Boy, I'm on a role now. Today's goal: Draw up a balance sheet.
As a teenager, I was full of self-loathing. I'd always been outgoing (okay, a loud-mouth) and curious and thoughtful as a child. But when puberty hit, my self-esteem crashed just like all the girls around me. I turned my thoughtfulness, my observant nature and my critical thinking skills against myself, eking out the ways in which I thought my thighs were misshapen, my hair too frizzy, my eyes tiny and beady. And I turned that outgoing personality into a talent for the dramatic.
I cried tears of genuine distress at my appearance and my social status. It's an act I now laugh about because, Boy, did I take myself seriously! I look back now and I was hot and moderately popular. But you couldn't convince me of that back then. I was stuck in the maddening loop of negative thinking.
I still focus on the negative. If you were to ask--and please don't--I could list off 10 things I didn't get to today and tell you where I failed. But I'd have a hard time stammering out a similar list of where I made my business work for me today.
So last night, after a chat with friends and a long soak in the tub reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I thought back to the gentle suggestion my mom offered whenever I was at my most dramatically unhappy.
"Heather," she'd say, in her loving but exasperated voice, "I want you to take this piece of paper and write in one column all the things you like about yourself and in another all the things you don't."
It felt lame at the time, believe me. Self-indulgent. Sickeningly therapeutic. And sometimes it backfired because the list of what I hated was almost always longer than what I liked.
But last night I tried it again, and this time I focused on my business. I drew up what I'll call a balance sheet:
In one column, what I did well that day, things for which I can claim genuine self-esteem.
In the other, what I didn't finish, bad habits that sprang up again.
For someone who's to-do list is always longer than the hours in which she has to achieve them, there's always something left over. And hey, I'm human, my bad habits are there for all to see all the time. But I usually focus on those to the exclusion of anything else.
It took five minutes. You know what I found? I did an awful lot yesterday. And I accomplished almost everything--everything but the two things I had been beating myself up for. Interesting.
I left that list feeling like I'd had a day that reflected my values: Full of the craft of writing, the curiosity of interviews and a little self-care thrown in.
Give it a try. I'd love to hear how you keep your negative thinking in check.