I remember when I was younger, I was such an avid reader. I would happily wake up every weekend, ecstatic about going to the library for new books. My mom gave us larger tote bags to carry our books in. My brother and I would load them to the brim and attempt to carry them into the library for unloading into the return bin. Then, the fun began. We would wander (or sometimes run) around the kid’s section of the library, exploring all the cool new covers and looking for something new to explore.
For me, reading was a getaway. When I was young, my mom would read books to us each night before we went to bed. During the days at school (we were homeschooled), she would read aloud to us from various classics. As we grew older, we began reading on our own before going to sleep. I can remember being so enthralled with a book that I couldn’t put it down – so much so that I would read by the nightlight in my bedroom. Looking back on it, that wasn’t the smartest decision (my mother insists that’s why I had to get glasses at such young age), but at least I found out what happened in the story!
Now days, I’m lucky if I pick up a book at all. With the invention and explosion of the internet, everything is at our fingertips. Why would children want to go to the library and check out a book when they can just watch the movie version of it, or read the cliff notes online? Yes – these are actual arguments I’ve heard from parents and people outside of the teaching profession. This thought process drives teachers and librarians crazy! We as a society have somehow lost the value and satisfaction in reading and researching information. Instead, we rely on Google to locate the answers for us and in a condensed version only please – no lengthy scholarly articles with large, unfamiliar words!
I will admit, I’m absolutely at fault for relying on Google. I also rely heavily on my mother who has a multitude of books and resources at her fingertips. I’ll mention that my head is bothering me or I’m having trouble sleeping, and the next thing you know she’ll have found me 3-4 different tips on how to remedy it! This doesn’t include her mother’s intuition! It’s all very informative and you know what? These thoughts and tidbits that she shares with me will typically stick in my brain far longer than if I look it up somewhere. I’m convinced it’s because I’m actually reading the information and taking the time to absorb it.
But my point in telling you this is how I stumbled across this book that I’m now reading. I have been searching for a positive book to help me with some things I have been going through. I’ll be honest – I’ve always struggled with my confidence. Whether it was confidence in the way I looked or dressed, or the way that I ran, or the way that I spoke in front of large groups of people – I’ve always been pretty shy and timid. My job as a teacher definitely pushed me out of my introverted state, but I never struggled when working with children or adults. It was always my own age group that frightened me. Looking back, I realize my fear came from worrying about what they thought of me.
Knowing all of this, my coach recommended I read “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. I already had a few books on my plate that I wanted to read first (one being a book about getting pregnant), so I pushed this book off. Life began to get in the way and I never even finished the pregnancy book. Then life began to get overwhelming and I really began to question myself. Was I making the right decision? Was I making a good choice by going down this path? Am I doing the right thing? All of these questions began to cloud my mind with fear and doubt.
I refused to give into this pity party that my body and mind were trying to throw without my permission. About this same time, one of my best friends sent me a photo with the caption, “look what I picked up at the bookstore!” It was the book my coach had recommended. It was fate! I researched books on tape and found that “You Are a Badass” as actually available. Without hesitation, I purchased it and began listening immediately.
I know, I know – I go on this huge tangent about people no longer reading books, and then I go and do this. I know; I’m awful! But over the past two months, I’ve literally not had the time to pick up a book and read more than 15 minutes without something coming up. I was hesitant to try books on tape because I know my attention span isn’t the greatest. But surprisingly, I’ve found myself turning the book on more and more and stopping it to jot down a key quote or thought. I was worried I might zone out or half listen to the book, but instead I find myself leaning in more closely to hear what she has to share. I’m hooked!
Now, I haven’t finished the book, but I have come across several treasures that I absolutely want to begin putting into place in my life. One of these nuggets is that whenever your mind begins to tell yourself something negative, you stop it in it’s tracks and flip it to a positive thought. For someone who has dealt with a lot of negative self-talk (I’m sure I’m not the only one out there), I find this positive affirmation activity very helpful. But Sincero pushes even further past just flooding yourself with positive affirmations every time a negative thought comes up. She actually recommends addressing the very cause of these negative thoughts and facing them head on in order to eliminate them.
The first step in this process is to “list off your old stories”. These stories are any lines or thoughts that we constantly feed ourselves. These stories are actually bad habits because they are negative in nature and we’re essentially self-sabotaging ourselves. For me, my “old stories” are:
- I’m not strong or intelligent enough to lead others.
- I’m not assertive enough to be a leader or someone who motivates others.
- I’m not positive enough for others to listen to me.
- I’m not smart enough to find a way to make a difference.
- I’m not savvy enough to find a way to do what I love and be financially stable.
- I’m not healthy enough to get pregnant.
- I’m not creative enough.
The list could go on and on, but I think you catch my drift. There are a lot of things that I give myself grief for. And I stupidly listen to this inner voice and doubt myself. Not all of the time, but a good deal of the time I just give in and believe the voice. This happens more often when I am struggling in an area of my life (work, personal relationship, etc).
Once you’ve identified the stories that you notoriously feed yourself, you then have to address the false rewards that you get from them. That’s right – when we talk to ourselves in this negative manner, we’re actually getting some sort of joy out of it. I know, sounds bizarre doesn’t it? This was an especially tough step for me.
- When I tell myself that I’m not strong or intelligent enough to lead, I give myself the break from trying to learn more about a given topic. If I know I’m not intelligent enough, why should I waste the energy trying to learn more?
- When I tell myself I’m not assertive enough to be a leader, I allow myself to take the backseat to someone else. I don’t have to be in charge and I don’t have to step out of my comfort zone. I can always say it didn’t work out because so-and-so was in charge, not me.
- When I tell myself I’m not positive enough for others to listen to me, I give myself an out from actually speaking my mind. I don’t share what I think might be a great tip because I’m more worried what they’ll think of me once I’ve said this. I don’t want to be judged, so I find a way to keep quiet.
- When I tell myself I’m not smart enough to find a way to make a difference, I stay in my comfort zone. Instead of taking a small (or big) risk and stepping outside the box to try something new, I just stay put. I don’t have to risk losing anything, but I do risk making a leap in my life.
- When I tell myself I’m not savvy enough to find a way to do what I love and be financially stable, I again allow myself to stay put. I’m not saying drop everything and run after a dream, but telling myself that I’ll never be able to make a passion a career is just my way of giving in.
- When I tell myself I’m not healthy enough to get pregnant, I’m allowing myself to not be set up for sadness. Every month, I sit in anticipation and impatiently count the days down until the “big day”. And every month I’m disappointed at some point when it actually occurs. By telling myself that something must be wrong with me, I can say that it’s out of my control. Which to a degree, it is out of my control, but I shouldn’t allow myself to give up.
- When I tell myself I’m not creative enough, I compare myself to others. I think that others have more time and resources than I do, and that’s why they’re more creative. I am pretty creative on my own (or after some Pinterest inspiration), so it’s unacceptable that I talk down to myself this way.
Wow – that was a lot, wasn’t it. That was pretty eye-opening for myself just writing this all out. I never looked at the negative self-talk as a method of somehow rewarding myself. But when typing out what I’m getting out of each thought, I can see how I tend to cycle back into the behavior more often. From here, Sincero says to thank each of the false rewards for what they have done (put me down, held me back) and then put them away.
Now that they have been properly dismissed, you are no in a sense “story-less”. We need new thoughts to tell ourselves when doubts begin to creep in or when tough situations arise. Instead of having negative thoughts to feed ourselves, we need to proactively plan for positive stories to build ourselves up with.
- I am strong enough and intelligent enough to lead others. I have trained several people within my company to take over a role that was created for me 2 years ago. Both people did an excellent job in this position thanks to my tutelage and have gone on to even better roles within our company. I am intelligent enough because I have experience and passion for what I do, both in my personal and professional life. IfI don’t know something, I am that person that will hunt down the information not only to help others, but to further educate myself. I love learning and I feel that we never should stop seeking answers.
- I am assertive enough to be a leader. I may not be ready to lead a company or a department on my own, but I have lead groups and projects within my current position. I do have the experience, the drive, and the intelligence to operate a project effectively. If I need guidance or answers, I have mentors that I can go to for answers. I observe people in order to better develop myself as a good employee and prepare myself for handling the same situation on my own in the future.
- I am positive enough for others to listen to me. I try to share positivity and hope every day, whether it’s in person, through social media, or through a message. I have been told multiple times that I’m very positive and I have “good vibes”. Others do listen to what I have to share.
- I am smart enough to make a difference. Because I crave knowledge and learning things, I will always think that I need to learn more. But it’s this drive and determination to learn more that has lead me to where I am today. I wouldn’t have met my husband or found this new career had it not been for my ambition. When I dislocated my knee and wasn’t able to teach that spring, I began researching ways that I could further my education and help others. When school didn’t pan out as planned, I found what I thought was a temporary job. I wound up training in several other departments and finding one that I loved. I made it known and actively asked questions, leading me to be considered for a position in this department. I never stop learning and this will always keep me pushing ahead to try new things.
- I am savvy enough to find a way to make my passion my career. I may not have the finances to start-up this dream, but I won’t lose the dream. After all, I am the savvy kitchenista, so I will find a way to make it happen! This is also the time when I say that I’m leaving this decision in His hands. I know there is a time and place for everything and believe that when the time is right, I will make my move.
- I am healthy enough to get pregnant. I have improved my diet so that I’m eating cleaner and healthier for myself and future baby. I have begun to make life style changes in order prepare my body for nine months of pregnancy. I am still working on the getting pregnant part, but I am at least not obsessing over it anymore. As much as I want to be a mother, I know that God has placed me on this earth to have many roles. If it’s not time for me to be mother yet, it’s because He has some things up his sleeve that I need to accomplish first!
- I am creative enough to succeed and make my mark in this world. I am very good at finding creative ways to be healthy in the kitchen. I am creative at finding ways to display and organize information both at home and at the office. I do come up with great ways to display information. I may not be the first one to speak up or think of an idea, but I do have bright ones to share.
Finally, we have new and positive affirmations to celebrate ourselves with. Sincero instructs that these thoughts need to be repeated over and over again until they are “your truth”. That’s a very powerful phrase – repeat them until it becomes your truth. I don’t know about you, but I have a difficult time believing myself when I’m trying to convince myself of something good. I’m not a negative Nancy, but I do have a tendency to play the “what’s the worst that could happen” game and assume that it will all go to pieces.
When someone else tells me something, though, I rarely question them. This may just be me being silly and naive, but it goes to show you how much we rely on others for opinions about ourselves! If you tell me that I’m gorgeous, I’m more apt to believe you than if I were to look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m gorgeous. I can’t imagine I’m the only person out there that feels this way. So to hear Sincero say that we need to repeat these stories to ourselves until we absolutely believe it is just mind-blowing for me. I don’t know how I’m going to repeat this to myself to that point, but I’m thinking flashcards and Post-It notes may be involved…
So, in closing, I want you to really take a look at yourself and see if there’s anything you’re telling yourself that’s absolutely untrue. If so, take the time to work through the steps that are outlined in “You Are a Badass”, or better yet, pick up the book (or audiobook) and see what gems of truth you find yourself!