….but we are all fabulous.

Self-limiting mantras

I have always known, intellectually, that what we feed our minds with influences our thoughts, feelings, self esteem, behaviours. Everything we experience provides food for our thoughts, including the friends we choose to mix with, the newspapers we choose to read or the stories we tell about ourselves. It is only very recently that I have understood this at an emotional level.

I have been a relatively consistent Facebook user for the past few years, although my use has been relatively tame: I like to share my photos and to see my friends photos. My fb friends are all people I have actually met and know, my account is as private as fb allows – only friends can see my posts. However, I noticed a few months ago that I was starting to come away from many of my interactions with fb feeling negative – either undermined by the “if you think being a mummy is the best job in the world share this post” type posts or irritated by the cryptic “just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse…” posts which elicit sympathy and concern but shed no light on whatever the troubling matter of the day is. I had ‘friends’ who failed to find time for me face to face but who were willing to tag me with a view to getting me to join in with their schemes (e.g., stumping up sponsorship etc) and frequently I felt angry. More insidiously, since I had fb friends from my past, I would find myself dreaming about old boyfriends who hadn’t caused me a moment’s reflection in 20+ years. So I decided to go cold turkey….

Some weeks later, I do not miss it at all and I am almost evangelical about the positive effect withdrawing from it has had – I literally feel as if some poison is leaving my body. This wonderful feeling has led me to observe other effects that come from negative inputs: the obvious other one is the so-called guilty pleasure of gossip rags such as the Daily Mail. I’m ashamed to say I sometimes dip in online, but less and less since I have started to wake up to the pernicious negative impact such inputs have.

The hardest to counteract is our own message to ourselves, for example in the well-documented negative self-talk many of us indulge in without even realising often (‘doh, why did you do that, you’re so stupid’, ‘that’s typical of you – you can’t do anything right’, ‘you look horrid in that’). Just as damaging are the narratives we tell about ourselves – I can be quite self-deprecating and have often joked that I became an academic because I didn’t like mornings (early meetings and teaching tend to be mercifully infrequent in my experience and vanish altogether in the summer). However, as my career advances and I am trying to figure out how to carve out more time for a big writing project, it occurs to me that I have arranged my working day so that I work 10am ish to 7pm ish, with few appointments that I am in charge of scheduled before 11am, because “I am not good in the morning”. If I can retrain my thinking about me and mornings, I can carve out a decent 2 hours or more every day of productive and as yet untapped time.

In the same way that our families still refer back to old habits or traits which have long since developed or changed, so sometimes we ourselves have mantras which we repeat about ourselves which might well be self-limiting. Worse still if we repeat any of those mantras out loud, we may well limit the views that those around us hold about us as well.


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This entry was posted on March 18, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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