I've been doing this sort of informal thought-pattern analysis, you know, in order to track my negative thoughts so that I can focus on changing them. I wrote a while back about how I tend to have imaginary conversations with people (a lot), and I'm becoming more and more conscious of that, and have been eliminating it pretty well. I'm able to laugh at myself now when I start to do it, because it really is ridiculous. I think back on how many years I've been doing this, fighting with people in my head, and that adds up to a whole lot of mental energy expended in imaginary conversations, and a whole lot of emotional energy being mad at people for saying things they never said, or being defensive and scared about things that never happened.
Phew. What a case I am.
The other thing I'm starting to notice is how I constantly compare myself to other people. I was driving the girls to work this morning, and a pretty, thin blonde woman was jogging along the road, jamming to her iPod, decked out in dolpin shorts and a sports bra. I don't think I even articulated it in this way, but in my mind an instant flood of comparisons appeared: she had better hair (long, sleek, blonde, evenly ponytailed); she was a lot thinner; she was running faster than I can; she can go running in a sports bra; she's probably had more kids than I've had, how come she looks so good; she obviously doesn't work and is probably rich and so can afford a personal trainer...and on and on.
Can you believe this? What is my problem? I don't know this woman in the least, and yet this whole chain of associations developed in my head in the space of, say, three seconds. And they were all about defending myself against some unknown voice that was saying things like, "Why can't you look like her? Why aren't you out running right now? Why is your stomach so poochy? If you ran in a sports bra you'd be a dubba-bubba-ing all over the place. Blahdiblahdiblah."
You get the picture. And I do a lot of this unhealthy comparison stuff. It's why I've turned off the t.v. lately, after allowing myself to binge and vomit "reality" programming this summer. It's why I'm not renewing my subscription to O Magazine (I'm finally off the Oprah! Hallelujah!). It's why I'm not going to buy one material thing in the next thirty days that we don't need for survival (like groceries). I want to step off this damn treadmill. Because that's what it is: an endless cycling of mental and emotional energy, a sick revolving of comparisons based not on what I value in people but in appearances, which are always changing anyway. And I'm tired of trying to play that game, of wasting my time and energy on it.
Think I can do it?