Shut Up Stan

5c3d9b4d5d5ad72d2fc41edfca6ae94dWho does not love a good movie? While I have never been a die-hard movie aficionado, I do have a list of favorites. Sharing my favorites with others over the years has been fun, especially as the looks of confusion creep across their faces when they do not share the same opinion. For example, included in my top ten are Mars Attacks, Little Miss Sunshine, Beetlejuice, Dead Calm, and Silence of the Lambs plus many more odd choices for a 44 year old lesbian mother of four. I appreciate twisted plot lines, ridiculous humor, and movies that serious movie critics would throw up in their mouths over.

While my taste in movies may be suspect to some, I do appreciate many mainstream classics and enjoy movie quotes just as much as the next person. One of my favorites is from the 1967 Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke. “You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain’t gonna need no third set, ‘cause you gonna get your mind right.” What does this mean? Stay with me for a minute if I lost you. This simple exchange is a reminder of how thinking affects our actions. Specifically, negative thinking creates negative reactions.

Getting our minds right is a process that integrates how we view the world, others, and most importantly, ourselves. I suspect each of us experiences moments of getting our mind right multiple times throughout the day. We may not even realize it is happening. Think about the last time you felt like things were going off the rails. Was it something someone else did to you? What did you do to right the train? How quickly were you able to recover?

We may naturally conclude the issue is theirs and fail to look beneath the surface to our reaction. Getting caught up in the drama or emotion as we react distracts us from what really may be going on. On the surface, the problem clearly appears reside squarely on the laps of others. If they would just stop it, we would be fine. It is easy to point the finger at someone else when conflict happens. We all do it. I need not look further than this election cycle for examples. A knee jerk reaction is the first line of defense when we feel like we are being attacked. Let’s be honest, sometimes people are just assholes.

I learned long ago I have very little control over what others do or say. Understanding how my mental state contributes to my reactions forces me to address the real issue at hand. Evaluating the big picture is not always fun but necessary. No one likes admitting there are times when our own flawed thinking caused a stir. It is impossible for every negative interaction or reaction to be blamed on someone else. Sometimes we are the asshole, even if it is not done intentionally. Ouch. Healthy trees produce healthy fruit. If there is systemic disease in the trunk, the fruit suffers. Every time we interact with one another the health of our harvest comes in to play. Put simply, our internal dialogue, especially if it is negative, impacts how we react to the world and people around us.

Low self-esteem and negative self-talk are quiet little monsters, which left unchecked, have the ability to creep in and destroy all that could be good in our lives. How many of us stop and think about why whatever has been said or done affected us so negatively? This is a tough topic for me to tackle and hits close to home on many levels. Low self-esteem is an often understated problem and the effects can be devastating on a variety of fronts.

There are many causes of low self-esteem. Recognizing the root cause is an important step in overcoming the challenges but is not a cure all. Breaking old patterns of thinking is hard, but not impossible. I spent many years feeling inadequate, unworthy, and just plain shitty. Once I got to the root of this thinking, I was relieved, however nothing changed. Knowing why did not change anything, it just made me angry. I realized, after many tantrums, the only way out of the cycle of negative self-talk was to restructure my inner dialogue.

For years, my internal state constantly seeped out externally. Garbage inside, garbage out. I took everything personally, not because it was true or real, but because my negative script colored every page of my adult coloring book. Self-acceptance began when I realized I would never talk to anyone as harshly as I talked to myself. This was my turning point. My filter needed to be changed. My priority became viewing myself the way my family and friends did and to put my faith in what God said about me instead of what I told myself. I reprogrammed my system default and my life took off in ways that I never imagined possible.

Many years ago my aunt sent an article about that little voice in our heads that tells us we are flawed, that our failings can never be forgiven, and that we are not worthy of good things. The author named her little voice Stan. Her way of dealing with that little nagging voice was to say “Shut up Stan.” My wife and I are skilled in the art of telling our own versions of Stan to shut up.

We all have moments of low self-esteem. How we react and choose to move through them are critical to keeping a healthy and positive mind. Shut up Stan. One moment, if not addressed and reframed with the truth of who we are, can turn into a downward spiral. We use the opinions of others to build a case against ourselves which feeds the monster. Shut Up Stan.

When our minds are right, the opinions of others do not matter and things are more apt to roll off of our backs. Athletes are notorious for struggling with negative self-talk, which is why many professional athletes engage the services of sports psychologists to help them keep their minds right. Their goal is to remain in a positive head space so they can perform and be their very best. Isn’t this the goal for each of us regardless of our situations or circumstances?

One formula may not exist to squash negative self-talk or overcome low self-esteem. No magic pill can be prescribed to remedy the problem. Awareness is the catalyst to change. Paying attention to the words we speak to ourselves helps highlight the damage negative self-talk has on relationships, success, and overall happiness. By addressing the issues we can make progress in the journey to true inner peace.

Do not be afraid to ask for help or support in any avenue that you feel drawn to personally. Sometimes we need others to remind us of our true selves and to help break through the razor wire fence around our perceived self. When you see someone struggling, be kind. Remind them about the truth of who they are, despite what they may be thinking. This is one instance when interrupting the electrical circuit actually turns on the light. As you move through and address whatever struggle you may be having, trust the process and resist fighting the growing pains. You are worth it.


Other Helpful Links

Getting Stuck in the Negative (and how to get unstuck) Allison Ledgerwood TEDxUCDavis

Negative Self-Talk: 9 Ways To Silence Your Inner Critic

How to Stop Negative Self Talk