It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! April’s theme is dealing with negativity. When you decide to go in a new direction you can encounter a lot of it, from yourself and others. Last week I spoke about that pesky voice inside my head. This week I’m going to expand on that a little and discuss how I’m learning to co-exist with it. Slowly.
I am a fan of Seth Godin. One of the things that he talks about fairly regularly is the lizard brain, or amygdala. Briefly, this is the part of your brain that is responsible for basic survival – it stores your emotions, drives reproduction and keeps you breathing. It does not do calculus or compose music, if you catch my drift.
The thing about that part of our brain is that it isn’t really created for our modern world. If you are in physical danger because a wild animal is about to eat you, your fight or flight response comes in handy. If you are afraid of asking for a promotion and you get sweaty and your legs go weak and you can’t swallow and you just want to run, your fight or flight response is out of place. You are not in physical danger. Attacking or fleeing the scene will not help you.
A lot of our anxiety, and our anxiety reaction, is simply inappropriate in a world where we’re pretty much never in a situation where we need to run or fight. But understanding that doesn’t make the negative voices go away. At least, it doesn’t for me. I can absolutely know, in my rational mind, that I have absolutely nothing to fear by taking a risk. Like, say, asking someone for something. And yet, it terrifies me. It makes me feel vulnerable, and leaves me questioning myself. I start asking who I think I am, anyway, and it all goes downhill from there.
I am also a fan of Havi Brooks. She talks about how that lizard brain, that ‘stuckness’, that negative voice, just wants to keep us safe. When that little voice pipes up and starts telling me I shouldn’t try new things, it’s trying to protect me. It’s my primitive brain, that has a lot of fears and just wants to make sure that I live to see another day. It lacks any sense of perspective, because perspective is not its job. And so it responds to my fear that people will laugh at me in the same way as my fear that my toddler may come to his untimely end in a grocery store parking lot – with sweaty palms and heart-stopping terror.
Let’s be fair – trying new things doesn’t always go well. You’re not going to be good at everything right out of the gate. Other people aren’t always going to see what you see, or share your opinions. Sometimes, that hurts. Sometimes it really, stinking, hurts. Receiving a rejection letter is not my idea of a good time. Getting a bad grade in a course is not my idea of a good time. Losing miserably at mini golf is also not my idea of a good time. These things are not going to kill us, but they are going to sting. And so that little negative voice pipes up and suggests I shouldn’t even try, because not trying feels safer than taking a risk.
My negative voice does not mean me harm – it’s more like a misguided, nagging, older relative than an enemy. Knowing that changed things for me. I still feel scared to take risks sometimes. I still don’t enjoy it when things don’t go well. But I am learning not to give too much weight to the negative voice. It loves me, but it doesn’t know what’s best for me when my survival is not on the line. So I can listen to the warnings, consider them, and discard them if I need to. Stepping outside my comfort zone might not be comfortable, but it’s not necessarily dangerous, either. And that’s the difference my negative voice doesn’t understand.
What about you? How do you keep your negative thoughts in perspective? Or do you? I will admit I’m not so great at this myself yet, so if you have any pointers or commiseration I’d love to hear. Also, if you are also a phenomenally awful mini golfer, we should start a club or something. Except we shouldn’t call it a ‘club’, because ‘club’ may hold negative associations for horrible mini golfers.
April’s Crafting my Life series is about dealing with negativity. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be the 29th, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on this month’s theme anytime in April, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.