About 14 years ago, my theologian-in-training husband and I traversed the globe with a three year old Ginger in tow spending almost a year living overseas in Steffisburg, Switzerland. It was both a un-turn-downable opportunity and heart-attack inducing experience of a lifetime.
I wasn’t just outside of my comfort zone. I was three light years to the southwest of it wishing that the voice translator implant born in Sci-Fi movies had been brought to life already. (I mean, isn’t it about time?)
It was definitely what you would imagine it to be with mountains literally in our backyard littered with tinkling bells of livestock; smells of freshly baked carb-loaded, chocolate filled sticks wafting through the air as you stroll down the chippy cobblestones streets trading your Franks for freshly roasted chestnuts from the wickedly happy entrepreneurial vendor on the street corner.
Just Freakin’ Love Yourself Already.
And of course, Switzerland is known for being neutral. Staying out of world politics and it’s troubles and fights. (Having lived there during the invasion of Iraq, I do have to say, that as you talk to the people, they themselves tend to travel slightly askew of Neutral Lane, but as a nation, they stay the long-standing course of not taking sides and staying in their corner.
As I was wistfully pondering our time there recently, I began to nosh on what it means to be neutral and how it might apply to a new and, perhaps, inventively beneficial way of thinking: to apply it to how we respond to ourselves when we do or say something that we wish we could trap in time and rewind at will for an instantaneous do-over.
Honesty. When’s the last time you made a comment to yourself like:
A. “OMG. I’m so stupid” or
B. “I’m such a dummy”
C. “Idiot. What was I thinking?”
or D. All of the lovely commentary above.
All that self-punishment is so hurtful and damaging and painfully self-degrading. We all make mistakes. But our mistakes don’t have to ruin our day. And they certainly do NOT need to ruin our lives.
It’s time to stop putting on the wig of self-righteousness and sitting aloft the bench of justice in judgment of ourselves. Have you ever seen a movie where the pious priest goes in his chamber, kneels down before the cross and commences to beat himself with a barbed whip? Oh, it makes me cringe when an innocent and pure soul foists such destruction and degradation upon itself.
Yet, that is exactly what we are mentally doing to ourselves when we tell ourselves what dummies we are.
What if we could step back and see ourselves through the Swiss-like lens of neutrality. To remove the judgement from our mentality and see ourselves as we really are, these beautiful, spiritual beings living curiously unpredictable physical lives and doing the best that we can with what we have in any given moment.
To see our mishaps for what they are: Simply errors. So that when we do or say or act in a way that is not in line with our authentic selves, we are equipped with the language and self-introspection to say the things that acknowledge the situation with FACT instead of malice or self-incrimination. Things that take the sting out of our disappointment. Neutral things. Things such as: That was not what I meant to say or do. That was a miscalculation. That was an accident. That didn’t go as I thought it would.
We all experience pain, but it is our own minds that create the suffering we experience in response to that pain. We heap needless agony upon ourselves when we constantly beat ourselves up with our thoughts.
It doesn’t feel good when we mess up, but when we experience a mindset shift that moves us from “our own worst critic” to a neutral arbiter of recognition and thoughtful self-assessment, we relieve the pressure of perfection and open up space in our souls to experience a more light-hearted and curious way of living. We can become accepting of ourselves and our shortcomings as we learn better how to navigate the pitfalls of everyday life and it’s foibles.
Gosh, I’ve said and done some things even this week that I wish I could take back. I’ve been quick to anger and said some unkind things to those that I love the absolute most. But the present becomes the past in an instant, and instant acceptance of that reality is key to moving towards this mindset of neutrality. Can’t change it, so I can either wither in anger, self-judgement and self-pity, living a melancholy, dejected life or I can learn and grow from it.
Ash Ambridge said in one of her recent emails:
How is it possible that a narcissistic serial killer can feel great about themselves, while some of the best, most loving and generous and true people think that they’re absolute shit?
I mean, really, right?
What do you want your life to be? Are you your “own worst critic”? Do you sentence yourself to constant emotional pain because of a simple miscalculation or because you’ve said or done something that came across other than how you intended? (See how I didn’t way “wrong”? That’s the judgmental, negative way to think. Simply changing the language you use creates a dramatic and healing shift.)
The first step is to hear the voice in your head. To really notice it. To see when it starts to chime in with its malicious finger-pointing and wildly off-base misperceptions. When you start to notice it, you can step back from it and watch how it behaves. Then you’ll be able to direct it and control it and change how you talk to yourself about yourself.
Be kinder and be gentler and be more mindfully aware every day. Your life will open up in ways you could have never imagined. Being the arbiter of your actions is a heavy and unnecessary burden. Cast it aside, relieve your load and enjoy your life.
Long story short and the point of this entire literary cantata: Just freakin’ love yourself already.
So now, I want to hear from you. What kind of things do you tell yourself about yourself and how can you change your internal language to become a Swiss-like neutral observer of your life?
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