You Really Love Me?

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! April’s theme is dealing with negativity. When you decide to go in a new direction you can encounter a lot of it, from yourself and others. Last week I spoke about that pesky voice inside my head. This week I’m going to expand on that a little and discuss how I’m learning to co-exist with it. Slowly.

I am a fan of Seth Godin. One of the things that he talks about fairly regularly is the lizard brain, or amygdala. Briefly, this is the part of your brain that is responsible for basic survival – it stores your emotions, drives reproduction and keeps you breathing. It does not do calculus or compose music, if you catch my drift.

The thing about that part of our brain is that it isn’t really created for our modern world. If you are in physical danger because a wild animal is about to eat you, your fight or flight response comes in handy. If you are afraid of asking for a promotion and you get sweaty and your legs go weak and you can’t swallow and you just want to run, your fight or flight response is out of place. You are not in physical danger. Attacking or fleeing the scene will not help you.

A lot of our anxiety, and our anxiety reaction, is simply inappropriate in a world where we’re pretty much never in a situation where we need to run or fight. But understanding that doesn’t make the negative voices go away. At least, it doesn’t for me. I can absolutely know, in my rational mind, that I have absolutely nothing to fear by taking a risk. Like, say, asking someone for something. And yet, it terrifies me. It makes me feel vulnerable, and leaves me questioning myself. I start asking who I think I am, anyway, and it all goes downhill from there.

I am also a fan of Havi Brooks. She talks about how that lizard brain, that ‘stuckness’, that negative voice, just wants to keep us safe. When that little voice pipes up and starts telling me I shouldn’t try new things, it’s trying to protect me. It’s my primitive brain, that has a lot of fears and just wants to make sure that I live to see another day. It lacks any sense of perspective, because perspective is not its job. And so it responds to my fear that people will laugh at me in the same way as my fear that my toddler may come to his untimely end in a grocery store parking lot – with sweaty palms and heart-stopping terror.

Let’s be fair – trying new things doesn’t always go well. You’re not going to be good at everything right out of the gate. Other people aren’t always going to see what you see, or share your opinions. Sometimes, that hurts. Sometimes it really, stinking, hurts. Receiving a rejection letter is not my idea of a good time. Getting a bad grade in a course is not my idea of a good time. Losing miserably at mini golf is also not my idea of a good time. These things are not going to kill us, but they are going to sting. And so that little negative voice pipes up and suggests I shouldn’t even try, because not trying feels safer than taking a risk.

My negative voice does not mean me harm – it’s more like a misguided, nagging, older relative than an enemy. Knowing that changed things for me. I still feel scared to take risks sometimes. I still don’t enjoy it when things don’t go well. But I am learning not to give too much weight to the negative voice. It loves me, but it doesn’t know what’s best for me when my survival is not on the line. So I can listen to the warnings, consider them, and discard them if I need to. Stepping outside my comfort zone might not be comfortable, but it’s not necessarily dangerous, either. And that’s the difference my negative voice doesn’t understand.

What about you? How do you keep your negative thoughts in perspective? Or do you? I will admit I’m not so great at this myself yet, so if you have any pointers or commiseration I’d love to hear. Also, if you are also a phenomenally awful mini golfer, we should start a club or something. Except we shouldn’t call it a ‘club’, because ‘club’ may hold negative associations for horrible mini golfers.

April’s Crafting my Life series is about dealing with negativity. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be the 29th, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on this month’s theme anytime in April, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.

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  1. It’s funny how those voices can really give me anxiety. I do fear “club’s” as well. Even when I was in business school I had thought about joining the Marketing Club. But somehow my thoughts of “Club” meant ‘click’ and that I wouldn’t fit in. Did I have to apply or try out? Probably not. But my fear made me think I did, so I never joined the Club. I was never a true athlete in high school, but I was on team sports (tennis, volleyball, soccer). Maybe if these clubs were looked at as “teams” they would be more inviting?

    Also, I think a lot of people grow up in fear of asking for help. I was someone who hated asking for help because I had this weird desire to prove that I could figure things out on my own. I usually needed help in the end but my voice told me No.
    I have found myself approaching my son with this in mind. I watch him struggle with picking a certain toy out of his toy box, or opening a container. I watch him struggle for a bit because I think it’s important for him to see if he can do it himself. But I do ask if he needs help. He usually is relieved and tells me YAH. My husband has picked up on my questions and also asks our son if he needs help. I’m actually really thrilled that our son looks forward to our help. Maybe the little voices in his head will not let him be afraid of the same things I am.
    .-= Sara´s last post ..We survived the bug =-.

  2. Reassurance from my hubby does wonders for me when I am dealing with that negative lizard-brain.
    And I would totally qualify for your Awful-at-Mini-Golf non-club 🙂
    .-= Maman A Droit´s last post ..Wordless Wednesday: Baby Loves Swinging! =-.

  3. For me it’s all about lowering my own expectations. I have been raised to strive for – and expect – perfection, and that is a horrible burden to bear. I don’t expect perfection from anyone else, and it’s been a gradual process of changing how I view myself. So much healthier too!
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last post ..Project: Spring Green =-.

  4. I can’ti say that I’m a person who is afraid to try new things. The fear of failure in that regard isn’t a strong motivator for me. However, I am intensely affected by what others think of me (or at least what I perceive that to be) and I don’t think the two are all that difference. I can be emotionally paralyzed by thoughts of worry over my intense desire to impress others and live up to their expecations. It causes me to avoid confrontation, and affects my professional life substantially. I’m working on it, but it’s a very difficult hurdle to overcome. That said, your discussion about the fight or flight theory is very interesting to me. I think I need to read more! Thanks for introducing me to Seth Godin and Havi Brooks. Great post as always! Thanks for keeping me thinking Amber.
    .-= Christine LaRocque´s last post ..For better or worse: My children are Catholic =-.

  5. I am an optimistic person and my friends lean on me quite a bit due to my optimism and ability to see the sunny side of life. I try not to be negative but I can think of a few things that cause me anxiety…speaking engagements for one…no matter how prepared I am, how much I try to calm myself…I am still self conscious and anxious. My voice shakes, my heart pounds and I am very aware of my mannerisms and try to control them. I am also negative about my abilities as a mother/wife…especially when my house is a mess or I’m allowing my six year old more computer time than she should have. I often have trouble just sitting and relaxing when I’m at home because I am constantly thinking of things that need to be done. I think this comes with the territory of “working mom” since there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the laundry done and put away and have the toy room spotless but I still beat myself up about it. How do I deal with the negativity? I look for external validation…lol….and I look for solutions. I just jump right in and do the thing that scares me. I get nervous speaking in public, but for a year and and half I did it as part of my job because people kept telling me that the more you do it, the better you become. When that little voice comes into my head telling me I can’t do something, I usually just tell it to “be quiet” or “stop it!” and I turn my thoughts elsewhere…like thanking God for my beautiful children or a sunny day.
    .-= Tanya´s last post ..Easter Weekend shenanigans =-.

  6. I always feared rejection so much that I never joined a club or organized group activity (even if I thought I’d be great at it). I was not in the popular crowd, and to tell you the truth I was afraid to even try too hard to be liked by that group. I plunked along in my safe zone with my truly wonderful (and safe) friends, and stuck to my safe classes that could give me good grades (with the exception of daring Drafting and Electronics, but I didn’t know those were unusual choices when I enrolled, and I did very well at them).

    About games though…. I have always taken them VERY LIGHTLY. They are play. They are recreation, I don’t need to be good or even try harder than I think will be fun…. and THAT’s why I am not a professional athlete of any sort! That’s probably why I was picked last in all the team stuff in PE in school too! LOL

    As a grown up those anxieties (and overly relaxed sports attitiudes) manifest in different ways. I do not put myself out there to be rejected often. But at the same time I have lost my fear of speaking with purpose to strangers (salespeople, clerks, waitresses,etc.). By keeping my goals positive and constructive I can overcome a lot of anxieties “for the greater good”. It’s the purely selfish motivations that I can’t seem to be an advocate for yet.
    .-= *pol´s last post ..Spring has really sprung! =-.

  7. Oh, these voices in our heads sure do speak loudly don’t they? I know all about it, being paralyzed by what others might think, dreaming up stories of who I am or who I am supposed to be, neither really being real and then living my life by it. I feel I am at a crossroads right now in my life and the only thing that is really holding me back from going in a new direction is fear. I know that at 35 the time for waiting for my life to happen is over. It is happening now. In the past I have made decisions out of a reaction to something or someone, usually because I was afraid and they were never good decisions. My new strategy? Being still. Those negative thoughts seem to run most rampant when I am busily trying to figure things out, looking for answers, talking to everyone I know, hoping that they might have a deeper insight into my life than I do of my own. When I know, that the answer, encouragement, and reassurance is already there inside of me, I just have to be willing to listen to it.

    You’re blog is great by the way, we need more mothers like yourself being honest about their experience. Authenticity really is a rare thing these days. I’m looking forward to reading more.
    .-= Catherine ´s last post ..still =-.

  8. Paul Caspell says:

    It’s really theraputic to hear about other peoples’ experiences with the negative voice. Also to reinforce the knowledge that it’s “lizard brain” stuff & troublesome but not harmfull. Check out my soaring video on youtube. It’s called pemberton casiope. I’m glad the lizard voice turns off sometimes!

  9. I think that a lot of practice helps too – visualizing or verbalizing how you want to feel or think, pretending that you feel positive. At first it feels like playacting, but later, after you body and mind have experience being calm, cool, and collected, it starts to feel natural.
    .-= Lady M´s last post ..Experiments that One Finds in Bathroom Cupboards =-.

  10. Sometimes what I call “reality” my US husband calls “negative thoughts”, and what I call “fake upbeat behavior” he calls “positive attitude”. It really is all a matter of perspective.
    .-= Francesca´s last post ..Vintage worlds on our plates =-.

  11. I want to stay in my cave where it’s warm and cozy.
    .-= harriet Fancott´s last post ..Weekly Update =-.

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