Monday Check Yourself: No one’s thinking about you

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It’s not what people think about you, it’s what you think they think about you.

But here’s the thing. No one’s thinking about you. Not like you think.

You worry what people might say if you step out into the spotlight a bit.

You focus on making everything perfect so people will think how great you are and how you never seem to mess up. (oh my!)

You get worked up wondering how people might be plotting “evil strategery” against you in their spare time.

All eyes up front: No one but you is thinking about that right now.

How much are you thinking about other people in this very moment? Yep. You’re thinking about yourself.

And that’s okay. So is everyone else.

We’re all worried about doing a good job at work and managing everything on our precariously-balanced plates without freaking out on those we care about. And we’re trying to look cool while doing it all.

All of us.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go about committing dastardly deeds because you think no one’s paying attention to you. Simmer down, Dr. Evil.

But stop wasting your time — your most valuable commodity — wondering what others think about you.

It’s Monday. Go be you.

It is what it is

We all like to throw this one around. If something doesn’t go our way, we shrug our shoulders and say, “Yep, it is what it is, y’all.”

But how can we make “it is what it is” work for us?

In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) “it is what it is” has a more clinical name: radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance means accepting your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you approve of those circumstances or even expect them to never change.

But where you are now is where you are now.

You can’t control what you can’t control.

DBT was initially developed for people with borderline personality disorder. Clients with this disorder struggle with extreme emotional dysregulation. They can’t even think of moving forward because they are completely ruled by their past and their emotional response to it. It’s a very difficult place to be and hard to change.

Radical acceptance is a critical part of a plan to help these clients simply manage their emotional selves.

We can all benefit from radical acceptance.

You can’t really move forward and take meaningful action until you acknowledge that things are the way they are, for whatever reason they are.

The serenity prayer is based on this idea. Having the courage to accept what you can’t change is very powerful. Because it allows you to leave a lot of junk behind you.

Sounds simple but it’s hard, I know. Practicing radical acceptance is a deliberate and purposeful action.

Once you do that, though, you can look ahead and really weigh your options. Now that you know and accept what you can’t control about your life, you can decide what, in fact, you do have control over, and what you can change.

Radical acceptance creates a line in the sand that you can step over.

It engages you in your options instead of looking back and wallowing in things that may never change.

Stop chewing your cud

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“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

– William Shakespeare

Do you ever have days when you just can’t stop thinking about something that really got under your skin? Maybe it was something that happened yesterday, or maybe even 12 years ago.

Or maybe it’s just a thought you’ve always believed about yourself.

Like you’re not smart, or you’ll never amount to anything.

And no one wants to hang out with you.

And that’s why you’re not in a meaningful relationship.

Which means you’ll always be alone.

So you may as well stay home tonight.

And people who are alone don’t amount to anything.

Aaaand we’re right back where we started.

Let the chewing begin.

Welcome to the downward spiral of a dank little mental process called “rumination.”

Technically and all scienc-ey, rumination is the leisurely and regurgitative digestive process our four-stomached bovine friends must endure to better process their food. Apparently after enjoying their breakfast from Chik Fil-A, they must bring it back up and just keep on chewing.

Charming.

Mental rumination, however, can be a sure fire catalyst for depression.

Every emotion we experience starts as a little seed of a thought that we entertain. If it’s a healthy thought, it leads to feeling happy or content, which leads to smiling, laughing and other positive behaviors.

Life is good. Chips and salsa all around.

But an unhealthy thought we tend to chew on over and over and over. We don’t challenge the thought or look for any evidence of it actually being valid or true. Instead we entertain it just long enough to let it lead to another, more unhealthy thought.

Which takes us down the path to what’s now a damaging thought.

Keep in mind, we’re not looking for a solution when we do this; just focusing completely on rehashing the bad parts.

We keep chewing that bad boy until we’re now furiously obsessing over what’s happened to us, something we probably had no control over anyway.

And now we’re angry, sad or maybe even feeling hopeless, the diagnosable stuff of depression.

Swallow. That. Cud.

While cud chewing is healthy for cows, it’s a maladaptive pattern for those of us with just one stomach. In order to stop ruminating, you have to deal with the thoughts you keep coughing up.

Write down the very first unhealthy thought, and be a detective. See if you can find evidence of its truth.

If it’s true, fine. Make a plan to address it. You might be alone not because you’re a loser but because you really haven’t put yourself out there. It’s hard not to be alone when there are no other people around. Just sayin’. Find ways to engage more with others.

If the thought’s not true, find a way to reframe or restate that thought in a healthier, more positive way before it gets you all worked up. Yes, you appear to be alone right now but you have a plan to join your church’s young adult group so you can meet people whose interests you share. And there will probably be pizza.

Either way, you’re processing the thought just the one time.

With the time you save, you can then use your new healthy thoughts to launch you into healthy and productive actions.

What about you?

Is this something you’ve struggled with? Please do share.

 

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