Driving through London on the weekend, I watched a couple of girls on the pavement as I waited for the lights to change. They looked like they were hanging around waiting for something cool to do. They had that special pent-up energy about them peculiar to fourteen or fifteen year olds. One had a cap rammed backwards on her head. The other was transfixed by the dark glass wall of an office building. She could see her reflection in the glass and she was making rude gestures at it, pulling her lip into ugly shapes, grimacing and turning from side to side. She wasn’t exactly posing. She looked angry with herself and she also looked pretty silly – oblivious to the dozens of motorists on the busy road watching her until the lights changed.
We moved on but I thought about her again this morning when I realised she was only doing what we all do all the time. You may not show off in the main highway but I’ll bet that you talk to yourself all the time and the things you say to yourself are less than complimentary. How many times a day do you try to do something and end up calling yourself a fool or an idiot or worse? How often do you think bleakly about something you really want to achieve and tell yourself it’s impossible? Do you tell yourself other people can do it but you haven’t got the money, the time, the courage, or the talent for it? What you’re really doing is fighting with yourself, standing in your own way, fighting in the mirror as it were. To many of us this feels like self-protection. If we are quick to defeat ourselves, then no-one else can do it for us.
If you were talking to a child who you wanted to be happy and successful, would you behave like this? Wouldn’t you know that a child needs encouragement and praise for achievements to learn how to build on them and go on to greater success? What about that childish, unsure part of you that needs safety and encouragement to grow into strength? Doesn’t that part deserve your best efforts to let it grow and earn a place in your life?
In Hawaii I knew a man who developed a special kind of diet. It was called the Happiness Diet. The rules are very simple. The diet lasts a week and it works like this. The first day you’re allowed to say three unkind things to yourself. The second day you’re allowed to say two unkind things to yourself. The third day you’re allowed one self-critical comment. The fourth, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh day you’re not allowed ANY at all. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Just calmly watch what you do and whether it is achieving what you want. Try it. It’s not as easy as you might think.
And next time you’re having a fight with someone, after you have listed in your mind all the things this person does that are so irritating, take time to ask yourself what it is in YOU that makes them behave in this unacceptable way. Perhaps they are short tempered and tired. How are you? Perhaps they are insecure and feeling threatened. How are you? Perhaps they always have to prove a point and will never let anything drop. Did you? Hmmn. I’m prepared to bet that if you think about it you’ll find you’ve been fighting in the mirror again. Pretty stupid huh?