An essential part of optimism, and one that can be taught, is the ability to see yourself slip into negative thinking, and then turn it around, that is, twist it. This is easier said than done.
You’re probably walking around right now with those nagging voices in your head that I call “the committee”: the scolding echoes of the past that are always pointing out the things you do wrong. “There are dishes in the sink! Why are you sitting around doing nothing, you lazy slob? Do you really need to eat that cookie? You have no self-control. You’re going to be as fat as a house; in fact, you already are! Why don’t you just use your behind as a billboard?” The committee can do a lot to ruin your day.
Then on top of what’s in your head are all the day-to-day messages of media and marketing. The mass media is a constant sledgehammer, thwarting a normal person’s ability to feel optimistic about life. It’s as if our society preys on people’s insecurities, doubt and fears.You’re constantly assaulted with marketing gimmicks that make you feel bad about yourself: products that could make you thinner, younger, and more fit; help you earn more money; or find you a better mate.
Of course, the subtext of all that is that you, just as you are, are pretty hopeless. Unless you’re as rich as Oprah Winfrey, as beautiful as Kim Kardashian, or a fit as Serena Williams, you’re not living up to you “full potential.” How could you ever be expected to feel optimistic about life in the face of all of that? It often seems as if life is just a struggle to acquire things or improve yourself, in ways that seem completely out of your reach. And then, as if on cue, there’s the voice of the committee, telling you it’s all your fault.
Okay, take a deep breath. It’s time to twist things around. Try to find the absurdity in your emotions and have a laugh at your own expense. When you find yourself feeling, “Damn, I’m just never going to look like Jennifer Lawrence no matter how many times I go to the gym”, stop and think, “Who cares?, She may have great arms and an academy award, but nobody in the world has toes like mine. People would come far and wide to see my toes if they knew how great they were. If the media ever gets a hold of this, I wouldn’t be able to leave my house for days!”
Yes, we are accessing the ridiculous. But our thinking patterns are often ridiculous and they lead us to feeling upset and depressed. I leave you with my favorite metaphor “If you think the worst and get the worst, you suffer twice, if you think the best and get the worst, you only suffer once”.
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