What’s Good About This: Change Your Life For The Better-Forever
The last two weeks have been life moving at high speed, while feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing.
In truth, this is not accurate. I’ve gotten a lot done, but my mind tells me otherwise. I’m working on fixing it. It’s a script called, “I don’t have enough time…”
Scripts are interesting things-and they are exactly what they sound like. They’re lines we’ve memorized, just as if we were in a play, and we repeat them. We don’t just repeat them to others-in fact, usually, it’s our Behavior that we reveal to others, rather than the actual script. To ourselves, we say, “I’m not enough.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m a bad person because.” “Everything always goes wrong.” “Eventually, everything is going to be ruined, no matter how hard I try.” Our behavior reflects these beliefs in some way.
Any of that sound familiar? I’d be surprised if it didn’t. They’re Very common scripts. I hear them, in one form or another in my office every day. The saddest are from children that say, “I can’t. I’m not good at this.” “I am a disappointment.” “I keep screwing up.” “I’m a bad kid.”
So how do you get that out of your head? How do you really change, deep down, when you’ve got an inner demon telling you that you’re terrible, that everything’s going to go wrong, and that you’re not ok? Even more confusing, you’re also running positive scripts that conflict with the negative scripts, so then you really do have that cartoon situation with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each telling you something. Which do you believe? And if you don’t want to believe the devilish one anymore, how do you convince yourself to stop and change? And where did all this come from anyway?
Your brain is very much like a computer. From the instant you come into the world, and possibly before, you begin assimilating information. You learn that when you cry, someone comes to take care of you. (I hope.) This is surely one reason why, even as adults, we still cry. It’s basically the first thing we learned.
As we grow, we learn all kinds of other things, and we are programmed with messages from our parents, our teachers, and our peers. Here’s some examples.
1. Take a perfectionist parent. They’re out there, and you know them or you might even be one. Say your child comes home with a report card that has all A’s, except for one B. The perfectionist hones in on the B, maybe even acknowledging the A’s, and says something like, “You’re so smart, look at all these A’s, so how could you get a B? Do better next time.” That’s the overt message. The covert message is, “You’re not enough unless…” See that? See how you got programmed too? And you deliver the programming on, without even knowing you’re doing it.
2. A father has two hyperactive little boys. They’re crawling the walls. The father tells them to stop, calm down, sit down, pay attention, even tells them they’re going to be grounded. No effect. The father raises his voice until he yells, “Stop! You guys are Always screwing around. You never listen, and I’m sick of you being bad. Knock it off.” Suddenly there are two cowering little boys. The father’s frustration levels have given him good reason to raise his voice. His kids weren’t listening. His parenting style is ineffective in this situation, and interventions obviously need to take place. The covert message he gave his kids was, “You are always bad.” He used the word “always.” Words like “always, never, impossible, and every time” are perhaps harsher than you can imagine. You have to realize and remember how concrete children are. They hear, “You are grounded forever” and they believe you if they’re young enough. “You always screw up.” Imagine that scenario happening a hundred times over. It’s not too hard to see how we get negative messages as kids from adults. We also get plenty of positive ones, but positive scripts are generally NOT the problem.
3. The messages we get from our peers often aren’t much better. We learn very early on in the playground that “different” can quickly become equated with “not ok.” It’s really terrible, because it’s a corruption of children’s innocence put to poor use. My best friend’s daughter, whom I refer to as my niece, is 3. She is truly one of the most gorgeous little girls I’ve ever seen, and it’s not just because she’s my niece. She’s also incredibly intelligent, curious, and unabashed about everything. One day, she poked at my neck. “Ouchie,” she said. “Auntie doesn’t have an ouchie, honey” I said. She poked at my neck again, right on a small mole I have that does stick out a little bit. Now this is messed up. I actually felt a little bit hurt. That’s how juvenile I am-right?
Then I realized, this tiny child just thinks this looks like a scab or something. She had her own scab that was healing over. Maybe it does look like an ouchie. Whatever. I laughed, and said, “Nope honey, it’s not an ouchie, it’s called a mole. Can you say mole?” She looked at me with dark serious eyes and said, “Mole. Do I have a mole?” “Yes, you do. You have a very pretty mole.” She touched her lips, where she does, indeed, have a tiny little mole, that will only bother her when she’s a teenager. “Moles are ok,” I told her. “They’re no big deal.” And with that, she smiled, and was off playing. She came back a minute later to tap me very gently on the head and say, “Bonk.” Correct. This kid will be a big fan of slapstick. Somewhere shortly before her second birthday, I got nailed in the head with part of her swingset, and so did she. We were pretending she was flying. She had a moment where she decided whether she was going to laugh or cry. “Aria,” I said to her, and intentionally tapped myself in the head with the offending swing, “Bonk.” It was the first time I ever saw her shake with laughter. It’s still a favorite game. I digress.
In a few short years, Aria will be in Kindergarten, and the kids that have learned that “different is bad” or “different is weird” will already be spreading the message. Now remember whatever your “different” was, or your “weird” or your “not good enough to play with us” scenarios were, and remember you had K-12 of that to varying degrees, and with you on different sides of the fence.
Now know, that as a child, teenager, and adult, you’re often not consciously thinking these things, you’re just feeling like you want to do things, and so you do them. I get adults all the time in my office that procrastinate. They want to stop, but keep doing the behavior anyway. I run them through the scripts they have. Inevitably, it’s along the lines of “I don’t deserve…” “I’ll never get it all done…” “What’s the point…” or “I’ll wreck it somehow…”
So what I tell people about scripts, particularly negative scripts, is that you’ve got to reverse them. “I’m not enough” needs to turn into “I am enough.” Why and How? Well, as I say in a previous blog, would you intentionally talk to a 5-year-old and tell them they’re bad and not enough? (I hope not.) And people say “No!” So I say, “Why should you be any less gentle to yourself? Especially the parts of you that are wounded.”
And the healing begins. People start catching the negative scripts and replacing them with positive ones. It has to be believable to you. You must be able to find evidence in your daily activities that support your positive script. And you’ve got to be brave enough to step outside your comfort zone with the devil you know, and allow yourself to be who you are, really, deep down. The part of you that maybe got wounded, but if allowed out, will heal and flourish, and allow you to succeed in whatever you want to do.
And for anyone that believes deep down they are terrible, I am sorry. That was done to you. Please get help. Because the truth is, and research supports this, and I was astounded by this until I thought about it for a minute: the actual default state of humanity is essentially one of optimism and positive belief. If it wasn’t, honestly, we would have blown ourselves up long ago.
Give yourself permission, on this Valentine’s Day, and every day thereafter, to love. As much as possible. Love you, love the people around you. Love the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re single or not. If you’re single and you feel bad about it, YOU ARE RUNNING A NEGATIVE SCRIPT. You have a belief that’s making you unhappy. Get rid of it.
It takes work, it takes practice, but I promise, it delivers positive results. Beautiful, life-changing results. My sister calls it “Rising Above.” She’s right. It’s about going beyond whatever is limiting you, getting past it, and turning it into something meaningful. You can do it. I love you.
Unfreeze your heart.