Am I the only one who wages battles behind my face and above my throat?
“You’re fat. Look at yourself. Your thighs are disgusting. You have cellulite. You’re so fat, your boyfriend didn’t even want you. Your hair is so thin it looks like a coke addict’s. And you’re superficial.”
As a slew of insults pour from my sister’s mouth, I weakly muster ammunition for a fire back: “You’re a huge bitch. My eyes are prettier than yours…”
“So what? At least I’m not fat.”
Checkmate. Done. Defeated. Sayonara to any sort of rebuttal. I lock the bathroom door, let the tears fall down, and lick my wounds. Years of neighborhood-disturbing sisterly fights have taught me – my sister is an unbeatable opponent. But this time was different. It hurt worse. Every punch my sister threw, were jabs I’d already taken at myself.
How do you like your mind?
I don’t know what your thoughts look like, but I can speak for mine. My confidence has always been a teeter totter – up and down it goes. A heavy helping of ugly duckling syndrome; a splash of bad genes; but the remaining painful thoughts – everybody has those. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with me. Perhaps this is just what it’s like to be a human.
Everyone is awkward in middle school, but trust me when I say this: I was way more awkward than you were. Black painted fingernails and a quiet demeanor repelled every popular kid at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. And at 5’1 and 140 pounds, I am certain that in this day and age, I would be Michelle Obama’s worst nightmare.
Rainbow toe socks with Roxy platform sandals… Polyester shirts from Forever 21… and Etnies filled my fashion clueless closet. God, do you remember when the girls wore skater shoes? To my 13 year-old mind, blowdryers were used exclusively at salons. “Makeup,” meant thick, glitter-laden MAC lip gloss, so gooey, gnats were caught in it. Regularly.
But, eventually, the beast improved. Through college, I lost weight, found my style, and the baby fat on my face disappeared. Voila… a pretty girl?
“Why is it, that whenever someone gives you a compliment, you find a way to discredit it?”
“You are truly beautiful, Natalie. You are truly special. I want you to know this because I love you, and I see you hurting yourself. This is your life, and I don’t want you to miss it.”
“I can’t figure out if you’re just extremely introverted, or you don’t know that you’re beautiful.”
For a good chunk of my life, I have been at war with myself. I have never done enough, I am never good enough, I never have enough. The brain pain that plagues me is enough to make a person Jack Nicholson-it with an ax through a deserted hotel in Estes Park. Just kidding! What I’ve learned recently is all people fight these types of mind battles. Maybe not the same battle, but similar battles all the same.
In my reading, I am repeatedly told: we each have a steady stream of thoughts flowing in and out, all day long. Our critics, our censors, our ever-playing radio channels. I used to think it was just me.
“Maybe you should see someone. A therapist.”
“You think I should be in therapy? You don’t think I’m normal?”
“Well… would you want to be normal anyway? Normal is boring. If you were normal, I wouldn’t want to date you.”
I know what my mind looks like. Some days, I’m riding high: “You’re talented. You have a novel idea. You look great. You could do something really special. You’ve accomplished so much in so little time. Nothing is impossible.” Other days, my mind is a bottom feeder. Dark, evil, and ominous: “You’re going to starve. You’re going to fail. This is impossible. You look so old. You’re gaining weight. You’re not talented enough. What you’re trying to do… it can’t be done.” My mind chatter can be exhausting or exhilarating…depending on whether or not I’ve taken my Xanax that day. Again! Just kidding! Totally kidding.
Nurturing our inner life instead of our outer circumstances is the key to taking our pursuits of happiness. And while confidence has always been shaky ground for me, I’m tired of the teeter totter. I’ve had enough of the dark lies that swirl between my ears. And I need my confidence now. More than ever. Because when you’re trying to make money solely on your talent, as I am trying to do, having confidence isn’t really an option. It’s mandatory.
There are millions of people in the world that believe that your thoughts create your reality. That whatever you think about is attracted into your life. Jury’s out for me on that one. But, say they’re wrong. If we approach this idea from a more scientific standpoint, I would argue that the end result doesn’t change. Suppose you’re a confident person and you believe in your capabilities to achieve a certain goal. Wouldn’t you say the likelihood of you reaching your goal is better than if you don’t believe in yourself?
I don’t know about the law of attraction, but I do believe changing our thoughts is incredibly important to: 1) making us happier and healthier; and 2) getting what we want in life. And goddamn. I just want some peace and quiet. I grow weary of fighting against the malicious whispers of my subconscious.
To what degree do our thoughts alter our reality? I don’t know. But I do know that by changing our thoughts, we will be much happier people. That when I remember to do it, I feel lighter, in control, and happy. So give yourself a break. Take time to recuperate from the pain your brain has caused you. And remember, not every negative thought you think is right. Most of them aren’t.