I wanted this to be the first post in the Undoing series because it’s the most important. If you don’t read any others, that’s fine, but this one will help you with all the other areas because it’s more of a tool than a concept or abstract idea.
When it comes to feeling low about yourself and feeling not good enough because of the Control, Create, Compete culture cycle, it’s important to have awareness of why. So, as my life advice motto goes, we start with awareness!
It’s like a spidey sense attune to the narrative playing in your head.
The start of any journey of Self and happiness comes from noticing and witnessing the dialogue in your head and how it is affecting your daily life.
What you think affects what you feel and what feel affects how you act.
Mindlessness or automated living and basically going through life blind to your thoughts and feelings is dangerous. You don’t need to become too self-aware, which I think can lead to self-consciousness if you’re not careful, but turning the dial a little and tuning into that vocabulary is key to freedom and peace within yourself.
What is reality checking?
If you now feel you are aware of the things going through your head, it’s time to reality check.
This is because your thoughts and feelings aren’t the whole truth. They are a signal. They are feedback, as Mark Manson puts it. They are information that highlights a deeper belief, experience, trauma, expectation, or agreement within yourself.
Reality checking is as it sounds: you are checking the validity of what you are thinking and feeling. You are holding it up to the light and seeing if it holds any real truth.
“I am a loser compared to my siblings.
I am never going to be a successful writer.
I will be a bad mother.
I will never make enough money to not struggle in life.“
These are all thoughts that I’ve had before and have had to hold under the microscope to see if they are true. So, how do we reality check? Here are some ideas…
Reality checking as a tool
Questioning is the key to reality checking. You can either do this in your own head, in a journal, or with a trusted person or mental health professional (I’ve done them all!).
Here are some generic questions to ask:
How do I know this for sure?
What evidence do I have to prove that this is true?
Who has said this to me in the past?
Would I say this about or to my best friend or partner?
Where did this come from today?
How am I feeling today, because it may have lead to this thought?
What does it mean if this is true?
If this is true, does it mean it always has to be true or can I do something about it?
What help do I need to change how I feel about this? Who has been through this?
So, specifically for my thoughts listed above, I could ask:
- What metrics am I using when comparing myself to my siblings? Do they compare themselves to me, too? Are we even in competition or should we be celebrating and learning from one another? Who decides the winner and loser?
- How can I know for sure that I will never be a successful writer? (The only way I solidify that is if I give up!) Again, what metrics am I basing “success” on? Money, popularity, critical acclaim? How it feels within? A small community of fans?
- Am I a bad friend? A bad sister? A bad daughter? A bad partner? How could I know I will be a bad mother? Am I not caring, responsible, organised, loving, empathetic, creative, open-minded, fair?
- I’m making more money than I have before, doesn’t it stand to reason that I can continue to make more as I learn and grow and qualify for pay rises? Being good with money is also a way to “have more” and I’m learning every year in that area, aren’t I? I have skills and interests enough to change career paths and make more money, too.
We can believe our thoughts even without knowing that we do. There are thoughts that loop around. There are thoughts attached to core beliefs.
If you let these kinds of thoughts ruminate they go through your psyche wreaking havoc and causing harm. You end relationships you don’t need to. You give up on pursuits. You self-sabotage and create problems that aren’t necessary.
We’ll go into more ways and reasons to reality check in the coming weeks, but your homework is to pay attention and document the thoughts you’re having and if you can, begin reality checking them and see how you feel afterwards.
“Perception is reality,” so be careful with what you perceive to be your truth…