For many years I used to say to myself, if only my body looked like that (gazing at a model or celebrity in a magazine looking perfect), THEN I would feel confident and THEN I would be able to be more relaxed about myself and THEN I could wear whatever I wanted and THEN I would be happy. It was almost as if my entire happiness was contingent upon my outward appearance which one can control to a certain degree, but not entirely.
So wasn’t I setting myself up for being stuck in a sad and depressed place? Yes!
We so often have ANTs in our head. I’m not talking about the tiny black ones which have an uncanny ability to suddenly appear out of nowhere once something sweet is left on the ground. I’m talking about Automatic Negative Thoughts which pop into our heads pretty much every day at some point, for some of us more than others.
Our personal themes are generally the same although differ from individual to individual. For example, my ANTs are often variations of the “not good enough” theme. Without noticing, an ANT will quickly pop into my head when something doesn’t quite go to plan or if I feel I’ve let someone down or disappointed them. Then the ANTs go crazy for a few minutes – “oh I’ve done it again”, “how do I keep getting this wrong”, “I don’t feel like a very good mother/wife…”
Fortunately, I am now aware of this little pattern and how key it is to stop ANTs in their tracks. There’s no need to get all upset at yourself about letting them creep back into your head, but to just quietly recognise where your thoughts are heading and then gently let them go. It’s not easy at first because they are determined little monkeys, but stick with it.
For me personally, what works best is a bait and switch approach. I recognise the anxious and unhelpful thought and then think of one thing to be grateful for in this situation. There’s always something to be grateful for and so I then focus on that and how I will turn the situation around to a lesson I can put to use in the future.
Retraining our ANTs to take the back seat instead of driving us head-on into a collision of fear, anxiety and stress takes awareness, courage and discipline. So don’t get angry at yourself if you slip back into old habits. It’s a daily practice and one we’ll keep practising for the rest of our lives. I bet even the Dali Lama who would have to be the world’s greatest authority on compassion and tolerance even has days when he thinks he’s a bit of a pudding head.
We’re only human after all! (great song, thanks Rag’n’Bone Man!)
As usual, I digress.
The point is, feeling content and happy in ourselves is not dependent on how perfect or not we look – but, it is dependent on how we think.
How we think affects how we feel. To feel good about yourself, you have to start with questioning the thoughts that don’t serve you.
You are the only person who can change that and the good news is: you can.