I’ve heard that each human has 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day. I haven’t been able to confirm the number, but I know I have LOTS of thoughts running through my head. Regardless of the accuracy of the number of thoughts, the point I want to make here is that most of the thoughts we each have are the same thoughts we had yesterday – and probably very similar to the ones we’ll have again tomorrow. And a large percentage of those are negative.
We tend to be storytellers. Brene Brown says we’re hard-wired to tell ourselves stories. When something happens, or someone says or does something, we immediately make up a story about what it meant, and often that story in our head leads us to believe it was not good. Brown steals a phrase from Ann Lamott to describe these thoughts: Shitty First Drafts (SFD’s).
If we listen to that SFD without questioning or editing it, we are likely to react impulsively, and the war is on. Many of those 60,000 or so thoughts running around in our heads are self-defeating beliefs. I call that intellectual violence. Some examples are: I’m not good enough; I never do anything right; That person is out to get me, etc. Whatever the self-defeating thoughts are, they cause us a lot of pain.
The only way to move on from the SFD is to confront it and question it. Then, if we look for alternative ways to look at the situation before we react, we can usually prevent the chaos from ensuing. Once we catch ourselves, then we can insert some more positive possibilities, such as: Maybe I misunderstood what she meant to say, so I should check it out. Or: That person’s opinion of me is not my reality. My own opinion is more important than someone who doesn’t even really know me.
Then we can choose how to respond (do I need to stand up for myself and my actions, apologize, or assertively express how I feel about the situation?), or I can choose to not respond yet – or at all. Whatever we decide, if we can insert a more positive possibility of the truth, we’re less likely to let the SFD take over.
I have several positive drafts that I run through my head on a consistent basis as a kind of insurance against that Shitty First Draft. If I practice telling myself these, I’m more likely to jump from the SFD more quickly. Here are a few examples:
-I accept that it is my responsibility to resolve my own problems or to seek the appropriate help.
-I choose to understand and accept my limitations, and I realize that only I can manage my actions.
-I am open to anything, but not attached to any specific outcome.
-I choose to develop the courage to be imperfect instead of going through life hiding my mistakes and weaknesses. I am a human in the process of growth.
-I choose to find humor in life.
-I accept that I am responsible for choosing more positive thoughts that lead to peace of mind.
-I choose to express my thoughts and feelings honestly and assertively when others violate my rights, instead of holding the hurt and anger inside.
-I will calmly accept honest feedback from others, consider their opinions, and determine if I need to make a change.
-I will live according to my own value system, not to please others.
These are just examples. If something else rings more true for you, go for it! With so many thoughts racing through our minds every day, it’s important to recognize that we have choices. We don’t have to stay stuck in those shitty first drafts!
Remember the thoughts we feed are the ones that gain weight, and ultimately the ones that become the basis for our belief about ourselves.