Oh, the joy of a perfect first impression.
Just think about a time when you’ve cracked a joke with a circle of new people. Almost miraculously, everyone throws their head back laughing. Sometimes, you just nail it. A mixture of relief and positive self-affirmation rushes right into the locus of your brain that pumps out the message, “I’m good enough!”
But then, of course, there are the many times that you don’t nail it.
For some folks, that’s okay. A joke falls flat, and they’ll think, “Ah, next time.” They move on without a beat. I like to imagine the “I’m good enough” part of these brains already glowing. (It’s pretty much supernatural to me.) For others, the reaction to a “failed” first impression isn’t always as forgiving. The floodgates crash open with the most unfavourable opinions about themselves spilling onto center stage. These thoughts pick themselves up and start a dance marathon. Inexplicably, you can’t look away. You resign yourself to sitting through the whole thing. Have you been there?
One script includes words of resilience, self-compassion, and patience. The other is built up of the exact words that will hurt you most. But you don’t need to read that cruel take on yourself. Seriously. The next time you start thinking, “I’m shit”, interrupt yourself.
How do you do that? Create a backup script. The “I’m good enough” script.
Below, I’ve included a few starting points for you. I encourage you to take a gander to the most compassionate, patient, cockiest corners of your brain and physically write down whatever resonates with you. When you feel like you’re the worst human, read the reminders below to yourself. Again and again. And add in a few of your own! Because you’re not the worst human. You’re awesome. Flippin’ miraculous. A superstar. A completely ordinary and totally extraordinary human.
Here are some reminders to keep in your back pocket.
Recognize that everyone, even those you think walk on air, has thought, “I am not enough. And everyone knows it.”
I like to remember that Oprah Winfrey herself has told terrible jokes, made boring comments, and left people underwhelmed. While blasphemous to some, it’s basic math that at least one of her social exchanges has been awkward as hell and she imagined with desperation how she could hop the fence if she wanted to.
We’ve all had these thoughts. But just because you’re thinking them, doesn’t make it true. Are you an all-knowing oracle that can assert what everyone is thinking? No. (But that does make a fun Halloween costume, you’re right.) In fact, it’s often because you’re thinking these thoughts that you know they’re not true. Why?
Your brain’s a damn grump.
And a next-level worrier, too. So instead of nodding in solemn agreement to the thought that you’re a “total loser” after an awkward run-in with your neighbour, laugh at the bizarre script your brain handed you and say, “Do you think you’re being a bit dramatic there?”
Here’s a trick that might work for you. Name your anxious thoughts. I’ve named them Annie, but choose any name that sounds sweet & comforting to you. When Annie is narrating my inner monologue, I’ll open up my Notes app and start writing a quick message to her. This is by far the weirdest but most effective habit I’ve picked up over the past couple years. All I can say is don’t knock it until you try it.
By assigning your anxious thoughts to a distinct part of you, a sense of maternal rationalism returns to the scene. You become the type of person you would be if your friend was telling you these things about herself. Gentle, supportive, a bit silly in just the right ways. So rather than becoming this manifestation of your anxious thoughts, you can recognize that they are simply a part of you that needs some loving attention.
Lastly, stop thinking the world revolves around you.
Sometimes, all it takes to reset after a particularly awkward encounter is telling yourself, “They’re probably thinking about dinner right now.” It’s comforting to remember that while few think the world revolve around them, most people spend a lot of time thinking about themselves. Their own thoughts, plans, and running lists of things to do take up way too much mental space already.
When it comes down to it, I will leave you with this.
You are not alone. Every feeling that you have had has been felt by millions of others. Crazy, right? And yet, you are also the only version of you that has ever felt this thrilling, often terrifying, smorgasbord of thoughts, feelings, dreams. So talk about it. Share the brilliant internal world you navigate everyday and invite someone into a corner or two. Chances are, they have a corner or two they’d like you to see too.