So, I was running late for a doctors appointment this afternoon, and after a quick jog up to the receptionist's desk, asked to use their rest room. As I was washing my hands, I glanced in the mirror: This was not the same me who had left the house this morning, with fresh make-up and softly brushed hair! NO! I looked all of my (blank number of) years; My hair suddenly looking both dry and stringy! What gives, I asked myself? I literally had just left the house about a half an hour ago...MY lighting in MY bathroom was good!I think? Actually, it's quite normal, nothing too soft, nothing too fancy....
SO, the question is: Why did I choose that version of myself, in that moment? Without a second thought. Until...I caught myself.
How many times do we all do this to ourselves? We choose to believe that one negative comment made about a public speaking engagement we felt great about it. Or remember, verbatim, an offhand comment a family member made about your weight, or your look, or your dress, or your date, at a family function or wedding, when you know you looked radiant in even your cousin's caught-on-the fly iPhone photos...?
One of my favorite writers and authorities on mindfulness, Dr. Rick Hanson, has talked a lot about our human propensity for the Negativity Bias.
He writes that we poor souls once had to be vigilantly on guard 24-7, that we are literally wired to be on alert, and for alarm, brain-wise, since our evolution as a species. But this "bias" in the brain has devolved to the point where, even though we live in a civilized society, we still will sift through to find that negative little pebble in the proverbial show of our souls. Hanson writes: "The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala (you’ve got two of these little almond-shaped regions, one on either side of your head) — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative."
What can do to change this? It's not easy, I know that for a fact. BUT! The good news is, we can change this negativity bias. We can start by trying to "rewire" our reactions.
So, this morning, you know what I did? I actually smiled at myself, re-brushed my hair, slicked on some lip gloss, and turned on my heel, choosing not to leave with that view of myself. We still get to pick what we decide to see and feel, as hard as that is to grasp, especially in challenging situations, I know.
But the more you practice in "benign" moments like I did, (I was not going on a date with my doctor, after all) the easier it gets. So, try it.
And yes, meditating is always great. This keeps those synapses open and pliable. But for those crushing, quick moments, (and we all have them, sometimes daily, sometimes many, many times per day!) just keep telling yourself: You look just fine, baby. And you are fine! It's really the lighting that's well, maybe not so great. (And keep telling yourself that.) It really works, I swear it.
PHOTO: Australian Film star Helen Twelvetrees, c. 1936