“Comparison is truly the thief of joy.”
Inside each of our heads lives a chatterbox that runs all day long. It reminds us of everything we’ve ever done wrong, makes negative assumptions about what everyone else thinks of us, and tells us that we simply don’t measure up. It’s sneaky and quiet, but powerful.
When I was first introduced to my inner chatterbox, I was 22 years old. I was sitting in an AA meeting, and this wonderful wise old man told me I have a voice in my head that never stops – a little chatterbox. He told me to practice listening for it, catch it in action and shut it down immediately.
He warned me that if I didn’t, it would be in my head, constantly threatening to sabotage my every effort to stay sober and get happy.
After that conversation, I knew I had to commit first to the task of becoming aware of the chatterbox, and then monitoring it. But before we can shut the chatterbox up, we have to learn to recognize its voice and notice when it’s running its proverbial mouth.
I had to really train myself to tune in and hear the voice, since it stealthily sends messages through our subconscious minds.
So, I started working at trying to catch my chatterbox going off. Usually, by the time I caught it, I’d already be in a funk or a state of simmering anxiety. Because I wasn’t adept at hearing the silent chatter in my head, I learned to pay attention to when my mood switched.
The moment I noticed that I had just gone from feeling okay to feeling down, anxious, or just plain icky, I’d check in with what I had just said to myself. And sure enough, it was always something negative.
“Megan, you’re not as good, smart, funny, pretty, intelligent, or worthy as everyone else”, it told me.
One of the first catch phrases I realized my little chatterbox was continually recycling was “You’re everybody’s second choice”.
Walking into a party or social setting, my sneaky chatterbox would always tag along. It would be there to tell me that nobody in the room truly wants to talk to me, even while I was chatting with someone that chose to approach me and strike up a conversation.
My chatterbox would reason that this was only because that person couldn’t find anyone else to talk to. They were just killing time with me until the better person came along – the person they actually wanted to talk to.
I would naturally compare myself to every person in that room, and it was always a losing battle.
The thing is, as soon as we pull out our measuring sticks and measure ourselves against others, we cannot win.
In our own minds, we’ll never measure up to anyone else because we are always comparing the inside of ourselves – the parts we don’t like, the things we’re ashamed of, and everything we believe is wrong with us – to the outside of others.
Meaning, we look no deeper than the things that appear to be “together” in someone else’s life.
Since we can really only see the best parts of others, those parts they’re willing to show to the world, we’re setting ourselves up for automatic failure in this competition we’ve created in our heads.
Start listening for your chatterbox and shut it down. Remember, your first clue that it has gone off will always be a shift in how you feel.
Martha Beck (best selling author, life coach, and monthly columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine) says, “There is no such thing as a true story that keeps you from your best destiny. All thoughts that separate you from genuine happiness are lies.”
When you notice you’re feeling anxious, angry or uneasy, stop and ask what you’ve just said to yourself. Start today: every time you catch yourself saying something negative, begin replacing that negative thought with a thought that feels better!
I spent a lot of years waiting for the ‘feeling’ to settle in that would tell me that I was okay. That finally, I was loveable enough, good enough, smart enough, etc. But here’s what I learned – you’ll never feel it, until you first make a decision to believe it.
How you are feeling right now is also how you are thinking right now. Begin by changing your inner chatter.