Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Invisible Bars

What's in a name?

I smacked my thumb with a hammer, felt the zing of electricity all the way to my elbow and uttered a few needle-like expletives to no-one in particular. That I was twelve feet off the ground on a hot metal roof in an awkward position with a horse fly buzzing around thinking I might be tasty had little to do with it. No... of course not. Fortunately no-one was nearby to hear my second language (cursing) except a squirrel, two crows and said horse fly trying to make a hunk of me his next meal.

In essence, I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. Anyone who is hands on with repairing or building has had this experience more than once resulting in bruised shins, a bump on the head or skinned knuckles. That we are actively doing stuff means we are going to end up doing some things that aren't particularly bright. Some of the consequences of our actions are bumps and bruises.

The physical scrapes aren't the real damage though. They will go away.

As is common, I called myself a few derogatory names while on that roof that probably aren't true... the jury is still out. Words like “stupid” or “moron” or “idiot” fly out of our mouths with great regularity when something goes awry. Sometimes, even when things aren't going wrong, our “self-chatter” can be negative, to say the least. How much of this is pre-programmed into our psyche and how much is simply carrying on an ill-guided, meaningless early-life tradition handed down from parents, teachers, bosses and peers is subjective.

I know I am better than my negativity.

I may have called myself stupid when I hit my thumb with a hammer when, in actuality, I'm not really stupid. At that particular moment I wasn't especially bright and, over-all, I'm actually not stupid all the time. I do a lot of things that are pretty bright though they seem to go unnoticed by me as this is the way I am supposed to be all of the time.

Being perfect all of the time isn't possible.

Never making mistakes means I'm not doing or not attempting new things. It means I'm stuck fearfully in my comfort zone and leading a boring, I-need-to-survive-as-long-as-I-can-by-not-doing-anything-I'm-not-accustomed-to existence.

Calling myself derogatory names locks me in my comfort zone. It tells my psyche I'm not good enough at what I already know and shouldn't try anything new because I may get hurt or die. It incorrectly confirms all those negative things others have said over the years. I keeps me jailed inside invisible bars in a comfort zone that only exists in my mind. It pigeon-holes me into a role I think I belong in in society or family or friendships.

If I'm called stupid enough times by others, it can chip away at who I believe I am and I begin to believe it. If I call myself stupid, the destructive effect is immediate.

What I call myself defines who I am to the world. It's the face I put out that people see and react to. If I go out to the world with confidence, a smile and a belief I am a pretty decent guy, I attract people around me who will reinforce that belief. If I go out into the world with a scowl a belief the world against me and is a dangerous place, I will attract people who will reinforce those thoughts. If I change the way I think and react, I change the way people think and react toward me.

I am who I believe I am and take my life into my own hands.

Let's face the truth... I do some pretty dumb things. Climbing a three hundred foot rock face without protective gear isn't all that bright... and I've done it. I could either agree with bystanders and say to myself I'm an idiot or I can laugh at myself for being silly and know I won't do it again. Calling myself names doesn't improve any situation. Besides, there are plenty of bystanders waiting for me to fail just to call me names and remind me how inferior I am. There's no need for me to do it to myself.

The invisible bars society attempts to place around me defines who they think I am, not who I actually am. They see a thin slice of me and make a judgement. When I do it to myself, it affects every part of who I am... even how I feel physically. By changing the words I use to describe myself to myself, I change the way I feel emotionally and physically.

If you want to feel better and stronger, change the words you use for yourself.

That being said, if I could refrain from hammering home lessons by mashing my thumb, that would be okay too.