Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Question That Ruined My Life And Almost Killed Me

The very first thing I learned in school, from the very first day of kindergarten...  was how badly I sucked compared to other kids.

My first day of school started out kind of creepy.  Nearly all the other kids were crying for their mommies, which I didn't really understand.  (I'm not sure if I had been away from my parents before, but I sure didn't see what the big deal was.)

The rest of the day went downhill from there.

At the first morning break, we were told we could play with the toys and games that were shelved on the far side of the classroom.

All the other kids immediately ran over there, and by the time I got all the way across the room, they had already managed to form play groups around the toys.

I didn't know anyone, and I didn't know how to introduce myself or what to say to get into one of the groups.  So I just stood around staring like an idiot, until I gave up and went back to my desk.

When recess came, I had the same problem on the playground, only worse.  I had just climbed onto a piece of playground equipment when I heard someone yell...

"Let's get him!"

I turned to see three boys racing towards me.  I don't remember much about them any more, except that one was wearing some kind of brace on his foot, turning his run into a crazy limping stagger. It made him look extra scary to me, like he was some kind of zombie or Frankenstein monster.

I took off running.

Over the next six years of school, I became adept at staying alone.  I learned all the best hiding places on the school grounds, like the library and the hidden hollow under one building's stairwell.  As I got older, it was a little easier to get involved in the games of other kids, but I wasn't very good at many of them.

I had few friends, but several painful experiences where someone would pretend to be my friend, just so they could play some kind of trick on me and laugh at my humiliation.

My mother said that the other kids were jealous because I was smarter than them, but that was little consolation.  And by the first or second grade I knew it wasn't true, anyway.  The day I realized that the single most popular kid in my class was actually smarter than me...

I was devastated!

Clearly, it was not my mind that was the problem.  It had to be me that was defective.

And so it went.  If I couldn't win foot races with my older brother, then I must be lousy at sports.

If I couldn't lose the excess weight I gained when I stopped playing sports, well then I must be weak-willed and undisciplined.

If I couldn't finish the projects I started, why then I must be lazy and scatter-brained.

If people didn't interact with me except to steal my shoes and play "keep away" with them, or to beat me up, then I must be unlovable and forever unwelcome in others' company.

And because I believed these things, I just stopped trying.  After all...

What would be the point?

And whenever things went bad in my life since, I would ask that same question: what's the point of even trying?

But it's dangerous to ask a question whose only answers are depression, despair, and suicide.

For later, in the darkest hours of my life, the only thing that kept me from killing myself was the fear of screwing that up, too!

Even in the best of times, the question stayed with me, keeping good moments from lasting long in my memory, and keeping me from going after my dreams, or even deeply wanting anything in the first place.

After all, what would be the point?

And if you have ever asked this question, you need to understand its secret.  Because...

If You Don't, It Could Kill You

...or at least, make your life seem not worth living.

Because, what's the "point" of being happy?  Having fun?  Being in love?  Accomplishing anything?

Logically, there is no "point" to these things.  Never has been, never will be.

But that's not the real secret here.

The real secret lies in the second part of the question, the part I always left out in my later years:

"What's the point of trying,
if I'm just going to fail anyway?"

See?  The real issue here isn't the question, which we've already established as dumb and useless.  (Since there is never a "point" to anything.)

In reality, it's not a question at all, it's just the tacit expression of an implicit belief that you are going to fail, no matter what.

Of course, it might not be phrased exactly that way in your mind right now.  You may be thinking something more like, "what's the point, since I'm a loser / klutz / spaz / ugly / fat / whatever", for example.

But the exact words are not at issue.  The key here is simply that the "question" treats your derogatory self-image as an assumed fact, keeping it from being examined or questioned at all!

So under normal conditions, we don't question our self-image.  We just believe in it, and lower our aspirations accordingly.  We pretend we don't want what we want, and look for more "realistic" or "reasonable" goals.

And even when we are "trying" to do better and change things, we know in the back of our minds that nothing at all is going to change.  We know, deep down, that we are broken or wrong somehow, and that...

All our efforts will be useless!

We know this, because we've done it before, and every time we return to a place of failure, it feels familiar.

It's like coming home to an abusive family member: it may be painful, but at least you know what to expect!

And as long as our self-image is damaged, our self-esteem will remain low.

So in order to make any significant change in your life...

You must first change your self!

So last weekend, I hacked into my brain's self-image database, and gave myself an upgrade.  I didn't delete my childhood memories, but I changed their meaning.

I removed the "tags" on those memories that made them self-image beliefs.  So now, I do not see myself the same way that I used to.  I don't see my faults as permanent, or take things so personally.

When I don't succeed in reaching a daily goal, or it takes longer than expected, I don't waste time blaming myself.  Instead, I just get moving again.

When I make a mistake, I don't call myself names.  I just get moving again.

When I take out time to enjoy myself, I don't get down on myself for being "lazy".  I just get moving again.

Really, during the last few days I've been "getting moving again" so quickly and so often, that I've dubbed it "reverse procrastination".  :-)

But the best thing about the change, for me, is that...

I've Stopped Hating People!

I'm not sure I'd say I've gone from introvert to extrovert, or anything like that.  But I'm finding my interaction with people to be more relaxed and confident.  I walk with my head held high, and I look people in the eye.  I even smile sometimes.  ;-)

Strangely, I'm also more comfortable looking at attractive women.  Or rather, I seem to feel more comfortable considering them to be attractive in the first place.

I think that perhaps one of the self-image beliefs I altered was causing me to pre-emptively avoid being attracted to people I thought might reject me!  That is, it was causing me to avoid looking too closely at them.

Oddly enough, this particular phenomenon wasn't restricted to real women; apparently it also affected how I saw pictures of women!  Over the weekend, my wife was working on ordering products for her lingerie/adult store (NSFW), and she'd asked me my opinions about some items in a couple of lingerie catalogs.

Now, that was before I made the change, and so the next day I was surprised to discover that suddenly a whole bunch of models in the catalogs looked a lot  more attractive to me than they did the day before!  In fact, I quickly realized that I hadn't really seen those particular women before in the first place.  Somehow, my eyes just skimmed right past them without them registering on my consciousness.  Weird, huh?

The Mind Is A Terrible Thing

But I guess it just goes to show you: most of what we are doing in life, we don't even know we're doing!

What we once put into our minds many years ago, can control substantial chunks of our lives now, without our knowledge.

And if what we put into our minds was toxic, then it can poison us for life.

Now, people usually call these kinds of problems "self-esteem" issues.  But this is a bit like saying that when your car overheats, you have a "thermometer issue"!

The truth is that "self-esteem" is just...

How we feel about our self-image!

So the key is not to "work on your self-esteem", but to change your self-image, like I did.

That's why a lot of people have already signed up for my Instant Self-Esteem workshop this Saturday.  They've been receiving my emails these last few days, telling the story of how I discovered I could "edit" these damaging self-image beliefs, and all the crazy little ways my life has improved since then.

They've already heard about the importance of forgiveness in changing negative beliefs, and how I healed a childhood Christmas trauma that had seriously affected my relationships with people for almost thirty years -- friends, strangers, and loved ones alike.

Now, if you didn't get those stories in your email, it's probably because you haven't signed up to be a "Guest of the Circle" yet.  So sign up here, before you miss the next one!

In the meantime, if you're an Associate or Full member of the Circle and you haven't RSVPed for this weekend's workshop yet, email me ASAP!  And if you aren't a member yet, what are you waiting for?  Sign up now!

A 1-month Associate membership is only $99, but it will let you call into the workshop and participate, or listen to the MP3 afterwards.  And if you sign up before October 27th, you'll get this month's newsletter on "Fear and Commitment", and this month's CD on the "Secret of Succeeding Without Trying", as well as the next newsletter and CD, all within a single month's membership.  It's like getting a second month free.

Look, you and I both know your self-image isn't going to change itself.  And as long as it stays the way it is, you will stay firmly the way you are.  I can help you, but you have to be willing to do something, instead of just wondering "what's the point?"  Because if you don't believe you can change, you never will.