Growing up my mom was strict, but compassionate. When I’d make a mistake, break a rule, or give up, she’d expect me to be better, but with an undertone of “getting” it.
“Jenny, you’re fifteen and in love. I understand, it’s a beautiful feeling. But you can’t just lie there listening to the Sleepless In Seattle soundtrack on repeat all afternoon. You have to live your life. And do your homework.” (I’m her sixth child. She’s a patient woman.)
But there was one thing she wouldn’t “get” – wouldn’t accept, wouldn’t tolerate. Negative self talk. If I ever said I was stupid, or ugly, or incapable her soft blue eyes would steel and storm quicker than you could say “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.” She’d look me in the eyes, sometimes take me by the shoulders, and say, “Don’t. You. Dare.” Sometimes she would make me say three positive things about myself which made me smile and roll my eyes, but probably made more of a difference than I realized.When I was away from my mom, out in the world, I’d hear other kids say ugly things to themselves. If I was tuned into their self-talk, it could scratch at my ears and prick my heart. After years of reinforcement from my mom, I could hear it for what it was – the ugliest kind of lie.
The thing is this – lies muck everything up. Lies make you question your reality and sanity. I think we come to this earth ready to be finely tuned Truth Receptors. Our brains and bodies are built to process enormous amounts of data and then draw conclusions based on the information that’s been received. The system slows when what we see or hear doesn’t match up with what we know. Every tiny untruth becomes a wrinkle that turns into a kink that turns into a clog. Our systems get broken and the Truth gets tangled up with the lies.
I think it’s easier to detect a lie from far away. People seem to be skeptical of the the honesty of corporations or governments. It’s much harder to tell when the lies come from closer to home – a parent or a partner telling you something over and over that just doesn’t feel true. That’s trouble. That puts cracks in your foundation. But when the lies come from you, the foundation can break.
Ultimately, you can’t control what lies others tell you. That only adds weight to the truth you need to tell yourself. You have no room for the lies that come from within. You have no space for deception that distracts you from the Truth of what you are. Of course, on some level you know that the lies aren’t true. Of course, deep down you know that you are not the personification of Stupid, Crazy, Ugly, or Fat. You know that. But that doesn’t mean that hearing it, or feeling it over and over can’t confuse you. Don’t you dare drink that poison. Not one sip.
Every self-criticism isn’t a lie. There’s a chasm of difference between, “I did a stupid thing” and “I am stupid.” If you do something, you can notice it and choose to do something different in the future. You can choose to fix your mistake. You can be better. If you believe you are the thing, you’re sunk.
I’d bet that people who have learned to tell the truth from the lies are much more open to constructive criticism. I can hear feedback that I did something poorly. I can learn that I was wrong. I don’t confuse that with my being fundamentally broken. It’s so different to know that you can get better from where you are than to erroneously believe that you’re stuck in one place.
I know that not everyone has someone like my mom to look them in the eye and remind of them of who they are. So let me take you by your shoulders and look you in your eyes and tell you what I know you are.
You, like everyone else, are a work in progress.You are awareness in an infinite universe. Among the stars and trees, galaxies and grasses, You. Are. The fact that you exist is an unfathomable miracle. Made of atoms from stars that have traveled for billions of years across the universe and arranging themselves into You. Sitting there. Now. Pushing through, developing, changing, growing. The atoms of stars that are now hands and hearts and brains that are thinking about their origin and essence.
If you need a soundtrack to listen to while you contemplate the Universe, I’ve got just the thing.