This morning I cut someone off while changing lanes, and I immediately assumed they hated me and I felt defensive. I didn’t wave to him, which I should have, because I misjudged his speed and forced him to slow down for me. And I stayed angry. I felt myself get mad at the other driver for speeding up to pass me, and I was mad at him for being mad at me. “How dare he? I signaled so it couldn’t possibly be my fault!” I decided he was going to give me the finger or stare at me or honk at me when he passed. But none of those things happened. It was all in my imagination. After the other driver passed me when I turned off, I realized that I had been in the wrong, and his anger at me was all in my head.
Do I do this all the time? Yes. I don’t act badly all the time, but I constantly assume that others are thinking badly of me because I think the worst of myself. My brain will do whatever it can to push my worthless feelings away, and this means it will pretend that I was wronged and it’s not my fault. The problem is, it doesn’t actually work – it backfires every time.
In this morning’s case, I made my mistake to be not only bigger than it was, but I took it as confirmation of my worthlessness and self-hatred. If I had acknowledged my mistake and took it as a reminder to be more careful, maybe I could have kept it as just that, rather than as a statement about me as a person. People make mistakes driving all the time, and I always assume in their case that it was just a mistake; I don’t assume the person behind the wheel is worthless and undeserving of life. So why don’t I give myself the same?
It’s time for me to change my thought patterns so that when I make a mistake I can make amends and see it for what it is – a mistake that was made by an otherwise good person.
p.s. As I wrote the post-it notes, I managed to get Sharpie on my husband’s sweatshirt. “Idiot!” I yelled at myself, “how on Earth are you going to explain that one?” And now I have the creepy crawlies going up and down my body making me want to punch out my awfulness with a fast run or skip rope – anything to get these feelings away.