Lately, I’ve been having imagined scenarios in my head about people from my past (friends, loves, colleagues, etc) being mean or cruel to me. Honestly, it’s something that’s been going on all my life to a degree, but ever since I started earnestly practicing cognitive behavioral therapy and managing my mind, I’d hoped these imagined scenarios would soon become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, my brain continues to go on tangents by reminding me of these people who used to be in my life in negative ways.
Regardless of how things ended, I’ve always been left with the feeling that the negative aspects of the relationship were all or predominately my fault and I was somehow the “bad” one. This may be true and it may not be true. The brain can oftentimes be an unreliable narrator both in or outside of our own favor. The point is that it is in the past and I shouldn’t be exerting energy on re-living painful situations and imagining new, more painful possibilities. So why does this keep happening?
NO ONE KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN “YOU”
I’ve tried stopping my thoughts mid-feeling and I’ve tried fighting back in the scenarios. I always lose and they keep coming back. Because you know more about yourself than anybody else does, you have more ammo to shoot yourself down in an imagined argument than you can think of to fight back with. You. Will. Always. Lose. And because you’ve always lost without a resolution, the scenario pops up over and over again.
WHERE DO THESE FEELINGS COME FROM?
It’s all your insecurities, things your brain thinks you should feel self-conscious about. Your brain is just putting them in the form it thinks frightens you most as a way of protecting you in the future. I was so hung up on the people I was recalling that I didn’t stop to think about what they were actually saying to me in the scenarios. Basically, my brain was using the representation of “friends” and “loves” who had once known me or hurt me (especially those who had pointed out specific insecurities in the past) to establish credibility when reminding me of the things I feared in the past. Your brain is just dressing up your insecurities the best way it knows how. The people in the scenarios actually have nothing to do with how you feel. They’re just masks.
So, how do we overcome these insecurities? These thoughts? One way to do so is to unmask them and tackle them one by one. You don’t have to fight these long drawn out arguments in your head. You will lose anyway. You don’t need to prepare for interactions with these people either, but you do need to change your thinking on the insecurities that are being brought up in the scenarios. Once you do that, it won’t matter if you’re ever actually in the depicted situation because you’ve already intrinsically mastered your fears. It can’t hurt you anymore.
THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION: SELF-ACCEPTANCE
As I said, you have to assess each insecurity one by one until you’ve neutralized them by thinking and believing new positive or neutral thoughts. The main goal of doing all of this is to arrive at a place of self-acceptance. You cannot change anyone else’s thoughts and feelings toward yourself. Even if you tried, it would be a futile effort in the long run. It’s not your responsibility to convince everyone you meet to validate your existence, nor is it their responsibility to grant you that validation. However, you can change how other’s thoughts and feelings about YOU and YOUR way of life make you feel through radical self-acceptance.
Most insecurities originate from some notion that someone (or someones) will not like or understand you based on who you are, how you look, what you believe, whom you know, what you do, how you live, or any other petty judgment call one human being can make against another. We’re scared that people won’t accept the person we are and.. will be mean to us. All our insecurities boil down to just that one fear. Your brain uses these situations from your past to remind you that these situations are indeed feasible and could happen again. Ask yourself, if we did truly live in a “perfect world” and everyone practiced acceptance, compassion, and understanding of each other, would your insecurity carry nearly as much weight or cause you nearly as much pain?
LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF
While the insecurity generated from that fear may be valid in the sense that someone might not accept you or like you (that’s their right) and they may treat you accordingly, you do not have to waste your time or energy expecting people to dislike or mistreat you. That’s not something you’ll ever be able to meaningfully control, so stop trying! What someone else thinks of you has nothing to do with how you should feel about yourself. Only you can control your feelings. Stop giving other’s that type of power over you. You decide what’s wrong and right with your life. You decide how you’re meant to live. You decide whom you are going to be. No one else can take away or influence that unless YOU let them.
We like to think that they can and we’re defenseless, but the reality is that our very “thinking” and, therefore, believing that they can is the only thing that gives them such power. Take it away by only giving such power to yourself through self-acceptance and self-love. Own the person you are today. Believe in the person you are today and love the person you are today. People may not always be accepting of YOUR way of existing, but you have nothing to fear any longer so long as you truly accept yourself.
Of course, you should know that you CAN change or make improvements to yourself without rejecting the person you are today. Enhance yourself from a place of love and not hatred or fear and it will significantly increase your likelihood of achieving said goal and maintaining it for years to come.
- The negative scenarios in our heads are just our brain’s way of protecting us from things that we feel insecure about.
- Overcome them by unmasking them and finding out what your brain is really trying to say it thinks/believes about you.
- Practice radical self-acceptance as a way of challenging and eradicating your brain’s negative impulses.