A thought crosses my mind every so often that someone hates me! I edit this thought through my schemas- my unique perspective comprised of my experiences, my values, the path others laid down before me. I let the thought trickle through my mind like sand through a sieve. I realize that in this moment this is a belief, a constructed reality that does not necessarily represent fact. I begin to pick apart this belief. I replace the word HATE. Seems like a rather harsh word, not quite accurate. Perhaps someone thinks I’m annoying or obnoxious. That's plausible. After all, I’ve thought this about myself before. I file that away as a “plausible reality.”
I explore further. Maybe someone is disappointed in me. That one stings. It seems to carry more weight. I am initially inclined to discard it. I don’t like the way it feels, like cactus quills poking at my self-esteem. But really, I don’t know everyone’s expectations of me. Maybe this holds some truth. It may not be empty weight. I remain with this belief. What is the significance of it? Why does it sit so uncomfortably in my mind? I begin to pull the quills out, one at a time. Maybe that person’s expectations of me do not reflect my needs. Maybe their expectations are incongruent with my values or goals. I am not responsible for other’s expectations. Perhaps this thought doesn’t actually hold much weight at all. I pull out the last quill and I let it go.
But then another thought creeps in from the recesses of my mind. What if someone really and truly does not like me! And because my mind is a glutton for self-punishment, this thought is quickly joined by it’s counterpart: what if the person who does not like me is someone I admire? My heart falls. Ah, here is the root of the issue. I feel the drop in my stomach, the heaviness in my chest. The confirmation. But wait…do I like myself? I imagine I am in a white space. I see my doppleganger, surrounded by hundreds of people pushing, jostling, redirecting me. I reach into the crowd and pull myself out. Everyone disappears. I stand there contemplating myself. Seeing myself, pulled out of the heaviness of others’ perceptions and expectations took a lot of work, a lot of courage. I take a moment to admire my strengths and express compassion for my humanity. I begin to wonder, why would I give anyone the power to manipulate my identity to conform to their values, their goals, their expectations? Is this how I’ve learned to survive, to protect some past self? I return to the present moment and assess my needs. Is there a purpose in attempting to fit into the shell of a person I never sought to be? Do I need to continue to carry this shield? Does it serve a purpose anymore? No. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. As I breathe out I open my eyes and I accept myself fully in this present moment. I am still conscious of others’ expectations, others’ judgments. But in this moment I am also authentically, unapologetically me. More importantly, this is a reality I can live with.
This process of reframing helps to define those gray areas in our minds. Give it a shot.
What is the thought or belief causing distress?
What is the storyline/schema underlying this thought?
Is this a fact or a belief?
What emotions are connected to this thought/belief?
What physical sensations are connected to this thought/belief?
Is there anything in this moment contributing to the thought/belief?
Am I reacting to something?
What is another way of looking at this situation?
What are the other possibilities?
How might an outside observer view this situation?
Is this belief a reflection of someone else’s expectations of me?
Is it a product of experiences?
Does this belief serve a purpose?
Has it served a purpose in the past?
What would I rather believe?
How does this new belief reflect my values and my goals?
How does this new belief support my current needs?
How does this new belief feel?
For one moment, one breath, practice acceptance.
Accept the perceived flaws and imperfections.
Acknowledge your strengths.
Acknowledge your humanity, in all it’s flaws and glory. Unapologetically and for nobody else but yourself.