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For when your brain feels addicted to unhappiness, always looking for a reason to be dissatisfied.
At 3 AM, Samantha woke up tossing and turning.
She was struggling with hardcore destructive self-talk.
She tried to push the negative thoughts out of her mind so she could fall asleep again.
But this didn't work
She tried to replace the negative self-talk with positive self-talk like people keep telling her to do.
But it felt phony... It felt stupid and fake.
She tired to do the “breathing in deeply and focusing on your breadth thing,” but that just frustrated her more.
"Why do I pick on myself so much. Just give yourself break!" She shouted to herself silently as she turned again.
“Just can’t seem to feel happy, no matter what I do.”
Ever had this constant nagging feeling like nothing you ever do will be good enough? There's always something wrong... Always something you could have done better...
You fix something, and your brain automatically starts being endlessly sad and upset about something else.
No matter what you accomplish in life, your brain is always beating you up over what you haven't accomplished.
In today's article, I will be revealing a little-known and slightly unusual psychological trick to help you find, peace fulfillment and contentment without having to rely on mindfulness or meditation techniques.
But first, why is it so damn hard to be happy and satisfied with life?
To feel happy in your life, you've got to feel comfortable looking your reflection in the eye and genuinely like the person you see in the mirror.
If you can’t feel happy with yourself, you can’t feel happy with your world.
But how can you become happy with yourself if you are constantly irritated and disgusted in everything about you?
That’s the real question, isn’t it?
Most people believe that the only way to be truly happy with themselves is by becoming an expert at identifying and improving the parts of themselves they dislike.
But the problem with doing this is…
You'll get stuck with a self-depreciating belief that you’ll never be good enough.
You see, the human mind naturally pulls anything you focus on into the foreground and fades anything you ignore into the background.
This is like how the camera in movies blurs out anything the film producer doesn’t want you to pay too much attention to. They do this because you’ll get confused and lose interest in the storyline if there are too many focus points.
Similarly, without this ability to blur things out, your brain would simply become overwhelmed with too much information. This can quite literally drive you mad.
But how does your brain decide on what to focus on and what to blur out?
Your brain takes its cue from you.
When you pay a lot of attention to anything, your brain regards this as the most important thing. It then decides that everything else is unimportant and naturally blurs them out.
What’s my point…
The truth is that our brain does this blurring out business with everything. Even things you don’t want to lose sight of.
This is exactly what happens when you only focus on the things you need to improve in yourself.
You stop seeing your positive traits and this makes you unmotivated and unhappy with yourself. Ironically, since this blinds you to the true state of affairs in your life, it sets you up to fail in any effort you make to improve yourself.
And then locks you in a habitual spiral that causes you to lose the ability to believe in any positive you can actually pinpoint.
Essentially, when you keep chasing things in life without appreciating what you already have, your peace and fulfillment become illusive.
Hence, as you assess yourself for what to improve, consistently treat your positive and negative traits with equal value.
This two-pronged approach gives you the best insights into the necessary things you must do to grow. Helping you avoid costly life mistakes that leave you feeling empty and worthless.
But how do you do this practically...
I'll explain with this true-life story...
Samantha was a hard-working family woman who was intensely anxious and depressed about the state of her life.
Despite all her achievements, including achieving a degree… Marrying a wonderful husband… Having wonderful kids… and not lacking anything financially…
She still felt like her life was meaningless.
In therapy, I asked Samantha to come up with 20 positive things about herself every day and she found this literally impossible.
The following week, she reported that she could only come up with a few things. Then confessed that the list actually came from her husband as she couldn’t think of any by herself.
She continued saying…
I am family orientated.
I am honest in my relationship with him.
I am good at keeping in shape.
I am a caring person.
I am good with the kids.
I am good at supporting the family financially.
I am good with managing budgets.
And that’s it!”
I then proceeded asking Samantha if she felt positive about these things.
“Yes, but only a little.”
Why a little? I said…
“I don't know… I guess these are things I already know about myself. They are things I should be doing so they don’t really count,” she replied.
Now, this response from Samantha alerted me to the fact that she was not valuing her positives effectively enough.
To help her see more value, I proceeded to get her to flesh out the details in these positive points she had listed.
I’ll describe how we fleshed out just one of these positive points to give you an insight into how you can do this in your personal situation.
So, I asked Samantha…
“How do you manage to keep in shape?”
“I do a little gym work and try to eat healthy…” She replied
“A little gym?” I said…
“How often do you actually go to the gym?” I asked…
To this she replied…
“I go to the gym at least three times a week, and I have been doing this for the last 20 years since my teens,”
THREE TIMES A WEEK FOR 20 YEARS!
I know loads of people who would be happy if they could just maintain going to the gym consistently for at twice a month!
Why didn’t Samantha see this as a massive positive thing?
You see, Samantha had fallen for the common brain blurring trap we’ve been talking about.
Her goal was to go to the gym daily and since she could not meet up to this standard, her achievements felt mundane and common place. Her self-commitment got blurred out by her brain as unimportant data.
And the result…
This minimized all the positivity in the things Samantha did. Hence, in her mind she was still failing.
So, to highlight this lack of focus on the value of being a committed person, I asked…
“Are you committed to your kids?”
“yes, I believe I am,” Samantha replied
“And is this important to you?” I asked.
“Absolutely, they are my lifeblood and I love them deeply,” she replied…
It was clear that Samantha’s commitment to her kids made her a wonderful mother. And yet she still did not see this as a valuable trait in herself.
Ironically, Samantha enjoyed the commitment she received from her husband. She loved it when her friends were committed to her. And espoused commitment as an important trait she had to have.
And yet despite all this, she never looked at herself as a committed person. She’d never even thought about it, talk less believe these things about herself.
Sadly, going through all Samantha’s positive traits revealed a similar pattern.
She valued the traits when she saw it in others but did not notice them in herself.
No wonder she was depressed, no wonder she could not enjoy the good things in her life.
Now, we’ve come to the most important part of this article…
How can you feel positive if you can’t believe or value the positive things you see in yourself?
Especially if when people praise you for things, you say thanks, but deep down, you don’t really believe anything they are praising you for?
This is a really good question…
And to give you the best answer, here’s a quick experiment....
Below, are some negative words typed out in succession.
I want you to read them aloud and note how they make you feel.
Okay, here we go…
Agony, disgusting, cripple, foolish, revolting, cruel, buffoon, grotesque, corpse, crazy, destroy, death, danger, full, gullible, jail, meltdown, hostile, greed, noxious, threatening, unwanted, breakdown, nightmare, abuse, creepy, evil, loser, foul, hate, disease, stuck, monstrous, obnoxious, guilty, icky, underhand, oppress, nasty, insane, no, good, hideous, vile, corrupt, filthy, criminal, worthless, malice, mean, poison, rotten, sickening, ugly, wicked, yucky.
Pause for a second now. How did reading that make you feel?
Now read the next set of words.
Happy, smiling, lovely, beautiful, amazing, exciting, fearless, accomplish, admired, appealing, vibrant, enchanting, courageous, awesome, spectacular, graceful, stunning, triumphant, uplifting, brilliant, victorious, brave, adorable, delighted, fulfilled, life changing, accepted, rejoice, beautiful, delight, charming, impressive, bliss, cute, dazzling, ecstatic, flourishing, successful, glowing, heavenly, jubilant, laughter, motivating, paradise, pleasurable, refreshing, reassuring, superb, terrific, thriving, gorgeous, wonderful.
And how did that make you feel?
If you did the exercise correctly, you would notice that the first set of words made you feel slightly negative whilst the next set of words made you feel slightly positive.
If you’re currently feeling depressed, you’d experience this as a tiny drop and a tiny lift.
But, Isn't this interesting?
You wouldn't expect just words to tilt your mood in any specific way, would you?
What’s the lesson?
There’s a common wrong assumption…
You assume you need to believe things you think about yourself before you can feel those things.
But the way beliefs get constructed in the first place is by going through something over and over and over. Eventually this repeated thing gets imprinted into your neural network and becomes automated. And once a thought, assumption or principle becomes automated in your mind it’s easily compiled into a belief.
So, if all you keep focusing on are the negatives about yourself, no wonder you only believe the negative.
Secondly, if you think about it…
The random words you read a moment ago moved you emotionally. This is regardless of the fact that most of the words had nothing to do with you personally.
You didn’t have to believe them to feel any emotional change.
If reading a random set of words could tilt your mood like we just did, imagine what consistently reading or thinking about a set of your positive traits can do to improve your mood. And imagine what doing this could also do to your beliefs about you.
Now, how can this knowledge help you practically find peace and fulfillment?
Most relationships deteriorate when both parties stop looking at the good they both bring to the table. Their love is obliterated because they focused all their energy on nit-picking at each other's negatives.
What's sad is that, initially, the negative nit-picking was in an attempt to improve each other.
But because they never balanced the criticism with positive and loving compliments, this destroyed the love they had for the each other. Until all that remained was emptiness and a disbelief for how they could have loved each other at first.
The same thing is happening with you. Except that in your case, you are in a relationship with yourself.
Essentially, the strongest foundation holding unhappiness and dissatisfaction together in your life is your tendency to ignore the positive traits in yourself.
And if your goal is to feel happier in your life, if your goal is to feel at peace and confident with yourself then this positive thinking skill is a prerequisite.
It is true that a stagnant life with no progress or improvement can lead to despondency, unhappiness, low self-worth and suicidal thoughts. So, making progress and improving yourself is as necessary as the air we breathe.
So yes. It is true in order to make progress…
You must learn to sit comfortably with your shortcomings, and know them as intimately as your mother’s face. Because this gives you crucial insight into what’s not working.
But then you must also turn around and do the same thing with your positive side. This gives you the opportunity to learn crucial lessons from both your limitations and your strengths.
This way, instead of being driven by shame, dissatisfaction and a fear of failure…
Your attempts at self-development will be driven by calmness, curiosity and endless pockets of joy.
And this will help you get back in touch with the simple, easily pleased 5-year-old you once were…
That five-year-old who was adventurous, fun loving…
And just happy being you.
Twice a month I hop on a conference call to teach, answer questions, and give feedback to members of the Take Back Control Program.
If you'd like to succeed at learning how to cope emotionally without wasting years making mistakes because of trial and error, then come join us.
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