I’m sitting here today, a few hours from boarding a flight to Pennsylvania to visit family. I’m excited to see everyone, but my peace has been missing for most of the day.
My travel phobias strike again!
This is frustrating. The flight to PA is less than 2 hours, and I did just fine a couple months ago on a 5 hour flight to OR.
My immediate reaction is to be really irritated with myself, and berate myself for not feeling peaceful and letting these dumb fears affect me in the slightest.
But today, I’m choosing to take a step back and let mindfulness lead. Step 1: WRITE. Step 2: When I can feel I’m starting to be too tough on myself I ask this question: if my best friend were describing my own feelings to me as hers, what would I say?
The short answer is: nothing close to what I am tempted to say to myself.
My usual inner dialogue snarls things like: “I can’t believe you’re letting this affect you AGAIN.” Or, “You are such a failure! I thought we conquered this fear already. You’re such a baby.” And my favorite, “You haven’t changed at all!”
What would I tell my best friend were she having the same feelings as me? I’d say things like: “Don’t be so hard on yourself! You may always have this fear, but remember how many strategies you’ve learned to get through it.” And “It’s OK to feel the fear; you’re going to get on that plane anyway and conquer it.” And “Just think how good it will feel once you’ve got another travel experience under your belt.” And “You’ve done this a bunch of times before, you got this!”
Have you ever noticed how much harder we are on ourselves than we would be on our friends? I’m actually kind of shocked at how stark a difference there is between the two for
me. But self-hatred and perfectionism have an insidious way of creeping in until you barely even notice them. I had these negative thoughts about myself in a split second. They felt so familiar and it would have been easy to just accept them rather than grab them and throw them out.
It takes mindfulness and sometimes, retreating to a quiet place, to recognize harmful self-talk and decide to talk to yourself in a different way. Now, I have the option to re-write my bad thoughts and focus on good thoughts instead. I don’t have to accept whatever happens to pop into my head first.
We could all stand to give a little more grace. Both to others and for many of us, to ourselves. (By the way, I think this works just as well if you catch yourself having less-than-kind thoughts about others!)
Put this little exercise on the long list of reasons I love writing and learning to be mindful! I hope that someday, my immediate reaction to my own struggling or being less than perfect is more likely to be kind than cruel.
After all, I’d never dream of saying the things I tell myself to anyone else. I’m feeling calmer and more centered at that thought alone.