Tom Bilyeu once said, “The only thing that matters is what you think about yourself when you’re alone.”
Think about it. What else could matter more? If you’re accomplishments, relationships, wealth do not make you feel better about yourself then they literally don’t matter at all.
I believe it’s possible to build a habit for anything. What if we tried to build a habit of thinking better about ourself, our life, and our day-to-day encounters? Let’s see if that’s possible.
How do you think about yourself?
I’m not talking about what type of person you think you are (i.e. artsy, funny, healthy). I’m talking about what is the manner in which you think about yourself.
How you think about yourself is much more important that what you think about yourself. This is because how you think about yourself determines what you think about yourself.
I would like to throw out the idea that there are broadly speaking two ways in which most people think about themselves.
a) Evaluation: This is when you look at yourself and notice a particular characteristic and make a judgement about it like, “Oh! I’m really good at this,” or, “She’s a lot more attractive than me.” Nine times out of ten this is the manner in which you think about yourself.
b) Inquiry: This is when you look at yourself and notice a particular characteristic in that moment. You might notice, “I’m super anxious right now over nothing!” or “I am really struggling to get up today.” The thing to keep in mind here is that there is no judgement attached. You’re simply aware.
Are you thinking or are you noticing?
There is a distinct difference between thinking about something and simply noticing something. This difference is critical.
Let’s dig into it.
When you notice something you’re paying attention to a particular thing. However, when you are thinking about something, you are almost always relating what is out in the world to yourself. To notice is to see. To think is to judge. Let’s see what this looks like:
Observation: “It’s really cold outside.”
Thought: “I’m the only one out here that forgot to wear two layers. Why is it that I have to be the only one cold out here…?”
Do you see? The observation had nothing whatsoever to do with yourself. The thought had everything to do with yourself. Our brains are judgement machines. We instantaneously judge whether something is good or bad for us. Do we stop and ask ourselves if we pay a price for judgement?
Moral of the Story: Thoughts are almost always selfish, oriented in the past, and disguised judgements.
So you want to change yourself?
Let’s say that you observe something about yourself. Say you catch yourself thinking, “Wow, my girlfriend is laughing way more at this other dude’s jokes.” This happened to me the other day.
What do you do?
Most of us would do this: “Well, she must think this other guy is more funny. Do you think she might be more into him? Has she forgotten that I’m even here? I need to gain her attention again. Come on, let’s get some jokes going brain!”
This is a prime example of the pit of death, AKA thinking style a) Evaluation.
Here’s the short list of reasons you need to stop with Evaluation ASAP:
- The judgements are not objectively real. Reality is likely much less bad than you judge it to be.
- It’s motivated by one thing and one thing only: fear. In every case, you fear losing something. A worthy question, did you have it in the first place?
- You are not living. Huh? You are literally obsessing over the past rather than living in the present. That’s a massive cost.
Making the shift
Now, how do you shift mental gears and go into thinking style b) Inquiry?
Here’s a better way to think in the same panicking-yet-self-deluded boyfriend scenario I found myself in:
“Well, this is an observation that I’ve collected from reality. I have the option of whether I want to put a judgement on it. It doesn’t actually have to mean anything to me. I can forget it and notice something else.”
“Well, why am I noticing this fact out of all the facts in the universe? It must be because I am ultra self-conscious. Why am I self-conscious? Maybe because I think I have to act a certain way to be liked. This is probably because I don’t love myself enough. I should right now accept myself just the way I am.”
Do you see the freedom found in Inquiry? There are no judgements. Judgements are fabrications from your brain (ego actually) anyways. You literally never have to think them. Most people do not realize they can choose how to interpret observations from reality.
The Dynamic Self
I wrote this essay primarily because it is something I feel has helped me tremendously. I would credit realization of Inquiry vs. Evaluation with most of the joy that I experience day to day.
Now for the best part…
I have a handful of people who I like to discuss with about their lives and their personal struggles. I usually go in pretty deep with these people by asking them extremely pointed and difficult questions. Almost always, though, I hit a road block. In almost every case the individual with whom I am speaking with has extremely negative self-beliefs. Let me give you some examples:
Negative belief a) “I am prideful and incapable of being compassionate.”
Negative belief b) “I am bad at relationships and never follow through.”
Negative belief c) “I am boring and so I need to be funny to be loved.”
Admittedly, I struggle with each of these negative self-beliefs!
Notice the similar thread in all of them? “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” Evaluation. Judgement. Self-hatred. Call it what you want.
Here’s the TRUTH…
You are a dynamic person. You have an immense amount of power over the type of person that you are.
The overwhelming truth of the matter is that the reason why you are actually prideful, bad at relationships, or boring is because you actually believe you are. You have decided that that is who you are. The part that is too scary for most of us to accept is that it is only you who can change it. No book can change it. No person can change it. No experience can change it. No purchase can change it. So stop with all that bullshit.
Every time you look for a way out you’re doing it out of fear. You don’t like an aspect of yourself so you hide it, or you compensate for it, or you see a therapist and obsess over it. It controls you. You want someone or something to take care of your problems for you. All the while the beliefs grow stronger. It’s self-defeating. The sad reality is that most people die with these negative self-beliefs unresolved.
Living as a Dynamic Individual
Here’s the thing. Wanting to be a different type of person will do you nothing. That’s called desire. Which is just another thought, another judgement.
The only way to actually become a different person is do the work and change completely how you think about yourself.
And it does require work.
What that does NOT mean is to replace negative self-beliefs with the opposite. AKA, “I am super selfless, not prideful.” That’s self-help mental garbage.
Recognize that ninety-nine times out of a hundred you don’t have to think about something and you can let it stay as merely an observation. That alone would drastically help your life.
It is an active process. Don’t go out in the woods to reflect for hour upon hour. Do the work as you live.
Watch each thought closely and question it’s source. You will immediately notice that 90% of thoughts are fear-based.
Now, Inquire into yourself. Be completely honest.
“Where did this thought come from?”
“Is this thought productive?”
“Is my thinking right now coming from complete love towards myself and therefore others?”
“What negative self-beliefs am I affirming by going down this thought pattern?”
“Am I just trying to fit in or imitate?”
“How can I instead learn something new right now, in this very moment?”
Those questions are EXCELLENT. It will require deep, critical thinking that may actually hurt your brain to do at the beginning. It’s awkward at first. This is because you have for so long automatically made a snapshot judgement, lived out the pain of that, and moved on with your joy-sucking life.
It is the individual moments that count. Stop living statically. With each passing moment you have the opportunity to either evaluate, fear, and imitate OR… learn, grow, and love.