Self critical thoughts. Guilty thoughts. Thoughts about what I should have done. Fearful thoughts about what others think.
How dark are the thoughts that follow you around each day? Mine get pretty dark.
This is haunting if we let ourselves identify with them. We listen to the fears of inadequacy just because they won’t shut up. We believe we really are failures because it’s all we can think about – no matter how much self improvement we read. If it was possible for us to be fixed then why do we still feel so broken?
Stop. We are not our thoughts. I need you to see the bigger picture of who you are – not thoughts but actions. I bet you take great care of your pets even when you feel horrible. I bet you have tried self care like yoga and meditation and journaling so you can feel better. I bet you try to help out your friends and family in little ways. Your actions paint a different picture of you than your thoughts. I can’t stop you from judging yourself, but I can ask you to at least consider all the evidence.
I know you feel a lot of pain. I know the thoughts are dark and you wish they would stop. But don’t you dare believe that those thoughts define who you are. You never chose those thoughts. You didn’t ask to feel the pain and negativity. The real you is the one who decided what actions you wanted to take. Do not base your identity and self image on thoughts you don’t even want in your head. Look at the actions you take. Look at the work you put in, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it. That’s who you are.
You are the captain of a ship in turbulent water. You are steering your life every day in a storm of thoughts that you can’t control. Here’s the thing. It’s not your fault that this storm is here. Don’t hate yourself because the wind is howling and the ship is rocking. You are not the storm, you just need to steer the ship. It’s easy to think that other people share the thoughts you do. That they think about you as negatively as you do, but that’s not true. They don’t see the storm you feel inside, they just see you steering the ship. They see your actions. They see you trying to help others, they see the work you do, the work you put in, the words you say. The actions are who you choose to be, and the version of you that the world sees. Not your thoughts.
Maybe your actions haven’t been what you wanted lately. Mine haven’t either. That’s hard because it can create even more dark thoughts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t choose different actions today. Your actions today define who you are. Not your actions yesterday, and sure as hell not your negative thoughts. So imagine all your thoughts as waves in the ocean passing through. They come and go, some are painful, but they never last. They are not you. You are not your thoughts. You are your actions, and you can choose your actions.
Who will you choose to be today?
Further reading: If this post resonated with you then I highly recommend Awareness by Anthony de Mello. When we identify with every thought in our head it’s like walking a tightrope during an earthquake. Negative thoughts pull us in so many directions and life is anything but peaceful or calm. This book is incredible for helping you become aware of your thoughts and step back from the ones that aren’t helpful. His advice helped me catch negative thought loops faster and step out of them. They still come up, but they only get 5 minutes steering the ship before I kick them out, not 5 hours.