When I took one of my children for counselling, something magical happened that I was not expecting. We each had our own counsellor. (It meant that for a while, I had two therapists. Double or nothing. It was a gift.) This counsellor, whose official title is Child Life Specialist, had a way about her. She was insightful, wise, professional, funny, safe, relatable and completely nonjudgmental. I truly felt like she was my cheerleader. It felt so natural to be honest and vulnerable with her. She helped me more than she probably knows. Her official title should be changed to Life-Changer.
I know not everyone can go see her, so I feel the responsibility to share her powerful wisdom. The gist of it is this: when we are missing information, our brain fills in the blanks, making up a story. The story isn’t necessarily accurate, but our brain sticks with it. Our perception becomes our reality.
Wow! This was paramount! So powerful. It caused me to reflect my “stories”. What is actually true? What is made up? This has helped me question my narrative and seek for the truth. It’s helped me talk myself down from that proverbial ledge.
Dang technology is the root of many of my stories and it shouldn’t be. I should have the skills to call a person on the phone or see them in person in order to ask a question. Instead, I resort to the convenient text or Facebook message. Sometimes even the lack of punctuation causes me to fill in the blanks. If I wrote some meaningful text and the only response is “yep” or “okay” without an exclamation mark, period or even an emoji, I question if the person is upset with me.
I can recall a time when I reached out to a friend through text. (This was our main avenue for communication and she was usually so prompt with responding.) I never received a response. I thought maybe there was a tech problem, so I reached out via Facebook Messenger with the same content as the text. The message was time stamped as “read”. Still no response. I felt slighted. I felt dismissed. As days passed and I still didn’t get a response, I filled in the blanks. I convinced myself she was mad at me. I went through every possible scenario of WHY she would be mad at me. I couldn’t think of one. Then, I remembered another similar story. The difference was this other friend who slighted me was friends with someone who not only unfriended me on Facebook for reasons unbeknownst to me, but then went as far to block me. (That hurt.) Both of these incidences had me thinking that something was fundamentally wrong with me. That there must be a group of women who talk about me and now they all hate me. I then started to feel insecure. Does everyone just tolerate me, at best? I started to question my social skills. I started to question my personality. I totally went down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and shame.
Guess what happened? The friend eventually reached out to me, apologizing profusely for not responding sooner. Her kids were on her phone and happened to open Facebook Messenger, marking my message as read. She never got the text, either. Boy was I relieved! This friend was not the Vice President of the We Hate Jacquie Club.
Honestly, I despise the feelings that follow when I go down the paranoid and suspicious path. Whenever I hear the word suspicious, it makes me think of Elvis’ song Suspicious Minds. (The first time I saw Dwight Yoakam’s music video of Suspicious Minds, I was ‘caught in a trap’. I couldn’t stop looking at Dwight in his cowboy hat and tight jeans. Maybe this is when my bizarre crushes started? Oh, wait. Nope. My first bizarre crush was David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth. That’s for a for another post.)
I can now identify a bit better when my brain is filling in the blanks. It doesn’t make the stories less real, but now I have tools to shorten the movie into a trailer. No more extended versions for me!
I was taught by my Child Life Specialist to ask myself questions:
Is this true? How do you know it’s true? Is it absolutely true? Be a detective. Where’s the evidence?
So, was there evidence of a We Hate Jacquie Club? No. That was just paranoia. Are there some people who aren’t my biggest fans? I’m sure there are. Does this diminish my value or worth? No one has that power, unless I give it to them. I am a recovering people-pleaser, and I have definitely handed over the power to others. I’m aware of it now and I’m trying to shift my mindset. (If you are a Labyrinth fan, you’ll remember when Sarah yells to Jareth, “YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!” This is what I need to keep telling myself.)
This leads me to daily affirmations. I have embraced these personal positive repetitions. Because of this, I view myself differently. I’ve changed the way I speak to myself. Sure, I felt awkward to begin with. It felt very Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. I am here to tell you that positive self-talk is effective!
For a while, I practiced power poses. I should start it up again. If you aren’t sure what the H I’m talking about, and you have 21 minutes, watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk. There are so many things we can do to help ourselves. We live in a remarkable and open-minded time!
The other things I learned while seeing my Child Life Specialist all have to do with helping ourselves. She told me, “If you need that compliment, give it to yourself.” So let’s say I wrote a blog post where crickets chirped, and I wasn’t ever validated by anyone. I can validate myself!!! I can look no further than myself! (For the record, I definitely have validation-seeking tendencies, but that’s for another blog post.) I was also told that I have the ability to filter out negativity. I can use my voice. And I will be heard, even if it’s only heard by me. The language I was given for this is, “No. I’m not letting that in.” So so simple, yet so so powerful and effective.
The cool thing is, I don’t feel overwhelmed with what I need to change. I used to feel so bogged down with ALL I had to to. I have a long way to go, but I’m filled with such hope!
I’m the little engine that could and I think I can keep making these positive changes. No, I KNOW I can. And you can, too. Believe me when I say that if I can change, anyone can change! You’re the little engine that could, too!