“I realised that I held the power to change my story”
Can changing your thoughts change your world? If you’ve been in a rut lately, rewire your thought process and start steering your life in a different direction
I used to look at the people around me… on the trains, in the cafes, walking along the streets… and I would watch with envy as they chatted and laughed, and I would think: what wonderful lives they must have! They seemed like the ones who had succeeded in life – they always looked sharp in their polished workwear, high heels, and branded bags. They must have it so good, I thought. They must be happier than I am because they’re leading such good lives.
I’d think about my dwindling bank balance and wonder if I’d ever do better for myself. I’d look at my scruffy shoes and feel small, lousy. Sometimes, I’d catch myself subconsciously shuffling my feet out of sight because I felt embarrassed.
At yoga class, I’d steal glances at other women’s beautifully pedicured toes and wish I was them. I often told my friends that I preferred to keep my nails short and neat because I liked them au natural – but the truth was, they were a luxury that I couldn’t afford.
Often, I’d think about what it’d feel like to lead someone else’s happier, more successful life. Each time I looked around me, I’d feel like everybody else was doing better than me. Life was not fair!
For the most part of my young adult life, I drifted from job to job, unable to hold down anything for long. I was unhappy and unable to find satisfaction despite trying out work in different industries. Like everyone else, I had dreams… big dreams… which I assumed, would always remain just that. But my dreams would never become a reality – because of the stories I told myself.
The truth was, I never felt like I deserved a better life. I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t rich enough, I wasn’t lucky enough. I always felt like all the odds were stacked against me, and I told myself that I would never be enough.
The reason why we struggle with insecurity is we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.
– Steven Furtick
YOGA KEPT ME GOING
It wasn’t till I gained the awareness to open my eyes and change my internal stories, that I was able to slowly turn things around. I’m grateful that I never gave up on my yoga practice even during the lowest points of my life. If nothing else, I know that I did right when I chose to prioritise my time and finances around my hour-long weekly practice – I could do without the fancy cafe meals, daily coffee from Starbucks, or weekly manicures, but I refused to give up yoga, because mat time was what provided me with a sense of grounding. It was my sole wellbeing tool, the one thing that helped keep me sane enough to get through the day-to-day drudgery that was my life.
Being on the mat gave me the space I needed to think and meditate on what was important in life (or not)… things like, “oh I need that bag” (I didn’t need it, I wanted it), or “I’m so upset by those things she said about me” (the reality is, we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control our own – and when you realise that you have the choice to decide how you want to respond, therein lies one of life’s keys to happiness).
My yoga practice taught me to be kinder to myself. It enabled me to switch off and stop labelling what I thought I needed. It taught me to recognise what I had, as opposed to focusing on what I thought I didn’t have. It allowed me to reset my buttons and figure out where to go from there. In time, I learnt to replace my self-limiting thoughts with more empowering ones.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
– Mary Engelbreit
CHANGING THE STORY
I changed my internal narrative – and it made a world of difference to my life. Change didn’t happen overnight for me, but with awareness and willingness of heart, it gradually happened.
So if you feel that life seems to be dishing out the “same old problems” day in and day out, it may be time to switch things up for a positive change. These steps from Leonora Brosan, consultant clinical psychologist and author of Overcoming Stress: A Self-help Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, provide a good start point:
Step 1: Identify it
Keep a journal of situations that make you feel lousy. Describe every situation in detail, and make a note of how you feel each time. Ask yourself what went through your mind at the point when you were feeling miserable.
Step 2: Challenge it
Psychologists often try to help patients change their internal scripts by challenging them. You can also do this for yourself whenever a familiar situation comes up, for example, if you catch yourself thinking “no one will ever love me”, counter that with “Why not?”
Step 3: Rewrite the script
Think about your behaviour or reaction that keeps getting you the same results, then create a plan B. Write down an alternative way of feeling or behaving the next time a similar situation arises. For example, if your script is, “I’m always quarrelling with my mum”, try saying to yourself, “When she nags me, I will try not to respond in the usual way”. It takes time to replace habitual thought patterns with positive new ones, but it works.