What to Do about what’s already IN?
OR I’ve stemmed the tide of crap. Now what?
OK, so you are sensitive to the lies coming at you. You see them as Demons or the result of Demons.
You hope that there is hope, which is all you need to start winning the battle.
You set up a Gatekeeper at your mind’s edge to stop the unbridled inflow of new lies. You evaluate more of what you hear and don’t accept it as truth without that evaluation.
You started to look at what YOU were saying about yourself; your own voice can curse you.
You’ve reduced the inflow of lies, but what about everything that was already IN? What about all the stuff that has gotten past the gate?
We’ve been looking primarily at the flow of stuff coming in, but you already have a lifetime of ‘stuff’ in your head from before we started filtering it better. We need to keep ‘preventing’ new stuff from coming in, while we start clearing out old stuff.
This ‘stuff’ what you’ve heard throughout your life, that you’ve ‘adopted’ as the truth about you. Either through repetition or through you repeating it, or it just feeling ‘right.’ You’ve not only let it in, but you’ve also let it ‘settle in’ and get comfortable. You’ve made peace with it and made it your own. You’ve adopted it and define yourself by it. These things can be good, or bad. It’s a double-edged sword. Like when we were setting up and reinforcing the Gatekeeper, we didn’t throw out everything; we evaluated it for truth and looked at the source. For the stuff that has embedded in you, there’s a similar approach available. It might be so deep, and so far back in time, that the source might be difficult to suss out; ‘I’ve always been bad at math.’ ‘I’ve always been a klutz.’ ‘I’ve always just fallen in with the wrong bunch of people.’ That’s OK, the source isn’t as important as the evaluation of truth.
I propose that you take a few moments to think through the characteristics that define you. Two lists; one that lists how you define yourself, and one in which you capture how you think other people define you.
If you are like me, you DID NOT make those two lists before continuing to read. No worries. I hate those kinds of ‘self-discovery’ exercises. I find them really awkward and full of pressure. I always get spun up trying to pick the perfect or most important example to work on first. So, let’s skip that. Pick anything you like, and the consequential the better. You don’t start learning auto mechanics on a race car. You start on something a little less complex.
For me, today, I’m going to use Photographer as my example. That actually took me a couple of minutes to get to, because I was trying to over think the meaning and implications of my selection. Duh. Exactly what I was suggesting that you NOT do. Then I looked up and saw a tripod I had set up for another project. Ding!
An example from my life
OK, to my mind, I’m a ‘wannabe’ photographer. I love taking pictures. I love the romance of film, and before switching to digital, I took it upon myself to preserve some old 35mm cameras. They were clunky and past their prime, but I just love the mechanics of them. So, I got basic 35mm equipment, then some more equipment. Then an antique medium format camera. But still, a wannabe photographer. I didn’t study to become better. I didn’t focus on it like a craft. I just did it. And so I got ‘functional’ but not ‘artistic.’ I know basic composition. I know exposures and depth of field. I know all the science and a little of the application. To me, I’m a wannabe photographer. To those around me that aren’t photographers, I’m a photographer. I’m knowledgeable. I take some good shots. I can help them figure out the settings on their camera. To a photographer, I don’t think I even rank as a ProSumer.
So, that’s the context of my ‘photographer’ label. Let’s dig into it together, about me, as a way to maybe see a way to dig into your stuff.
Clarifying the example – unpacking
I articulated that ‘wannabe’ photographer title like it was a statement of fact. It’s been reinforced into my thinking so deep and so long that it’s a ‘fact’ about me from my perspective. But is it ‘true’? I understand all the science and art in making a photo. I appreciate a good image and appreciate how difficult it really is to capture. I take some good shots, and I’ve taken some spectacular shots. So in reality, I’m probably better than ‘wannabe.’ So what gives? In an unguarded moment, I’ll admit that many times I’ll downplay my abilities so that I have an opportunity to surprise and exceed expectations. In a dark moment, I’ll hear the other voice in my ear whispering that I do that so that I don’t have any performance stress or obligation, and I don’t disappoint. I’d rather fail to impress than to disappoint. Because I have a Gatekeeper/filter installed to review those inbound comments, I have a way to take a close look at that voice, as we’ve discussed, and try to determine where it came from.
Let’s pause a moment and reflect…. I saw a tripod in the corner, thought through how that played in my life, and followed that line of thinking to what is potentially a big ‘root’ in my life. Your results may vary, but this kind of exploration and discovery frequently work out this way. My mental model of my photographic abilities is warped because of a long-term habit of self-deprecation. I can go about correcting the symptom, “wannabe photographer.” I can go after the root itself: “self-deprecation.” I’m going to chip away at the root by dealing with the symptom. I have identified a thing in my life that appears to be a lie that has crept in and taken up lodging. Let’s deal with it.
Steps to dig out the embedded ‘stuff’ in your life
Step 1 – Find evidence to both support and contradict what you are digging in to. You want both viewpoints, not just one sided. There’s probably a kernel of truth in the lie. If you avoid the stuff that supports the lie you are trying to refute, then down the road you’ll be hearing voices of doubt. That you ‘cheated’ to get free of the lie, and that it wasn’t a lie at all; it really was true. If you don’t look at the bad, but you know it exists, then you’ll face internal accusations of glossing over stuff and not dealing objectively. It’s just fodder for a ‘nagging doubt’ down the road. Deal with it upfront. For me, regarding photography, I merely gathered a bunch of sample photos. This got tremendously distracting as I had so much fun reliving the events and places.
Step 2 – Take a step back and look at the evidence as objectively as possible. Evaluate the evidence, and grade it or categorize it as “for” or “against.” This is where you might go back and apply some of your ‘filters’ from our ‘gatekeeper’ dialogue. As my wife would ask, ‘is that something God would say about me?’
Step 3 – Take a look at the standards against which you are measuring. Am I evaluating my work against that of a professional, or against that of a seasoned amateur? What is the ‘grading scale’? This is where I usually catch myself; I grade myself using a metric for a level of skill that I’m not trying to meet and coming up short. That revelation applies to more than just the photography thing, so I’ll tuck it away for use later when I’m digging in to the ‘self-deprecating’ thing.
Step 4 – Use all that evidence to refute that ‘embedded’ thing. Say it out loud a few times. “I’m a pretty good photographer” “I take some splendid photos” etc. Saying it, and hearing it, reinforces it. And that starts to push the lie out. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Step 5 – Expect the lie to try to ‘re-establish’ on occasion. It’ll try to present itself again as truth, bold as anything. You just need to call it out as rubbish and put truth back in its place.
Step 6 – That lie has been your ‘truth’ for so long it’s also a ‘habit.’ You’ll consider doing something and think, ‘I’d like to do that, but I’m only a wannabe photographer’….. It’s a habit that you’ve developed to decline to do something because of the lie. So even though the lie is out, the habit lingers. You have to bring your behavior and habits around to the new truth. “Well, of course, I’ll take photos at your wedding.”
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Like I said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” You have a lifetime of stuff to dig out. Don’t try to boil the ocean and do it all at once. You’ll get tired and give up. What’s the best way to eat an elephant? With lots of Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ sauce, of course. Not sure how that analogy helped right there, but now I got a hankerin’.
You’ve slowed the flow of new stuff coming in. Now start digging out the lies that have set up shop, and defined you incorrectly. Then LIVE the new definition. If you’ve been told your entire life that you aren’t smart, but you really are, then correct that internally, and go DO smart. Smartly? Be Smartness? You get the picture. Because you and I are pretty good photographers.