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Double Jeopardy

Talking to Ourselves

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: Ruth L

The words that we carry in our minds are able to change any moment.

— John Ortberg

Everything I have ever done has been in spite of my view of myself.  Over time, I’ve learned that by putting the right words in my mind, I can greatly increase my flexibility and creativity.  I can improve my view of myself, at least temporarily.

Many years ago, when I was working for Big Business, my manager announced the intent to invest in each of her direct reports.  She committed to send us to the professional development class of our choice, if we would just look around, choose a class, and attend it.

I chose a class on time management being offered by Career Track (talk about a name out of the past!).  While I was there, I bought a self-esteem class by Jack Canfield that I could listen to on tape.  Although self-esteem had been a big thing in California, in Illinois we’d never heard of it – especially in Catholic schools!

In Spite of…

When I was younger, I just muddled through.  I had no vision of where I belonged.  My first job was as a computer lab tech – which meant that I knew just enough to be able to help the other clueless students who were learning how to program.  That was just fun – hanging out in a place I belonged and having fun.  I don’t actually remember ever helping anyone.

Then, I got a job as an accounting clerk when I left home because I’d enjoyed Accounting 101 and I needed work.  It was a three-person office: owner was a rage-a-holic and I was scared of him and his assistant all the time.  So eventually I quit.  I was just 18.

When my husband and I moved to Southern California I got another job as an accounting clerk.  As the company grew, I was promoted to supervisor.  This was nice but I was going nowhere fast and I decided to go back and get my Bachelors of Science degree.  Two years later I was graduating and had a job with Big Business.

Up to this point, I’d always been in the background.  My new job required that I step forward and lead – not on day one, but eventually.  This was the beginning of being aware of the gap between how I saw myself and the role I was expected to play.  Despite being extremely well trained, I often felt like an imposter.

I climbed the “corporate ladder” – doing well and feeling awful.  I would brazen my way through the week and try to recover every weekend.  When I found the concept of self-esteem, I felt I had found a possible source of encouragement.

But I Repeat Myself

One of the recommendations that came out of the course on self-esteem was to recite affirmations.  There have been lots of jokes written about affirmations.  It has even gotten to the point where the person who uses affirmations is a stock character who is the butt of lots of jokes.  But affirmations do perform one key function – they replace the things we would naturally say to ourselves with something more positive.  And the more we repeat them, the more easily we can access them when we want to replace negative thinking with something more positive.

Affirmations aren’t the only way to improve our thought processes.  Christians have been encouraged to memorize passages in the Bible.  Why? – to replace the thoughts that come up when we’re facing challenges.  Left on their own, our minds can tend to go to thoughts like:

  • I can’t do this.
  • Why me?
  • What did I ever do to deserve this?

Or at least my mind goes there.

If we have memorized favorite poems or passages from the Bible or even affirmations, we have something that we can replace the “awfulizing” thoughts with:

  • I can deal with this.  I may not want to, but I have the skills to overcome this challenge.
  • Why me? – Why not me?
  • None of us deserves bad times – they’re just part of life.
  • Awfulizing makes it harder for me to deal with this challenge.
  • The Lord is my shepherd
    I shall not want.
    Psalm 23:1
  • God is our refuge and our strength
    A very present help in trouble.
    Psalm 46:1
  • Let naught trouble thee;
    Let naught frighten thee;
    All things pass.
    God alone changeth not.
    Patience can do all things.
    Whoever has God has everything.
    God alone sufficeth.
    Prayer of St. Teresa

In his book, The Me I Want to Be:  Becoming God’s Best Version of You, Ortberg says that the words we have in our minds can change any moment.  If we want that change to be positive, we must have a ready inventory of encouraging, mentally healthy words at the ready – ideas that can start us on the path to facing our challenges from a firm footing.  By putting the right words in our minds, we can greatly increase our flexibility and creativity.

What poems or thoughts encourage you?  Lift your spirits?  Do they come to mind easily?  Gather up the words that help you so you can be ready when you face discouraging times.  Memorize them – it’s good for you and it’s good for your memory.  OR write them down and carry them with you – in your organizer or on your iPhone.  Make it easy for you to encourage yourself.  It can change the moment.

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Cup o’ Inspiration

cup with steam swirl

Take a short break and consider the following:

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”

Swedish Proverb

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