Retraining the Brain

I repeat, once again, the most complex part of this holistic wellness journey and the goals that I am working towards is the emotional/mind health…specifically, rewriting those negative lies in my head that I have believed as truth for so long that have gotten me nowhere.

On several occasions this week, both in small groups that I’ve led and in situations of accountability, the discussion has turned to the ways in which we speak to ourselves, negative self-talk, our perception of ourselves, how we treat ourselves, lies we tell ourselves, and self-fulfilling prophecy.

All I’ve got to say is: Ouch.

This is a hard one for me.  I’m in an interesting place where I am aware of the negativity in my head–I have the awareness of the (let’s be honest here) crap I’m telling myself, yet I’m not always consistently putting in the intentional effort to change it.

Did you catch that?  The intentional effort to change it.  It takes work.  I know what needs to be done.  It’s not a magical prayer to God to remove this thorn–believe me, I’ve asked.  I know this is an area of my life that requires discipline, practice, and intentional effort to transform my thoughts and renew my mind.

I am a person that’s very hard on myself by nature.  I have higher expectations of myself than I do of those around me, and I don’t offer myself the same level of grace that I would offer anyone else.  Messed up, right?  Thank God that He’s got the grace for me in spite of myself!  I also have the propensity to speak to myself and about myself in extremely negative ways and tear myself down at every opportunity.  I would never speak about another person the way I speak about myself in my mind, yet I do it anyway.  It’s rather disgusting.

It’s not as bad as it sounds though–remember, I’ve got a couple years under my belt now chipping away at my goals.  I’m a work in progress–always will be in this area.  I’m certainly not as bad as I used to be, but there’s still light-years worth of room for improvement to really embrace that level of healthy self-worth and true confidence without faking it (and boy, I fake it well some days, because if you think I’m sure of myself in many areas, you’ve got another thing coming!).

Today was a day of forward momentum in this area.  As I was out on my long run, I noticed I was really starting to rag on myself, things like “shut up legs” being probably the only family-friendly phrase I’d be willing to admit on this public forum…but my head can get pretty dark and inappropriate, and rather un-Christlike, trust me.  I became aware that I was doing this, and it annoyed me, which only perpetuated the negative messages in my head.  Then I got to thinking (always scary) and starting to try to dissect this, and questioned why am I really saying these things to myself.  Well, I’m frustrated.  Since I had my surgery and haven’t been strength training as hard due to restrictions, my running times have suffered.  It’s also hot–and it’s scientific fact, studies show that running speeds suffer in summer heat.  I know these things are both out of my control, and I’m not a super competitive person in the first place…I haven’t really come to the conclusion why the timing is bugging me, but it is.  I’m also experimenting with some different changes with my running that while I can see there are improvements in performance, feel, and recovery, it is not yet reflecting in the numbers…I “know” to trust the training, but it gets frustrating.

So, I get to the point a couple miles into this internal dialogue to where I need to figure out what action am I going to take…am I going to spend the next 60-90 minutes ticked off and ready to throat punch the first person that I happen to come up on, or am I going to do something to work on remedying the situation?  Well, luckily I chose the latter…and I didn’t come up upon anyone until less then a mile from home when I encountered the back of the back of a cycling group that didn’t see which way the rest went and I directed traffic with a smile (except the one rogue cyclist of the group who thought I was full of it and whizzed past me…whatever).

Practice.  Transforming negative self-talk into something constructive.  We’re not talking fluffy-glittery unicorn affirmations, because that’s just not my style, and it’s not authentic or believable.  But what I can do is take the specific negative statements, identify the lie in it, and state the truth.  So, “shut up legs,”  translates to, “1…2…3…4…1…2…3…4…the top of this incline is coming.  One foot in front of the other.  Keep going.”  Because you know what comes at the crest of a hill in Havasu?  The victory dance.  (Yeah, it’s a good thing that I run in the wee hours of the morning and there’s no one around. No one needs to see all that goodness, LOL)  And then after the victory dance–comes the downhill, where you feel like you’re flying, like nothing else in the world matters, and where you’re completely invincible.

It’s not impossible to transform my negative self-talk and my perspective of myself–it takes awareness, intentional effort, and consistent practice.  God will honor the effort.  It’s not my work in vain, and I’m not alone.


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