We are always in conversation with ourselves, whether we're conscious of it or not. And what we say to - and about - ourselves matters. Here are seven self-defeating things that we say to ourselves.
1. I missed the boat. Maybe it's pursuing a relationship or graduate degree, or having kids, or finding our calling. We look back longingly and regretfully at what-we-didn't-do, and consider the one-and-only boat sailed. And maybe that particular one has, but there are plenty of ports in the sea. The danger here is that we get stuck in regret and give away our power to pursue whatever it is we're longing for now. And, yes, maybe there's some grieving we have to do, but the real question is: where to, now?
2. I'm overly sensitive. If you are one of those deeply sensitive souls out there, I love you. Really, I do. It means that you're tender and human and able to empathize, deeply, with the experience of others. It's not your vulnerability or sensitivity that is a problem, it's being hijacked by those emotions, rather than checking them. In other words, if you're feeling hurt, feel it. But notice what story you're telling on top of it. If it's sending you into a tailspin, find a more compassionate truth. Trust me, it's there. And In the meantime, don't mistake other people's reactions proof of some inherently faulty wiring within you. Not everyone is brave enough to be vulnerable - or be with another's vulnerability. But you are.
3. If they only knew... What? Your house is a disaster most of the time? Your kids fight constantly? You'd rather curl up with a good book than your husband? You've got mad inner rage? The underlying belief here is that you're a fraud - an imposter - and if people saw the real, uncensored you, surely they'd deem you unlovable. We've all got unfinished business and hidden messiness and parts of ourselves that we hide (or at least keep in the shadows.) It's part of being human - and imperfect. It takes courage to let down our guards and share some of our uglier parts without shame. But when we do, we'll discover one thing for sure: we're not alone. And we're still lovable.
4. I'll always regret it. This is the cousin to "I missed the boat." Except, this is the holding-onto-the-regret and replaying and replaying and REPLAYING it. Despite what we might believe, regret is not an albatross that we must forever wear around our necks. It's a feeling that, when we lean into it, allows us to discover the desire, need, or truth about ourselves that we ignored, trampled over or somehow didn't honor. And then - and only then - it can transform into something else. Like gratitude for the wisdom or the path that it took us down instead or the painful but very useful reminder to stay true to ourselves.
5. I'm not ready. Ready, who's ready? Opportunities often come at the most inconvenient times. Like when we haven't mastered something and yet are called upon to teach it. Or we're faced with a decision before we've completed all of our research. Rather than waiting until you're 100 percent ready (or even 90 percent), try settling for 55 percent. That means that at least more of you is ready than not. Because it's the journey - the learning, the experience, the getting-out-there-and-giving-it-a-go - that has so much to offer us, including the confidence and courage to keep going and take more leaps in our lives. And, if you ask me, a good life is full of not-yet-ready leaps.
6. I need to be an expert. This is for those of you who want to offer your talents to the world, but keep getting hung up on some version of this. The older I get, the more I gravitate towards those who don't claim be to experts. I prefer life-long learners, practitioners who haven't yet figured it all out, and those who acknowledge their imperfections. Humans, you might say. Start where you are and go forth with a beginner's mind - curious, hungry to learn, and willing to embrace the failures and missteps that are certain to come your way. Because they are. It's the quest for perfection and needing-to-seem-like-we've-got-it-all-down that gets in our way, not our lack of expertise or the mistakes we make. So get out there - in all of your non-expertise - and share yourself with the world. We're waiting...
7. I'm not (smart, thin, pretty, outgoing...) enough.Here's the dirty truth: We ascribe happiness to having achieved (fill-in-the-blank.) And it's no wonder that we do. Media images tell us every damn day that we must look and act a certain way if we want to be happy. But you know what? It's bullshit. Really. You are enough. Right now. And so am I. And everything else is but a lie. A big, old lie. If you want to be happier, hold this idea in your mind: You are already enough. It's not about fitting-in-with-how-beauty-or-happiness-is-defined-by-consumerism, but rather the degree to which you settle into the totality of who you are - the beautiful, the imperfect, the messy, the wretched, the lovely... you. As you are, right here, right now. And that, I believe, is the true pursuit of happiness.