I’m not God, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Simon Cowell

So why all the judgment?

My recent post on complaining apparently hit a nerve. It seems a lot of people can relate to the frustration of trying to kick the complaining habit. If you haven’t read last week’s post, I suggest you read it here first before continuing.

Many people have come to me to show concern over my well-being since I published that post. They tell me I’m being too hard on myself or have even said “I don’t see you that way at all, Sheila.” Those people have obviously never lived with me. The truth is, there’s ALWAYS room for improvement.

Still others have shared how they’ve overcome, or are attempting to overcome, their tendencies to complain. One thing I noticed about people who’ve been successful is that they’ve learned to embrace an attitude of GRATEFULNESS. Yes, I realize that word has become an overused hashtag, but that’s only because it’s true. I can tell you from experience, however, that just walking around saying I’m grateful or doing a 30-day #gratefulness challenge, has not decreased my complaining. In fact, I found myself complaining about having to be grateful every day, for a month. Ugh.

So, what are we (by WE, I mean ME) to do?? I’m going to try some tips I’ve gleaned over the last few days (and years, to be honest). This won’t be easy. However, I’m going to do this and I hope you join me and find these helpful in your quest to be complaint-free.

#1 BE AWARE

When we respond to something that happens (traffic jam, spilled coffee, long lines, etc), does it sound like this:

  • I HATE that!
  • That’s so ANNOYING!
  • This SUCKS!
  • WTF!
If so, take note of this AUTOMATIC RESPONSE and try to figure out what triggers it. Believe it or not, over the years we complainers have TRAINED our brains to react this way. We weren’t born thinking these things. We have built this habit over time.

If you’re into SCIENCE, check out this article a friend shared with me regarding our brains and how choices become habits that are increasingly difficult (not impossible) to break. I like science, but here’s my SAILOR themed description:

Imagine your brain is an ocean and it’s dotted with little islands. Each island is a different RESPONSE (Happy Island, Sad Island, Scared Island, Pissed Off Island). It’s our “place to go” when we are triggered by something that happens. These happenings are called STIMULI (whatever is perceived by our senses: sight, sound, etc).

When we first experience a particular stimulus, we choose our response-island. Maybe it’s the closest, or the prettiest, or maybe someone told us it was the correct one or ONLY one. Let’s say we choose Pissed Off Island.

So we paddle our little ocean-brain boat over to Pissed Off Island and hang out on the beach. Now that we know the way, next time we experience the same stimulus it’s a little bit easier to find PO’d Island, so we go there again, MORE QUICKLY than before, AND we pack a lunch.

Over time, as we continue to choose the same island, we figure out how to get there faster. We get a bigger, faster boat. Or, we build a bridge so we can just walk over, then a bigger bridge so we can drive, then we add a high-speed train; each time making it easier and quicker to get there and settle into our favorite beach chair with a cold beverage.

It’s no wonder that as adults, we have a hard time changing our patterns. We’ve gotten so comfortable going to the same place and we get there so quickly, we stop bothering to choose, we just GO. We don’t even need to pack a lunch anymore, because we go there so often, it now has a nice little micro-brewpub and a hotel.

Now that we are aware of our automatic responses and see how they’re created, we need to…

#2 DEAL WITH IT

How do we do that? We WAIT.

That’s right. Just wait.

My favorite guru Brendon Burchard agrees with me. Check out his podcast on anger here.

Don’t let the anger or disgust take over your mind and make you give up control. Wait a moment, and decide. Pick your response. Think of it like Pick Your Own Adventure… for grown-ups.

This is probably the most difficult step and I struggle with it every day. It’s so easy to jump on the train and head for my usual frosty mug of Belgium Pale Ale and my lounge chair over on Pissed Off Island. My chair has my name on it for crying out loud. I DAMN sure don’t want to start paddling towards an unfamiliar island (FORGIVENESS Island, perhaps…), and possibly get lost or struggle against strong currents. Forgiveness Island has better amenities and is way better for your health, but it is VERY difficult to get there.

Before jumping on the bullet train to PO’d Island, stop for a second. Take a deep breath and look around. Think about this moment and whether it will be important, or even remembered in 10 years, five years, a year? If not, just pick a different response. Go to a different island. If you stop taking the bridge to PO’d Island, eventually the brain will stop maintaining it and it’ll break down, falling back into the sea. Meanwhile, the route to Forgiveness Island, gets built up over time and becomes easier to traverse. It’s true. This is how I got myself to quit drinking soda. Different story.

Okay, we just learned we can become aware of our responses and we can teach ourselves to choose a new response. In fact, it’s a sign of maturity when we can stop ourselves from mindlessly reacting and make a conscious choice in our response.

What if we wait and we still feel justified in our anger and want to purposely choose PO’d island? After all, somebody WRONGED me and I want vengeance!!

#3 GIVE IT UP

You are not God, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Simon Cowell, so STOP JUDGING!!

Who are YOU to decide what is right and what is wrong, anyway?

Yeah, I said it, and I’ll be the first to admit it…. this one’s HARD for me.

I find myself judging people, but not because I don’t like them. I RARELY dislike people. I judge because I’m intimidated or threatened by them or flat-out scared of them. That’s right! I want to level the playing field, make myself feel better, so in order to do that, I OBVIOUSLY need to bring the people around me down a peg. I do that by finding that one thing about them that makes me crazy. Often, that one thing is also the thing that makes me crazy about myself.

All that judgement is exhausting. I want to be able to accept everyone and everything. The ironic twist is that I’m deathly afraid of being judged by other people; people who may not even notice me, let alone take a moment to come up with some reason to criticize me. It’s entirely possible that these criticisms are made up by me, because I made assumptions (told myself stories) of what those people were thinking.

Okay, so let’s focus on HOW to STOP judging.

Basically, we just need to realize that the WRONGNESS of something is only in OUR HEAD. What we perceive as the RIGHT way, is only right because we DECIDED it is. The truth is that what we call the right way may only be our PERSONAL PREFERENCE. For instance, I prefer the toilet paper to roll over the top, toward me, therefore, in my mind, that is the RIGHT way. You may prefer slow drivers to get over to the right and let you by (I agree, by the way), but it is not WRONG to stay in the left lane. Just annoying. And rude. Rant over.

Cultures are created by masses of people agreeing on the rightness and wrongness of certain actions. This is especially true in religions. There are innumerable religions because whenever people in a particular faith decide they no longer agree with the group, they break off and create their own faction. Oh… I could go on with this one, but I’m trying to quit judging…

So, let’s be HONEST here and say something isn’t the way we want it, instead of saying it’s WRONG. You also need to realize you’re not necessarily going to get your way because it’s also perfectly legit for the other person to say it’s NOT how THEY want it. This is when it’s time for negotiations (I said NEGOTIATIONS, not arguments). The point of view that something is wrong only because we believe it in our mind, and others agree with us can lead us down a deep rabbit hole of philosophizing that I’m just not ready for today, so I’m going to stop now and just say that whatever your belief is in the matter…. you’re NOT wrong!

You may be asking now, if nobody’s wrong and we’re not spending all our time judging, what do we do instead?

#4 BE GRATEFUL!

Well that’s a big DUH.

The trick to making this work is to not just think it, DO IT!

Make it an action. Every day, start out being grateful we’re alive for another day. Even if we have to struggle to get out of bed at 1:45 am for work (yes, I’ve done this), be glad we woke up.

The problem is that when I wake up, I can barely remember to put on pants, let alone be grateful I own a pair. So, to remind myself, I put a sticky note on my phone. You can post one on your bathroom mirror, alarm clock, significant other’s forehead, anything you will look at first thing.

Mine says:
Daily Reminder: Drink Water, Stretch, Mantra, MIT, Weekly Goal

Drink Water and Stretch remind me to be grateful I’m alive. I do a little self-care and get my mind heading in a positive direction for the day. These will stay on my sticky note until they become habits. Coincidently, my mantra is “I Will Create Good, Consistent Habits”. My Weekly Goal this week is to create a Weekly Goal. I’m a work-in-progress.

I realize it’s hard to be grateful all the time. Create something that will remind you throughout the day, and when that something no longer reminds you (like the note on the fridge with your weight loss goal), be sure to change it up!

Remember there will be crappy things that happen and super-amazing-oh-my-goodness-did-that-really-just-happen things that happen and everything in between (yawn). Your job today, is to take every moment, every single, breath-filled, heart-pumping, eye-blinking moment, and appreciate the holy fuck out of it. I mean it.

You just decided I’m wrong for using the EFF word, didn’t you? The express train to Forgiveness Island is leaving in 5. Get onboard.

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