I know it was not under my control and I tried everything in my power to make it happen. It didn’t. I know I should accept the reality and move on; I am more than capable of making a better future, but this feeling of disappointment doesn’t go away! It is crushing, it is irreparable.
And I know I have the power to move on, but I’m unable to let go.
Have you experienced a similar narrative echo in your head? Have you faced a situation where you have given your all for something but you couldn’t get it; a situation you know you can overcome but the feeling of losing despite giving your all is sharp enough to stop you in your tracks? Let this cycle continue long enough and it will be the sabotage of the ‘self’.
When I think about it, self-sabotage is something similar. It is a behaviour that interferes with one’s life goals and happiness. Self-medication, self-injury, comfort eating, procrastination are self-sabotaging activities. We usually have an option to consciously control these behaviours with focus on goals and alignment of habits. Self-sabotaging can be contained with some effort..
What’s more concerning is the sabotage of the ‘self’. We don’t even realise we are doing it to ourselves! It is invisible to us. In some unthinkable or hard situations you aren’t consciously harming yourself but subconsciously, you are. You may not be ‘self-sabotaging’ but you may be sabotaging the ‘self’!
What is Self?
The concept of ‘self’ in Psychology is about how you perceive yourself. It is about how you think you are as a person, how you believe others see you and how you think you fit into the world. Superiority, inferiority, motivation, determination, disbelief, the sense of quitting or braving hardships are some of the results of you thinking about ‘you’ in a particular way.
Walt Disney had self-belief in the power of his storytelling, Warren Buffet had the self-clarity as a child that he never wanted to be poor in life, and Hitler had the self-perception (or self-deception) that he was meant to purify the world..
‘Self’ is a superpower a human can wield, in many ways!
Most of our ‘self’ forms when we are kids, but it changes with circumstances, experiences and introspection. How to turn these experiences, even the worst ones, into something constructive is the challenge.
Enhancing the ‘Self’
Now that you have come across a hardship, what is your first thought? Is it to run away, find a solution or maybe to do nothing? In any case, there is a sense of fear. How you control that fear or uncertainty depends on how your self-perception has formed you over the years.
Is your self-perception weak in any way? That’s totally ok! Because now you have an opportunity to transform your subconscious and upgrade your internal software. If your perception of ‘self’ is awesome, then just go on, make it better!
Go back right to the first moment you can remember yourself being aware. What happened? What events scared you, made you happy, made you angry, or evoked any strong feeling in your heart? Often, the feelings that scar a person are formed in childhood. You have to embrace what happened as something in past that you could not have changed and move on from it. Forgive people for your peace of mind, make peace with any hard reality. It can seem impossible but the rest of your life can’t be spent in chains! Set yourself free, even if it means seeking an expert’s help.
Think of all these little and big events of your life up till now. Let go of every disappointment and nightmare. Just like a phoenix rises from its own ashes, rise up and fly!
In history, from ancient to contemporary times, you will find brave souls around the world. Read about these men and women, read true events and stories, read about civilisations built to the epitome of glory and destroyed to rot in dust. You will find your sense of ‘self’ transform and even transcend with a shift in your perception of the world. Your knowledge and clarity about ‘self’ will grow.
Also, you will find people in this world who have had it tougher than you but have lived on true to their ideals. Be inspired by such role models.
Change the Words
Now, this comes from my personal experience as well as a lot of reading from books like ‘As a Man Thinketh’. Let’s rephrase the negative self-talk:
I know it was not under my control and I tried everything in my power to make it happen. It didn’t and I accept it. I know I should accept the reality and move on and so I will move on even if it’s babysteps; I am more than capable of making a better future, but this feeling of disappointment doesn’t go away so I will take it one hour a day! It is crushing, it is irreparable, but I will rise from ruins and build myself again.
And I know I have the power to move on, but I’m unable to let go, so I will forgive myself for the past and smile at the good memories. Alongside I will make new memories and explore my life for beautiful things I was blind to.
A change in narrative, a twist in tone, one at a time is all it takes. At last, I will leave you with words of Thomas Szasz:
‘The self is not something that one finds. It is something that one creates.’
Originally published for: TOI Blogs, Perspicere