We’re all guilty of playing the victim to our negative thoughts, but these days, it’s a crippling habit to be a negative fortune teller, especially if the fortune is yours and the forecast is constant rain clouds and thunderstorms.
Imagine sitting at your desk, eating some roasted almonds trying to get some sort of momentum going. First of all, imagine sitting at a desk in an office again! Crazy, right? You’re minding your own business, going about your workday when suddenly, your boss walks by. Now, normally, they might stop and ask you about your weekend, what you’re working on or why you’ve resorted to a diet purely of nuts, but on this particular day, they walk by without so much as a bit of eye contact or a simple ‘hello.’
We know what you’re thinking and we agree: Obviously, your boss hates you, you’re about to get fired, your girlfriend will quickly dump you, your toxic friends will call you a loser but not before reminding you you’re going to die alone, which will seamlessly lead to you being homeless and gathering what food you can from muster from a dumpster as you slowly wither way in the blistering cold, despite living in a fairly warm climate, wishing you had some of those almonds you took for granted to gnaw on.
OK, that actually does sound crazy. But it’s not far from the common tales we tell ourselves on a daily basis.
Negative fortune-telling is an unconscious interaction we have with ourselves, one that takes a tiny morsel of reality and expands it into a full-blown horror movie in our minds that we tell ourselves with unending sequel upon terrible sequel. Now, there should be some relief in reminding you that it’s only a movie, and there are no monsters under your bed, but the trouble with negative fortune-telling is that when you do it enough, some of the items from this little shop of horrors can manifest themselves into your life, which is why it needs to stop.
Negative thinking can rewire your brain in a bad way when you do it often enough, which means it’s imperative we override those with positive thoughts. But that sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? The best thing you can do is not let your mind run rampant in the first place, but how do we avoid that?
But just to be safe, let’s first break that scenario down.
Yes, maybe you do eat solely almonds to get you through too often, but the fact your boss didn’t stop to say hello could be caused by any number of reasons, most, if not all, unrelated to you and your nuts. Maybe they had a bad weekend, found out a loved one was ill, stubbed their toe in the kitchen while trying to make breakfast for their picky kids who, for some reason, want spaghetti at 7 AM. Maybe the business has been extra slow, they had too much wine with dinner last night and the fluorescent lights are making an unexpected hangover a bit worse, or maybe (just maybe) they discovered a weird fungus growing between their toes — probably athlete’s foot, easy fix — that they didn’t know was possible.
So how do we fix this (the negative thinking, not athlete’s foot)? Let’s see here…
Avoid Making It All About You (And Your Need to Be Liked)
One of the most common traits we share is our constant need to be liked. Exhibit A: social media.
When someone doesn’t praise our good work, notice our new shoes or even bother to acknowledge us, we take that as an offense and must get to the root as to why they hate our work, our style and our general existence. In reality, we’re just consumed with our neverending story, to which we have a beautifully-curated soundtrack we’ve worked very hard to keep updated. It’s not just on social media, it’s everywhere — the need to be seen.
By having a bit of empathy and realizing not everything that happens in this world is of direct consequence to the shoes we chose to wear today, we can move forward with a little less worry about the actions of others and even come out with a better understanding of what’s going on around us, rather than drifting through false oblivion. It makes us more attuned to the plight of others when we realize everyone has a story going on in their head and you are most definitely not the main character of theirs, nor are they the main character of yours.
But seriously, you have Fight Club soundtrack for, like every mood. What’s up with that?
Redirect That Anxious Energy
Most people would pay top dollar to have the kind of energy that gets wasted on needless thoughts and worry, bottled and sold like an energy drink without the need to pee every five minutes. But the funny part is you already have it in you. Maybe lay off the coffee, the ultimate illusion of energy, but otherwise, that superhuman strength is in you somewhere. And when you find it, you have to redirect it towards things that are important to you to keep it going.
What’s more important, doing rewarding work you’re proud of each day or figuring out if spending $300 on plaid loafers no one noticed was a poor judgment call or just all in your head? Not relatable? How about doing great work that makes you love who you are and what you do versus worrying all day if everyone else likes who you are? Because, fun fact, the more you like yourself, the less what others think matters and, yet, the more likely people are to appreciate someone with self-confidence.
Once you’ve decided how you want to use your mind and energy, you’ll feel space opening up for productive thoughts and you might even have some energy to bring those ideas to fruition. But if you live inside a constant fiction that has no end, you’ll find yourself living out some of those negative scenarios where you feel worthless or unworthy of anything good.
Tell Yourself Something Funny
When you catch yourself playing out these wild scenarios in your head, you can feel half-crazy. If that’s the case, we suggest having fun with our psychoses. If you’re going to tell yourself a story based on the unrelated actions of others, make it a short story (and make it humorous). Because most of our negative thoughts are unwanted traits we see in ourselves that we have to project onto others, but if the story becomes a comedy rather than a drama, it opens the door for levity and a bit of ridiculousness to snap you out of that hall of horrors.
If your boss failed to stop by your desk, it’s probably because they have a bad case of food poisoning that presented itself on the way to work, and the only receptacle available was a pair of $300 plaid loafers they were excited to show off that day.
See? Better already. Now you try.
For more ‘Man Enough’ episodes, go here.
Cover image: Photocreo (Envato Elements)