Submitted by: Sydney Tyler Thomas
I’m a natural-born debater. I haven’t been in a formal debate since being captain of my high school debate team and my days of debates over policy and procedure in a large corporation are long gone too. Yet I’m in a season of my life in which I find myself debating on a daily basis, with the one person who seems to win an inordinate amount of the time. That “person” is that inner-critic that lives inside my head, constantly reminding me of the mistakes and missteps of my past, telling me that I shouldn’t take that risk, presenting every possible reason why I shouldn’t do or think differently, and cautioning me against daring to dream of a future that is better than my past has been.
It’s not that this inner-critic is smarter than me, it’s just more persistent and incessant. I’ve come to understand that its motives are pure. Its ultimate purpose is to keep me safe. Yet, though the intent is good, the execution is not. Some psychologists refer to the source of this negative self-chatter as “ego”. Dr. Michael Pollack writes that “The ego is constantly judging everything and everyone, including itself and its own behavior. The purpose of this judging is to survive by being right… This negative self-talk forcefully leads us away from who we really are and into believing what we and others have told us we are.” It should come as no surprise then that this type of negative self-sabotage almost certainly leads to failure, time and time again.
For me, much of the negative, self-defeating chatter involves the shame and embarrassment I feel about being divorced, more than once. The chatter always gets much worse when I decide to start dating again. The fear of sharing this aspect of my past with someone new that I’d like to make a good impression on is often overwhelming. The actual conversation has never turned out to be as awful as I imagine in my head, but that doesn’t make it any easier to contemplate the next time I think about having it.
This week I decided to try something revolutionary for me – something totally outside of the box. Instead of continuing to engage in this painful and totally counterproductive debate, I’m choosing to let it go. No more explanations or rationalizations. No more analyzing or soul-searching. I’ve learned the lessons I needed to learn from each of my past relationships and it’s time to move on. Every time one of those negative thoughts comes, instead of giving it free reign to wreak havoc with my head and heart, I’m choosing to take Dr. Pollack’s advice and instead say “Thank you. Good-bye.” I’m saying “thank you” to my ego in acknowledgement of its intent to help me and keep me safe from harm. There are times when this is a valuable and much-needed gift. Then I say “good-bye” to the negative thought because I don’t need it any more and more often than not, it’s not even true.
This exercise is so simple that it seems impossible that it could really work, but it does. For the first few days, I found myself saying “Thank you. Good-bye” several times in a row. Sometimes I even had to say the words out loud. After a while I found myself saying them much less because the unwanted incoming thoughts were fewer and farther between. Even more amazing than the dramatic decrease in the negative self-talk is the feeling of calm that’s filled the void. I’m finding myself to be more energetic, more productive, more relaxed, and more focused on creating the life I desire. By choosing to release all that negative energy, I’ve created space for more positive, productive, creative energy to move in. I like this energy a lot more.
So what’s the moral of this story for a seasoned debater like me, and maybe for you too? Some debates simply aren’t worth having.
Author Bio: Sydney Tyler Thomas is a writer, small business owner, and avid knitter. Her book, The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft, is available online at www.lulu.com/gracebaybooks. She lives in Virginia and is the proud mother of a daughter serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Sydney runs a small knitting ministry aimed at helping women who are survivors of sexual violence and enjoys writing about issues facing women over 40 as they navigate through the second act, celebrating self-awareness, creativity, and spirituality. She blogs about her thoughts on living, learning, and loving at www.newcalling.blogspot.com. Sydney can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and can also be found on LinkedIn.