Today, I want to talk about the importance of addressing a small issue before it grows into a soul-draining bully of a thing.
I hope today’s post encourages you to make small changes. Because over time, the result of small changes can be phenomenal.
Most of us do well most of the time. We’re awake, aware, and capable. But because life is our faithful teacher, even the most adept and aware among us have mysterious collections of thoughts and feelings stuffed deep into pockets or under a rug.
It’s the way it is. It’s how humans roll.
Worry or fear could be running in the background of our daily existence, for instance. Or grief about someone or something. Maybe we have unresolved disappointment from long ago. Perhaps we believe in ideas about ourselves that aren’t true.
A limiting idea is a lie. A lie (even a tiny one) has layers, and over time it has impact.
A lie, no matter how small, is a self-inflicted triple whammy.
May I explain?
I’ll start itty-bitty, because the practice of learning to fall for untrue beliefs seems so teeny-tiny you’ll wonder why I’m even writing about it.
But here’s the thing.
What happens with any practice over time, is that our skill improves. If we practice believing tiny lies, our capacity to include them grows. It’s natural.
I Know This. Because.
When people sign up to talk to me about their relationships, their lives — they often bring buckets of overwhelming, collections of angry or resentful, and backpacks of profoundly sad.
They bring me something that was once itsy-bitsy, and now it’s all grown up and wears big boots.
They bring me big issues because somewhere along the way, they got really good at their practice of believing in a tiny fib or two. Gradually, the fibs wore new outfits and became fearless.
How do I help people? We go back to the beginning. To start, we usually talk about really small stuff …
Here’s an itsy-bitsy. (Remember, it will seem so insignificant that you’ll wonder why I’m even writing about it…)
I’m meeting a friend for tea in a town I’m passing through on my trip. I check Google about the meeting place, follow directions and park. Then, unbeknownst to me, I walk down the street in the opposite direction of my friend.
I finally find the tea house and my friend, but I have taken the long route, and in a small way, I believe I wasted time — time I could have spent with my dear friend. I notice I feel mildly frustrated. I believe I should be different than I am, just a little.
See? It’s itsy-bitsy. And it’s fleeting. It’s inconsequential, right? A little dose of self-criticism with a sprinkle of angst thrown in, which disappears in a few minutes. What could possibly be less important?
Trust me, it’s important.
Why? Because it’s practice believing in something that’s not true.
The first part of the trouble is that I believe I made a mistake. Which is a lie, an exaggeration, an untruth. I walked down the street in the opposite direction of my friend. Any meaning added is extra, as in not the truth, just extra.
Then there is the physical discomfort (stress) caused by my thought that it’s a mistake. I can feel it in my heart. Just a little.
And third, I tell myself that I should be different than I am. I should be more like my friend who is smarter and more capable about directions. It’s a casual thought, but it’s there.
The essence of my practice is believing that something’s wrong with me. I’m not enough. I’m insufficient.
Sooner or later, my personal practice of believing I’m insufficient naturally extends to other people (they’re insufficient, too), to my intimate relationship (my partner is wrong, s/he made a mistake), to my life in general (life isn’t good enough, sweet enough, fun enough).
My practice grows — naturally. Of course it does.
Here’s another version. I believe that I should do this thing or that thing, but (heaven forbid) not THAT.
But I do THAT, even though I think I shouldn’t. Which feels uncomfortable. And I get after myself (even a little) for doing THAT. I tell myself I should be different than I am.
There’s my triple-whammy, my three-step dance. And the more I practice the dance, the more proficient I become.
Years down the road, because I’ve practiced so many versions of this little fib that I should be different than I am, I have slowly grown an unwieldy version of my itty-bitty.
I’m depressed. Upset. Unsettled. I’m not enjoying my daily existence. I’m grouchy, impatient, calloused about life. Being alive is hard. I’m thinking maybe I should call the whole thing off.
After all, things that used to make me happy don’t anymore. My career is unsatisfying. A dream is lost. My partner prefers to talk to other people, not me. What’s the point of being in a relationship? Etc. and so on…
Then, because of who I’ve “become,” I offer this version of myself to others. I don’t mean to accentuate the negative, but it’s what I’ve got plenty of, so I tell stories that reinforce my belief in my unhappiness.
Do you see how this grows? How it gets out of hand?
Do you see where my bluebird of happiness has gone?
Itsy-Bitsy ate it. Feathers and all, over the years. Yes, she did.
The Very Good News.
The great news is that if something itsy-bitsy has gathered momentum, you can turn it around. In other words, take care of teenie-weenie, and if you do, it won’t grow up to be a bully.
Start small. Speak up, just a little to start. How did that go?
Don’t tiptoe so much. Blurt your request, your truth, your need — and notice that everyone survives.
Revive your ability to say what you mean, which is sometimes different than what people want to hear.
Spend more time doing what matters to you. If you haven’t been singing and you love to sing, then sing today — just a little. Tomorrow, sing a little more. See where that takes you.
Take responsibility for where you’ve landed. Don’t blame others, that’s the long road. Don’t make someone else the cause of your emotions or difficulties, even if it’s tempting or provable.
Avoid slathering others with stories about how bad things are or have been. Instead, do your best to head in the direction of reporting your new plan. “I’m changing my tune about this… want to hear about my new practice?”
(You can tell your therapist or counselor long stories and explore details. But with friends and co-workers, nope, not so much.)
Choose love. For yourself, for someone else — just a little. If you hop on a negative train about someone, remember you’re the captain. Blow the whistle. Stop the train. What does it feel like to call a halt to entertaining a negative opinion?
Find a way to think kindly of yourself (genuinely, completely, honestly) in a small way that you would normally not.
Give yourself room to move, permission to experiment. Fall down, get up, try things. Liberate yourself a little, in an itty-bitty way that is practically invisible. Work your way up.
Practice daily. Be consistent. Starting small helps you be successful. Practicing success is a good thing to practice. It reinforces “yes, I can do this.”
At the risk of sounding like all of this is as easy as apple pie and ice cream on the porch on a warm summer day, please know that if you take care of an itsy-bitsy everyday, you’ll see life-giving results over time.
And you’ll get some mojo back, just a little — which grows. I promise. When bluebirds of happiness stop by for visits, you’ll realize your progress is showing.
So, go out there people! Notice an itsy-bitsy today and take care of it. Look with your heart and tell the truth about something. It will gladly do the hokey pokey and turn itself around.
That’s how you begin. And hallelujah everybody — your practice will grow!