How to Put Your Negative Thought Committee to Work for You

A guest post by Jennifer Boykin of Life After Tampons

So, this year is turning out to be a dream year for me. And, of course, only I could make that a bad thing.

Here’s how:

In February, I launched my dream business. I’m finally giving myself the gift of doing work that matters. My project is going really, really well.

In fact, my work was noticed by someone “big,” and now I’m part of an incredible mastermind group of kick-ass entrepreneurs all creating game changing businesses.

And that’s where the trouble really began.

A few weeks ago, I went to meet my team in New York for the first time. As you’d expect, they are all amazing people. I kept pinching myself that I was even allowed to be there. (Hear the insecurity already creeping in?)

I learned a lot and, by the time the weekend was over, I was on fire to do my work.

But then . . .

. . . I came home.

And, waiting for me in my office was my entire Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (IBSC) — otherwise known as the “voices in my head.”

My IBSC has been with me a long time. So long, in fact, that I have to replay their negativity messages on 8-track cassettes.

My IBSC tells me I’m . . .

. . . too fat.

. . . too far behind.

. . . too old.

. . . too busy.

. . . too broke.

. . . too broken.

. . . too much.

. . . too different.

. . . too late.

My IBSC is particularly nimble. Sometimes, if I start to challenge them a wee bit, they change up their strategy and switch from “too’s” to “nots,” as in . . .

. . . not yet.

. . . not now.

. . . not enough.

. . . not you!

Because of my work, I am privileged to know and work with people who insist on breaking through their own limits, so that they, and those around them, can live more boldly and bloom.

It’s thrilling work!

But, at least to some extent, we each have to deal with our own messages about the “too’s” and “not’s”. That means we have to find ways to make our own negativity work for us.

Here are some trade secrets that will help you manage your own Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (those bad-ass negative voices) so that you can achieve more of what you want in life:

1. Resistance is Futile

Honestly, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to try and silence your own negativity. When it comes to self-doubt, resistance really is futile. In fact, whatever I resist persists.

When I stick my fingers in my ear and go “la, la, la, I’m not listening” to my own negative voices, they actually get louder. They feel truer, more powerful. Instead, I suggest you do the opposite. I suggest you go ahead and indulge in negative thinking . . .

2. . . . To a Point

Rather than trying to silence your IBSC, give it air time — in very small, controlled doses. Make 15-minute “appointments” with your negativity. When the time comes for your “meeting,” sit down and write out everything your IBSC wants you to know about why you should be afraid. When the timer goes off, that’s it. No more self-indulgent fear until the next appointment.

3. Act “As If”

Once you’ve taken time to listen to your IBSC, get right back in the game and act as if you’re an overcomer. Here’s what I’m NOT saying. Don’t act as if you know how to do things you lack the proper training to achieve.

If you want to be a surgeon but are sitting in your very first bio class, you don’t act as if you can perform an angioplasty and then try it out on your neighbor. But you do act as if you’re a person who overcomes challenges — a person who has a history of breaking through limits.

4. Silent Partners

The more you commit to overcoming your challenges, the stronger your silent partners become. These are the countermanding voices to your IBSC. (Can you hear that Rocky theme song? . . . gettin’ stronger . . . gettin’ stronger . . . gettin’ stronger!)

5. Don’t Compare

Avoid comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. The too’s and not’s can only exist in comparison – they tell you where you fall short relative to others. But your perceptions are rarely accurate. That’s because you can never really know what is going on inside another person’s life. Thus, your comparison models are inherently flawed.

More than that, they’re immaterial. We each have our own unique work to do. What someone else does or doesn’t do, to a very large extent, is none of my business.

With respect to too’s, not’s, and all other forms of Stinking Thinking, here’s the thing to remember — whatever you place in your magical magnifying mind grows!

That’s because your brain is essentially unintelligent. Picture it as a big ball of sticky tape just mindlessly attracting and reinforcing to itself the messages you tell it to believe.

The more you can tune in to your own thinking, the more you reach for the Mastery Secrets outlined above, the more you will be able to channel and redirect your fears and doubts into work that highlights your beautiful strengths, vision, and talent.

I’d love to help.

In the comments below, let me know what challenges you have with respect to your too’s, not’s, and not yet’s. We’ll see if we can’t un-knot them together!

Or, you can head on over to Life After Tampons and Reclaim the Sass with our eRetreat.

Jennifer Boykin’s vision is to help women recapture their Mid-Life Mojo. She speaks, teaches, and writes as the Creative Visionary and Chief Rabble-Rouser of the MidLife Reinvention site, Life After Tampons.
When you visit, don’t forget to sign up for your eRetreat, Reclaim the Sass. (Or, find the glorious woman with the floral headdress on the home page.) It’s free. Because you’re priceless.

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Comments

  1. Very familiar points…
    I have periods of inpiration, motivation and positive attitude for a while, but then I get this ”your blog is not up to level”, ”no one cares what you write”, ”you have no readers”, ”you can’t make it!”…

    and thatss a cicle I am at, negative turning to postive and the other way around… dontt know how to make the positive stay and the negative stay, but far away.

    • Hi, Ani. I hear you. My experience is that “this too shall pass” — both the good and the bad. I’m happiest and most alive, though, when I remember that I have a choice about which “set of tapes” I’m going to replay. I love to see that you’re reading important self-development stuff like you find here at Barrie’s site, though. I do that too, because then I feel like I have a fighting chance to counter all the negative messages that we hear all day long. Jennifer

    • I hear you, Ani. I too find that I have to give daily loving messages to myself about which “truth” I’m going to believe about my life, my future, my choices, my hopes. I’m glad to see you reading important self-development material like here at Barrie’s site. I do that too because I find that then I’m better equipped to counter all the negative messages we all encounter every day. Thanks for taking a moment. Jen

  2. 8 track? oh, that totally sucks. It could be worse. I occasionally do reel-to-reel and the whole self-esteem things lands on the floor waiting for me to untangle it while I snivel.

    All the things you say are things I believe way down inside.

    You know, those of us who work on line really risk comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides. I read this post an hour ago and walked away. My first thought? “I wish I could be that funny, that sharp-witted, that GOOD in my writing.” But something made me come back and comment. I think it’s that I do know I can be whatever it is I want to and that’s what your post REALLY reminded me of, once I let go of my insecurity (see reel-to-reel comment above).

    While you get to write on Barrie’s blog this week, I get to have her in person with me here! YAY. Life is an incredible, interesting chain of goodness.

    Thank you for your amazing words.

    • Yes, yes, yes, Diana — I KNOW well that insides/outsides comparison trap. What I love about your share though is that you CHECKED YOUR THINKING. I’m laying on the floor sniveling a lot too. But then, somehow, I summon the courage to get back to the page. My mentors tell me I’m responsible for my actions. The results are none of my business. (Somewhere deep inside of my insecure writer lizard brain, I think I know what they mean.)

      Love, to you and Barrie. You both have an AWESOME time. Can I come next year??? Love, J

      • In fact, I bet you could find a last minute ticket right now. 🙂 If that doesn’t work, next year’s fine. Having incredible, interesting women on my Italian hill makes what I do worthwhile. I cannot stress how true that is.

  3. I completely agree that resistance is futile, Jennifer. One of the things I do is “simply notice” my inner critic and then make no judgment or comment about it. As Rick Carson says, that will shrink those Gremlins faster than anything.

    Occasionally, I do talk back to them. I ask, “Can you say that again in Pig Latin?”

    😉

  4. Jennifer,

    I think my committee would be more aptly named the IBLC(itty bitty lynching committee).

    I read many blogs with empowering messages much to the dismay of my committee members who are vested in their own survival.

    I have a life coach and when we are together, I feel like I can take on his coaching challenge and as soon as I walk out of the meeting place the IBLC takes over and tells me “that will never work”, “don’t bother”, or the tried and true, “even if you do it, nothing will change.”

    It is an ongoing battle to slay the dragons or at least keep their voices a bit quieter.

    Resistance is futile and the committee members love to point out how I fall short in the space of comparisons.

    It is so frustrating to not be able to replace the old story(messages) with a new one. I made up the old story. I know I can write a new story…

    My ILBC will be very displeased by my actions this morning and will impose strict sanctions after I hit the submit button.

    Ready, set, go!

  5. I used to have a huge IBSC but I actually unintentionally retrained my brain. I took a big, long look around. I found at the beach (where I’m hiding under my over sized t-shirt) a very ummm large (to be kind) girl walking down the beach in a string bikini! I thought to myself, if she can strut her stuff with confidence, why can’t I? So off came the t-shirt. Everytime I start to feel fat, I remember her. She was inspiring. I have this co-worker, you know the type…always puts you down to make herself feel better, well I now smile at her comments because I know it is coming from a dark place in HER, not me! She is jealous and unhappy with her own life so that must mean she thinks of me as higher than her on her own scale….I see it as a form of flattery, my husband cannot understand how I can be happy about someone being mean to me. Am I actually better than she is? No, I don’t think so. I’m just a normal everyday woman but obviously she thinks I am so for that I thank her. I decided long ago not to hold grudges, who has time for that? If the person doesn’t mean that much to you then why let them ruin anything for you. When I’m busy at work that must mean people value my work enough to give it to me. Not to mention being greatful for even having a job after being unemployed for almost two years. Go me! (at least that is how I boost myself and rid myself of my own negativity)

    Oh and one other thing, look at waitresses and your bank teller and well anyone that works with the public, they have to smile and pretend to be happy all the time, if you fake it long enough, you start to believe it and it puts you in a great mood!

  6. My greatest message from my IBSC is “I don’t want to” or “I can’t be bothered”. At which point I have to remind myself that this is the life I designed for myself, this is what I dreamed of a year ago. Despite the IBSC, I love what I do and just have to go “do it anyway” and in the end I do really enjoy myself. The day I don’t is the day I change paths again 🙂

  7. ISBC – that’s brilliant. The old term the Inner Critic sounds too serious and real and has stature and some bite, whereas the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee just brings it down to size and it makes something that can be very painful and destructive and seemingly overwhelming at times into something funny and therefore much easier to show it the door when it jumps out at you.

    Thanks for this. I’ll check out your blog. Like the title too.

    Rachel.

    • Hi, Rachel. You’re right. It’s kind of like sticking your fingers in your ears and sticking out your tongue to your own IBSC and saying, “naa nanny boo boo!” And thanks for visiting us over at Life After Tampons.

  8. I love this blog post! We must have the same members on our committees because they tell me the same things everyday. I just started doing morning pages and I’m finding that they are helping with the negative talk. It’s interesting to just type or write what is actually in my head and then to be able to just “shake it off'”. Resistance is Futile is something that I have just been coming to terms with. I used to fight or not acknowledge. My thoughts were everything is fine and God forbid someone say that it was resistance. Now I just lean into and get curious. Most of the time I find it’s resistance and then I go deeper to find out the root of it is. Once I acknowledge it makes the next steps so much easier. Thank you so much for this post. My positive committee thanks you!

  9. Aloha Jennifer,

    Thanks for the post. I could so relate. For years it felt like my mind was sitting next to the bed waiting for me to wake up. It had spent all night thinking of negative singers that would really get me hooked. Never a great way to start the day. Of course start something new or go beyond my comfort zone and the voices also began to whisper and eventually rage.

    Then I did two things. I had read a book by Thich Nhat Hahn and he suggested hanging a sign over your bed that said smile. He talked about living life with a smile so I started to do that. I never hung the sign but I saw it there. I practiced smiling as I moved through the day.

    The second thing I did was set my intent to focus on magical things rather than listening to that negative self talk, to my personal Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (I like that). I realized I had a choice to think habitually or to consciously choose to create an inner cheerleader. With some practice my cheerleader became louder then the IBSC. Go cheerleader!!!!

    Thanks for the great reminders.

    With a big smile and a sigh of relief,
    Susan

  10. I love that you mentioned Thich Nhat Hahn’s smiling reminder suggestions. I heard him speak once and he was talking about being “stuck” in traffic. He mentioned that if you look at the back of the car in front of you differently, the brake lights look like eyes and the bumper could be a smile. Just yesterday, I was behind a car and thought of that. It made me smile. And you’re ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. It’s a question of training and discipline — you don’t have to think negative stuff all the time.

    Thanks, love. Jen

  11. Isabella says:

    My main challenge is eating (or to STOP eating… I deal with both). Too fat, too ugly, too useless, not enough, not worth it… etc! But I’m trying, and this post really helped. Thanks(:

    • Hi, Isabella. Thanks for writing. I’m not sure I mentioned this, but sometimes I use distraction for my IBSC. I just substitute in a lesser distructive action — it doesn’t have to be a “BEST ACTION” — just one that is less bad for me. My thinking is that, eventually, the next best action will actually be a really, really healthy one.

      For example, I’m currently losing a bit of weight. But I’m telling myself I only want to lose two pounds. I’ve lost the first two and you can’t know how good it was to reach that little bitty goal. Now, I’m on to the next two.

      I do the same thing with exercise. Now I just get out for 5 minutes with the dog. But almost always, the five is at least 20.

      Crazy. But, living with your IBSC is like the reality show Survivor, Outwit, outplay. OUTLAST.

  12. Niraj Saraf says:

    HI..
    My problem is somewhat different. The thing is that whenever I start something new and positive in my life something bad happens with me and then I loose confidence to try it again. I’m very negetive person with low self-confidence. Whenever I think of doing something good for my life something or the other bad thing crops up and i again loose confidence.
    The bad thing can happen in any area of my life but it dose happen.
    I have made a list of things that I would love to do but can’t do because everytime there is something bad happeneing with me.

  13. Itty Bitty Shitty Committee… That is pure gold and hilarious 🙂

    Now, how to sack my Itty Bitty Shitty Committee.

    Thanks for making me laugh Jennifer… And making me think!

    Cheers
    Ian McConnell
    Western Australia