The words you repeat to yourself become your mantra.
Right? If you say something enough times, eventually it becomes truth.
“I love Mondays.”
“I’m a morning person.”
“This excessively painful workout is worth it.”
But the same can be said for negative reinforcement, can’t it…
“I suck at time management”
“I hate being an adult.”
“Kids are so. freaking. hard.”
If repeating good statements makes them more true, repeating bad ones … must make them more true, too.
I haven’t written much about stepmomming in the past few months.
Actually, it started when my boss at my newspaper job told me to stop writing my column for publication every week. It hurts my ego to say it, but the column wasn’t getting the readership to warrant me spending time on it.
So I stopped spending time on it.
Sure, I could find the time to still write it on my own, if I wanted.
But I never did.
“I suck at time management” became my mantra.
Every week that went by, I found things to fill my time OTHER than writing about being a stepmom — and what I had hoped would be a biweekly or monthly blog turned into … well … nothing.
Because “I suck at time management.”
The more I said it, the more I believed it.
On top of that, at the end of summer, we had a hiccup in the time/space continuum of our household. I won’t go into what exactly happened, but it threw the balance out of whack, and drove home just how fragile our family ecosystem really is.
(Which also lent another excuse to not write about stepmomming — because I was facing a whole new hurdle in that particular area of my life.)
“I hate being an adult” became my mantra.
No, it wasn’t a new thought for me by ANY means, but it became something I held onto all the more tightly when I realized that I truly did have responsibilities and I, equally truly, had no idea how to handle them.
The more I TOLD myself I had no idea how to handle them, the more nervous — and the less capable of handling them — I actually became.
Again: Self-fulfilling prophecy.
After that incident, even more than usual, I would react with discomfort when any little thing slid out of my limited perception of boundaries with the kids.
“Kids are so. freaking. hard.” became my mantra.
That constant thought bled into my entire week, not only the days they actually came over.
Disclaimer: I never said this to the kids, obviously. When they were actually around, I’d put on a happy face and just carry on, business as usual.
But inside, I was a guilty wreck. The more I said it to myself, the more true it felt.
Again (again): Self-fulfilling prophecy.
That isn’t to say that these negative statements aren’t true. Very often, they ARE true — and that’s the tricky part. They reflect very real frustrations and emotions, which makes it all the more appealing to repeat them over and over and over again, like the repetition is some sort of release.
And while acknowledgement of frustrating emotions is healthy, sulking in them is decidedly less so.
My stepson has been having a tendency to repeat, with a decent amount of frequency, how much he can’t stand his little sister.
Which, admittedly, is real. She’s a little sister. In all likelihood, she probably does actually annoy him.
But the more he focuses on it, the less room he leaves to look for the positives in their relationship.
Acknowledge the negative. Because yes, it’s real —
But then, for the love of sanity, move on.
I’m trying to do better.
As I seem to discover time and again, I guess half the battle is recognizing you’re screwing up, so you can deliberately change the thing you’re screwing up. (And repeating these things to myself counts as screwing up.)
To pull a Star Wars reference, Qui-Gon Jinn had it right: “Your focus determines your reality.”