How to overcome your own negativity and deal with whatever life throws at you
First, don’t take life so seriously. After all, no-one ever gets out alive.
One of my life’s absolute joys, (Not!) being an introvert of the first order, and living with shyness, social anxiety and prosopagnosia, which, I’m learning, may have contributed significantly to my shyness and social anxiety,¹ is dealing with a raging *B* of an inner-critic.
Add chronic overthinker to the mix and you have some idea of the fun folks who make up “the committee” which can run amok in my head any given day.
The days when iCritic and iOverthinker go head to head? It’s not pretty.
And today is one of those days.
April has not been stellar. Especially in the last two weeks. After months of steady, concerted effort, I appeared to be on my way. But with no big wins recently, I’ve slid back to an earlier level — one I hoped I’d surpassed.
Oh, well, it’s just a setback. I can’t complain. Well, I could but even I wouldn’t listen. I’m doing alright. I’ve found a home for some of my writing. I’ve become part of a wonderful, supportive community of writers. Made a few friends. And Medium has been far more generous than other platforms on which I’ve written.
But this setback has been enough to get iCritic and iOverthinker fired up and truckin’ in high gear.
And I’m caught somewhere between “See, I told you this whole writing online thing was a load of crap for you. You’re the shits at it. You’re an okay writer but nobody wants to hear what you have to say…” and “Maybe if I try this? Or that? What about this writer? She has some great ideas. Oh, wait — this article looks like it might help. Oh, God, have I run out of ideas? What can I find to write about that people will be interested in?”
“…everything in life is writable about if you have the guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath
So… how to take Sylvia Plath’s wisdom to heart and harness this excess of energy. Turn it into something a little more productive than iOverthinker and iCritic running around in my head like Chicken Little, clucking, “My stats are falling, my stats are falling…”
I’ve tried ignoring iCritic and iOverthinker. It doesn’t work.
I read some research which suggests counting backwards from 5 down to 1 to engage the prefrontal cortex. This “Five-Second Rule” kicks you off auto-pilot, allowing you to pull an end-run and bring focus to your internal chaos.
… you cultivate what researchers call an “internal locus of control,” which means that you believe you have control over your outcomes and future success.
Research shows us that those with an internal locus of control are happier, in better health, more likely to achieve at work, and have lower levels of anxiety and depression.²
Seems pretty simple: count backwards from five to one… It certainly helps to dial down the committee. But it’s helpful to have something lined up — something to do once you get their attention; journaling, writing a poem, standing on the back porch enjoying the sunshine.
I’ve watched my son’s cat stretched out on the back of the couch, basking in the sun. I didn’t try lying on the back of my couch. For one thing, the sun doesn’t shine directly on it. Also, I’d feel pretty silly if I fell off.
But I did go stand on my back porch while I counted down: 5,4,3,2,1…
The sun felt incredible, especially after our overlong winter, so I counted backwards a couple of times. And then I reassured both iCritic and iOverthinker that we were gonna be okay.
“When self-doubt creeps in, don’t ignore it — address it. Respond to harsh self-criticism with something more compassionate. Talk to yourself like a trusted friend and refuse to believe your unrealistic, negative inner monologue.” — Amy Morin
Nothing earth-shattering happened. But I felt calm again. Focused. I was able to sit down and write three articles in a row.
“You are bigger than your self-doubt. Remind yourself of that each and every day.” — Caroline Ghosn
And for the first time in days, I felt as though I had something worth-while to add to the sea of internet noise — and possibly helpful to someone besides me.
¹ Ana Gotter. HealthLine. (2017) “Face Blindness (Prosopagnosia)”
² Mel Robbins. (2018) “Why The Five-Second Rule Works: The Science Explained”