“I’m a Failure!”
“I’m a failure!” A handsome young man was speaking to me. “I can’t trust anybody in my family. My brother cheated my parents out of their money, now they have to live with him. I don’t trust any of them. I had the perfect girlfriend. She left me for another man who supports her in a way I never could. I tried to reboot my career. I finally got a job. Then they let me go. When my unemployment insurance runs out I’ll have no place to live. Nothing works out for me! I’m a loser!” Everything this man said about himself was negative. I said to him, “I notice you are saying negative things about yourself. Have you noticed that?” He said, “No.” I was surprised, but not shocked. People in a hole often keep digging just out of habit.
“Well, do you think what you are saying is true?” “Yes! I just told you everything that going wrong for me! It’s obviously true.” “Are you absolutely certain it’s true?” “Yes! I’m absolutely certain!” “How do you feel when you believe this?” “Miserable!” (Notice this word: it divides perfectly into two other words: miser and able. This person is able to be a miser. That makes them miserable. When you cannot be generous to yourself, you become miserable.) “Who would you be without this thought?” “I’d feel pretty good!”
“What if the opposite were true?” “What do you mean?” “What if the opposite of ‘I’m a failure’ were true?’” “What would be the opposite? Anyway, it’s obviously true. Look at what Jesus accomplished. Look at Martin Luther King! Compared to them, I’ve accomplished nothing!” “Well, why are you stopping there? What about Alexander the Great? He conquered the entire world before he was 30! Of course he died on the young side. And what about Mozart? He wrote an entire concerto before he was three! And George Washington, he chopped down a cherry tree when he was only 6! What have you done compared to that?” “You are making fun of me.” “No, I’m making fun of the way you are using your thinking.” “What the matter with the way I’m thinking?” “Well, the problem is that you believe your thoughts instead of changing them. You are letting your thoughts run the show instead of you running the show. Your thoughts have this habit of going negative and you sit there agreeing with them. How about coming up with 3 thoughts in a row that are positive. See if you can do that.” He sat there for quite a while thinking. “Well, the sky is blue- that’s good.” OK, great, that’s one thought. Another minute went by. “I’m sitting here with two friends I like.” Great! That’s two positive thoughts in a row!
I made two requests of him:
1. Keep track of his thoughts. Every time he has a negative thought, stop it and replace it with a positive one.
2. Every day write down 5 things he is grateful for.
“Would you be willing to do this?”
He nodded his head, but he had a doubtful look.
“You are nodding ‘yes’, but your face says ‘no.’
“Well, I’m not sure I can do it!” This was an honest response. This man had the belief that his life was a ‘failure’. He was attached to that identity. Giving up attachment to a negative identity engenders fear. He didn’t know who he would be if he wasn’t a ‘failure.’ If he could let go of clinging to the failure identity, he would then be free to look around for other possibilities for himself. As long as he clings to the failure identity, he’s clinging to a log that’s going over a waterfall.
One problem many of us have is that we believe our thoughts without noticing what they are doing to us. We don’t tend to recognize that thoughts simply occur to us, we typically do not create them consciously. Therefore, there is no reason to follow our thinking, any more than to follow the thinking of another. We often disagree with the thoughts of others. When this happens we pay no attention to them. That person walks down the street and takes his thoughts with him. We dismiss the entire conversation. In most cases, I suggest we do the same with our own thoughts. Most thoughts are leftovers from previous experiences. They interfere with being present to this moment. They rarely represent connection to your highest Self. So I recommend that you seriously inspect what you are thinking. If you are having stale leftovers, put them in the compost heap where they belong!