My therapist suggested I study cognitive distortions. As Fancy Nancy would say “That’s just a fancy way of saying negative thoughts.” Everyone has cognitive distortions, we all have erred thinking, but the psychologically unwell, like myself, have these thoughts at an incapacitating level. These thoughts keep me from being emotionally healthy.
There are dozens of identified cognitive distortions but one that I’ve found to be a habitual practice of mine is “PERSONALIZATION.” There is great irony in that term because just about everything in my life feels personal except psychology vernacular.
Personalization is when I make everything about me.
I have an old friend from childhood who has done some impressive things with her life. Both personally and professionally she serves humanity worldwide and advocates for women in particular. She is also a wife and mother and I have confidence she fills those roles well. She periodically posts pictures on Instagram of her international travels to exciting places, where she does genuine, good work for people. I find that after I see these posts instead of appreciating her efforts for the greater good, admiring her ambition and skill, and feeling happy for her life experiences; I feel jealous, depressed, and painfully inadequate.
All of the sudden the inspiring work of a gifted soul has become about ME, and my insecurities. Her success means my failure. Her accomplishments are superior, mine inferior. All of this making her worth to the world greater, and my worth less. Worthless.My boys are obsessed with all things Star Wars, including the Weird Al rendition of "American Pie" titled "Anakin." I have it memorized. Lately I've been thinking about how it is interesting that Yoda felt Anakin wasn’t qualified to be a Jedi because he sensed fear. I’m sure he sensed Anakin’s insecurities, pride, anger and desire for power, but the ultimate deal breaker was fear.
Fear is a sneaky thing. It masks itself as low self-esteem or ego. It is disguised in jealousy and even artificial confidence. But without a doubt I know my personalization comes from fear.
Fear of being fundamentally less than others. Fear that my contributions are less valuable. Fear that if people don’t perceive me as kind, then that means I am not kind. (Or intelligent, or successful.)
I imagine a world without those fears. I dream of a world where all the amazing things other people do enhance my joy, rather than detract from it. A world where I do not fear other’s perceptions of me because I have an internal and abiding understanding that I can contribute and my existence is worthwhile, in spite of my shortcomings. But even underneath my house of confidence and reassurance, in my mind’s eye, I construct a foundation of knowledge that I have inherent worth. It is neither less than those whose lives seem to exceed mine in value, nor is it greater than those whose lives deliberately or incidentally destroy my perceived value.
It just exists. It is the opposite of fear. It is profound personal acceptance and peace. It is not influenced by the behavior, attitude or accomplishments of others. It is liberating. It gives me freedom to act, to live, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, and to love others in spite of their mistakes. It is my mantra.
I AM ENOUGH.
So why the heck can’t I believe it?