Denying Myself: On Being My Own Worst Enemy

I was told that repeatedly pairing two thoughts will hard-wire that connection in the brain as truth, even when the two thoughts are contradictory. “Therefore,” my source said, “be very careful about what you pair with the word ‘I’.”

Hmmmm. What thoughts was I in the habit of pairing with “I”? I decided to make a list. I stopped at 10 items – 10 statements that start with “I can’t”, “I don’t”, and “I am not”.

Then I read over my list and realized that I was already experiencing success in most of the things on the list.

This is important: I was ACTUALLY DOING the things that I was walking around telling myself and others that I couldn’t or didn’t or wouldn’t do.

For example: “I am not a writer”. I have said this to myself, and truly believed it, constantly for probably 20 years. And during that same 20 years I have written nearly every day. This was a sincere WTF (what the fuck?!) moment.

Curious, I decided next to write down all the REASONS I had for these beliefs, and quickly concluded that it was all bullshit.

For example:

“I am not a writer because …

  • “Writers write, and I am not writing.” Untrue, see above.
  • “Writers live a certain way (i.e. starving to death).” Some do, some don’t. Likewise, some doctors and high-tech execs live deeply in debt and have cocaine habits.
  • “I haven’t struggled enough to be a writer/artist.” And yet … I am a very good writer in multiple genres, with publications and awards to show for it.
  • “I don’t read enough/I don’t read the right things.” Says who? This rule book does not exist.

What was going on in my brain?! My trusted source explained that, emotionally, we can be living in the past even while we have cognitively matured. That it’s impossible to move forward into the life we want without first aligning inner belief and outer reality.

I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant, but I did know that my lists revealed ridiculous and illogical thinking, so I decided to do whatever I could to break the pattern. And that is how I became committed to mindfulness, meditation, and related practices.

Every day, I take my emotional and psychological temperature, get curious about what I discover, and use that information to be intentional about what I think, say, and do.

My personal bullshit detector is much better tuned now. And my external B.S. detector – the one that shows me when others aren’t being truthful – is improving, too.

What are your “I” statements?

For the next few days, take note of everything you think or say attached to the word “I”. Then ask yourself, “Is that true?”


Progressive Tense Cards


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