly. I don’t feel pretty. No one will like me. My face is too long. My chin is too small. I wish I was beautiful.
I walk into my room, stepping over piles of clothes scattered across the floor.
“I have nothing to wear!” I shout to my mom.
“Your room is littered with clothes! Just pick something and put it on, we need to leave!” My mom replies noticeably agitated.
I grab a pair of jeans from the ground and a navy blue t-shirt. Fluffing my hair, I tilt my head to the side and examine myself in the mirror, letting out a large sigh. My eyes begin to water, but this time no one is pulling my hair too tight.
I arrive at school and see small groups of my peers standing together talking quietly. They stare at me as I walk by without offering so much as a smile. One trio of girls whispers and laughs mockingly when I pass them. I wipe my hands on my jeans in an attempt to dry them. Why am I not good enough?
The evolution of life is one in which many of us trade our joy for judgement, and gratitude for grievances — most of which are against ourselves.
No matter how much or how little we had growing up, we were intrinsically programmed to be happy and loving — toward ourselves and others.
And, as our physical bodies grew, so too did the negative thoughts we formed about ourselves from outside opinions and ideas about who we should be, how we should look and what we should do.
Our worth became a debatable notion that the most aggressive bidder could define for us — and if our bodies didn’t reflect an image that would be smacked across the cover of a magazine, they were instantly devalued and seen as somehow less — by ourselves and the rest of the world.
But we don’t have to continue to welcome and allow toxic thoughts to roam in our minds. Instead, we can take action and snap out of our self-sabotaging mindsets.
1.) Let Go of Negative Influences
You know the saying, “birds of a feather flock together?” Well, it’s true.
Your mind is a fertile place, and the thoughts and opinions you surround yourself with are like seeds being planted to grow. The longer they linger, the bigger and more powerful they become. If you’re not careful, negative thoughts will take up the bulk of real estate in your head.
In order to clear out negative thoughts and opinions, remove the source. Turn off the news, unfollow habitual complainers on social media, bow out of friendships that devalue you, or make you feel unhappy.
Once you start to clear your life from negative influences, you’ll make room for positivity to grow and flourish within your mind, and ultimately your experience.
2.) Don’t Take Anything Personally
Each of us experience life through a unique, one-person-only lens. We’re story tellers, and everyone around us plays a role in our narrative.
But, the roles we assign to others and those that are assigned to us, just like characters on a TV show, aren’t actually real.
When we understand we’re part of many ongoing stories based on narratives living in the minds of other people — we can free ourselves from criticism, judgement and “offensive” or degrading commentary that would otherwise leave us feeling sad, unhappy or not good enough.
Even in the most intimate of situations, when a close friend, relative or partner is insulting you to your face just remember — nothing other people do it because of you, it’s because of them.
So stop taking things personally, because when you do you’re assuming other people live inside of your head and understand your every thought and feeling — but this isn’t the case. We’re all always having our own experiences and living in our own realities.
And every narrative we impose on others is a reflection of us and how we make sense of the world.
And if you can go through your life with this understanding, nothing anyone ever says or thinks — no matter how personal — about you will bother you.
3.) Embrace Your Quirks
There are more than SEVEN billion people in the world. Isn’t that crazy? And yet, there’s only one you.
There can never be another you to experience life as you do, and live inside of your body and mind.
But a lot of us try to distance ourselves from what makes us unique because we want to fit into a neat little box known as the ‘status quo.’
Only when we challenge this notion of “normal” and own our individuality can we begin to live in alignment with our true selves, and create in a way no one else in this world can.
Every great achievement known to humanity — be it a book written that’s changing the world, or an inspirational speech impacting lives, or a piece of art that touches souls — all of these things were created when people stopped trying to fit in with others, and instead embraced their own quirkiness.
There are countless ideas and possibilities surrounding each of us — vying for our attention and asking to be born. But, we can only give them a heartbeat once we accept ourselves entirely.
4.) Challenge Your Internal Critic
We all have an internal critic that makes an appearance at leisure. Its survival is based on its ability to sabotage our thoughts about ourselves.
“I’m not smart enough to get into college.”
“I’ll never land an interview for this job, what’s the point in even applying?”
“Ugh, this outfit looks awful on me.”
Most of these negative critiques (I’d venture to say almost all of them) aren’t true. They’re assumptions our internal critic makes about a situation when we’re doubting ourselves or our abilities.
And, if we believe the lies this critic feeds us, we’ll spend our lives tucked into a corner, afraid to explore the depths of ourselves, our abilities and this world. Most of all, we’ll be afraid of failure. But, there can be no greater failure than living a life in fear.
So let go of the paralyzing fear, and face your internal critic. The next time you find yourself being negative and putting yourself down, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this situation really as bad as I’m making it out to be?
- If I were being positive, how would I interpret this situation?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it that this could happen?
- What’s the best thing that could happen?
- What can I learn from this situation?
If there’s something you can learn (and there always is) than failure does not exist. You will become enough when you start believing you’re enough.
5.) Live Gratefully
The simplest way to wash negativity out of your life is to live gratefully. There are always innumerable things surrounding all of us we can say thank you for — no matter how big or small. Whether it’s the sound of your heart beating, or your eyes reading this article give thanks to the universe, and it will reward you tenfold.
“What goes around comes around” is really based on this notion that what you put out into the world you will get back. Only when it comes back to you, it will come back more powerful and energized than when you put it out there.
So give thanks right now for at least three things you’re grateful for and enjoy an immediate shift in your mindset and mood.
By putting these five suggestions to use right now you’ll be on your way to living a happier, healthier, more positive life.