Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Negative thoughts are like weeds...they pop up everywhere!

I am very blessed to have so many people in my life who care about and support me in my journey. Most would say that I have a positive attitude and can often find good in tough situations. One, ironically the person closest to me, tells me frequently, however, that I am often“negative.” This, of course, really irks me because I think it’s more a situation where this person doesn’t really understand and share my thought process, emotional make-up, drive, passion, faith…etc….than it is that I am a “negative” thinker.  In addition, because I am a first-born child and my father died when I was a little girl, I had a lot of responsibility while growing up and much was expected from me at a young age. As a result, I am very independent and always have a “back-up plan” just in case. Conversations such as, “If this happens, I will do this…..and worst case scenario, blah blah blah…….” After all, I need to take care of myself, right?   I readily admit that I am a complex, emotional person, but I think it’s more of a situation that this person “just doesn’t GET ME” than the fact that I am a negative person; although, I admit that I am pretty hard on myself sometimes….and I always think I could have done better; been nicer; tried harder…and so forth.

With that being said, however, this morning was a perfect example of how I almost let negative thinking ruin my day. I have a big photo shoot coming up next week for another magazine feature story. This one is for a popular women’s magazine called FIRST.  The magazine is hiring a photographer, hair, makeup, and a wardrobe consultant, and sending this crew to do a four-hour shoot.  I suppose because they are sending this crew I feel a bit more apprehensive, especially because I’ve not been feeling overly confident about my body this summer because my body weight is shifting around, the excess skin is becoming more of an issue, likely due to age, gravity, and the fact that I have been unable to ride the bike and walk as much this summer because of the RA flares and issues that have been causing some distress. I’m also going to wedding this weekend out of town with a long-time, very dear friend (very excited!).  For the past few days, I’ve been trying to choose outfits for the photo shoot and a dress for the wedding and I’ve been way too hard on myself and have likely been a bit “negative” in my thinking about myself. This morning I tried on 7 different dresses….and a whole lot more over the weekend, and I STILL don’t know what I’m going to wear to either event. Wow, has life changed! A few years ago when invited to a wedding I would have two choices…either the black “tent-like dress” or the other black “tent-like dress!” Now I’m having to choose between the 30+ dresses (almost all bought at a thrift store, garage sale, or EBay) that I have hanging in the closet. Am I blessed or what???? J As I tried them on one by one, I found fault with each of them although I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of them. I was just being overly critical of myself. I recognized this after about a half-hour and a pile of clothes on the bedroom floor and decided to put the wardrobe choices off until tonight or tomorrow. Such problems…eh?  Even I think it sounds ridiculous as I type it.

Ironically, all weekend I have been thinking a great deal about negative thoughts….not necessarily just my own…but in general. They are just like weeds; they grow easier than flowers or plants and can pop up out of no-where. They need constant attention to remove them or they will very easily take over your life/garden.  Sometimes they even come disguised as flowers/friends when they sport a blossom, but in reality, they are threats to the garden….robbing the desirable things of nutrients/energy. Just like a weed, it’s often much easier to harbor negative thoughts/emotions than positive ones….but if left untended, they will eventually take over completely and choke out the joy, peace, love, and sense of well-being that we work so hard to cultivate and grow.

No matter how hard we try to be positive all the time, all of us likely have days when negative thoughts creep in. Sometimes those thoughts are completely unfounded, but rear their ugly head, especially when we are tired, stressed, hormonal, or just not feeling well.  Sometimes they are brought on by others in our life who “push our buttons” or somehow rattle our cage. No matter what brings them on, negative thoughts can sabotage a person’s journey quicker than a Big Mac and fries! I may even go so far as to say that ‘negative thinking” and “negative people” are the biggest threat to my well-being and peace of mind…..likely because I am an emotional eater and when I allow negativity to take root, I want to eat.  Somehow I think that a protein bar will make me less irritated and/or feel better….but it doesn’t…..and then I feel bad about eating when I’m not hungry….and so I eat a piece of fruit to make me feel better….and then I think… “Gosh, Theresa, why did you do that?” and then I feel bad….and…..so it goes.  I’m guessing that there are A LOT of you reading this that are saying, “Oh my…THAT’s ME!”  Am I right?  J

SO…..I know the cycle….and I have to fight against it every day.  We all encounter negativity and often we have no choice. We don’t typically have any control over our co-workers who are constantly complaining about the company or the boss. We can’t do much about that in-law or relative that is continually belittling someone in the family or being crabby about everything. We can’t always make people like us, respect us, agree with us, etc…  Sometimes we have NO CHOICE about those around us….we need to work….we’re obligated to attend a family function, etc.  In those situations, we simply have to do our best to control our reactions to these individuals and situations. 

There are situations, however, when we can CHOOSE to avoid negative people by making changes in our life. Sometimes this means that we need to limit our time with those that continually threaten to drag us down. This is especially true in those situations where our “old friends” are still practicing habits that we are trying to change.  A recovering alcoholic likely won’t want to continue to go to the bars on the weekends and hang with the “drinking crowd.” A person trying to practice gratitude won’t likely want to spend a lot of time surrounded by those that are continually finding fault with EVERYTHING from the weather to the sports team, and complaining about everything and everyone. Rather, we need to find people who are like-minded….encouraging….uplifting; those that want us to succeed and continually support us, especially when we are feeling discouraged or down.  That’s why I love this group and why I am so grateful to have people around me that are like-minded and working to change their own life….or at least encourage/support/affirm me on mine.

In a conversation this weekend, I was telling a new friend about wardrobe dilemma and complaining that “this dress made me look hippy” and “ I felt fat in that one” and…….so forth.  He said something to me that really brought things into perspective.  He said something like this….. “Theresa, you know…for so many years you sat in a corner and couldn’t even participate in life….and now, listen to you….BEING NORMAL…..Almost all women your age have these same thoughts….complaining about their bodies….not being happy about their hips…..their thighs…etc… Look at you…. you are a typical woman and for the first time….you get to participate in those conversations. Isn’t that great?”   You know what….he is absolutely right!  I’m guessing that if I asked the group….or a group of my co-workers….how many of them are happy with their bodies….I’ll likely not find many.  His perspective helped turned an agitated mood into a good one…one of gratitude for SO MANY THINGS.

So, my friends….today…I encourage you to join me in choosing to be positive. You may have to dig deep to find the good in the situation….you may be hanging on by a thread….but I’m guessing, that if you are like me and feeling a bit ‘out of sorts” today or in the future, you will soon discover that if you take a little break and look at the situation you’ll see that things are not as bad as they seem.  Take a walk….pull some weeds….call a friend….clean out a drawer….read a book….do  WHATEVER you need to do to avoid eating/drinking/smoking/saying/spending something that you will later regret.  Let’s make this a great day….by choosing to be positive and grateful …..even if you are feeling a bit “hippy” like me! J