Episode 98: Stop Filling in the Blanks With That!
There is a pretty standard universal practice that is a huge confidence killer and what’s difficult about it is that your brain THINKS it’s helping. It can feel like we’re making progress and that we’re moving forward when we dive into this practice but it’s limiting, it’s drama creating, and it will hurt your confidence in deeply distressing ways.
I am talking about the habit and unhelpful practice of filling in the blanks. The world around us is made up entirely of circumstances – things we can’t control and then our thoughts about the circumstances. We interpret the circumstances in a way so that we can make sense of things so that we can know how we want to show up and be a part of the world and in most cases, it works out well for you.
We see a car with it’s blinker on and we interpret it to mean that they’re trying to get over so you let them on in. We see someone carrying an armload and then some and we make it mean they’re struggling and could use a hand so we open the door for them or help them carry their goods. In many cases, the filling in of the blanks is helpful and productive.
These people didn’t actually verbally communicate with you but we saw a circumstance and then we made it mean something. All good.
But then there are times when it’s not helpful. Like when a friend doesn’t text us back right away (or even for a few days) and our minds go wild with interpretations and stories to make sense why they’re not responding. We make it mean that they’re offended over the last conversation you had and then you have these drawn-out conversations in your mind about it – they shouldn’t think that I ….and then we prove or give evidence to ourselves about why they’re wrong and you’re right – but here’s the thing…they never said any of those things. They just didn’t respond to a text – that we know of!
There have been times when things get lost in cyberspace and even though I didn’t get anything it still doesn’t mean that they didn’t try sending it. So these fillers can stir up a lot of thought drama and most of the time it’s not helping you.
Today I want to offer you 4 questions and/or thoughts that you can use as a filler until you get more information to go off of. These 4 will be helpful to you and keep you from diving into the vast abyss of fear, worry, and insecurity. And what’s great about these is that you can use them in any circumstance where you don’t have all the information and listen, even if you think you do – we still can’t know what others are thinking of us so really, you can use these anytime and I highly encourage you to try these on and start making them a part of your daily vocabulary.
These will help you. These will work for you! These will empower and elevate you into a kinder, compassionate, more confident being that will help you overall to live the good life, a life of quiet confidence.
So let’s start with number one: What do I know and what don’t I know?
This isn’t an invitation to dive into a story about what you THINK you know but rather an opportunity to check in with the basic facts. And really to make this the most effective question you can ask yourself you need to make it boring – no adjectives, no frills – just facts. Make it bland and boring.
For example, if I text a friend and she doesn’t respond my mind would want to dive into a flurry of confusion, then worry, then it’ll land on a story and it’s usually not a pleasant one. It’s this cycle with all of us. It goes something like,
I wonder why she hasn’t responded yet. I texted her days ago. She usually responds pretty quick. – There’s the confusion stage.
Then it turns to worry – Did I offend her somehow? You know, I wonder if she overheard that conversation and thought it was about her. Or she could be mad at me because I didn’t want to go out the last time she invited me.
Then the longer you stay in that stage your brain won’t like it. It’ll feel uncertain, insecure, uncomfortable and your protective primitive brain is hardwired to avoid discomfort so you know what it does instead?
It goes straight to the set story phase. This is where you’ve come to a conclusion and again, most of the time it’s a bad conclusion. You land on a story that won’t serve, that doesn’t feel good – which is interesting because your brain chose this story to avoid the discomfort of not knowing and even though this story doesn’t feel good – it feels better than the not knowing.
When you have a story you have some footing finally. You can choose to get mad and mirror the behavior you didn’t like in the first place – like, if she’s not going to call me or text me back I’m not going to either! You know why she does this, don’t you? It’s because of xy and z.
Do you see this? Do you recognize yourself in this? It’s a common cycle and we’ve all been here numerous times and here’s the thing, it stinks. It’s a terrible cycle. It doesn’t feel good. It adds to your insecurities and won’t bolster you up.
So back to filler #1:What do I know? What don’t I know?
The only rules are to only list the bland, basic facts:
I know that I texted her yesterday.
I know that I didn’t get a response back.
I also know that sometimes texts don’t go through.
I also know that there have been times that I didn’t respond not because I didn’t want to but because I was busy.
What don’t I know?
I don’t know if she got it.
I don’t know if she even read it.
I don’t know that she’s avoiding me.
I don’t know if she tried texting me back and my phone didn’t receive it.
Are you starting to see how this filler is more productive for you already?
It’s allowing you to see that you have options to think and focus on other things. If I have the doubt and wonder that maybe my text didn’t go through, what do I want to do about it? When I’m in awareness to my own actions at times – like, being super swamped and forgetting to respond – that’s usually what happens with me – I tend to show up more compassionate over the judgment my brain wants to latch onto.
This filler can lead right into filler #2 which is: It’s just math or make it math
This is similar to #1 because math is just facts. In math, we don’t get overly creative and imaginative because you have parameters to follow. You can just say 1+1 = 25. People would question how you got that. They might argue with that because it’s not factual.
Math is also amazing because math has answers. My husband used to say that he liked math more than English in school because he knew that in math there was less subjectivity and it was based on solving the answer with facts over the English class that was subject to the preferences and opinions of the teacher and what she thought and liked.
And this is very applicable here too because when you make it math it’s figuroutable. When you’re stuck in drama, there’s no end sometimes to the depth and darkness the thoughts can take you. So stick to math.
Math is stating the fact and asking yourself, now what?
For example, going back to the no response example -it’d look like,
I have not received a text back, now what?
It’s also taking responsibility for your interpretations. Sometimes your brain just is insistent on making up a story and it can seem like you don’t have a choice but I assure you, you do – and so when we make it math it’s owning that. It’s not saying the this happened and now you feel something – because that puts you in being able to be acted upon, victim mode but instead, you own it.
State the facts, then say, I made that mean…
Like this: When I didn’t get a text back, I made it mean that she doesn’t care about me.
There is a huge difference between she didn’t respond because she doesn’t care about me vs when I didn’t get a text back, I made it mean she doesn’t care.
Do you see the difference? More importantly, do you feel the difference?
With the latter you have options. Again, you’re not in victim mode – you own that you’re creating that and when you’re done you can uncreate it. Isn’t that amazing? So math – learn to love mental math – even if you didn’t like academic mathematics. You can learn to love mental math. It’s a lifesaver!
Okay so let’s move into filler #3 and I love this filler. This is, “what do I want to believe?”
Now you don’t have to go in order, you get to pick and choose what you want and what’s the most helpful for you but #3 is important because we focus a lot on what we don’t want.
I don’t want to not hear back from her. But we rarely ask ourselves what we do want.
I want to connect. I want to talk. I want to tell her things.
And if that’s what I want is my story about her not caring about going to help me get that? Probably not, right? So instead, what do I want to believe? I get to believe anything I want to. Anything. No one can tell you what you have to believe. No one can make you believe anything.
Viktor Frankl talks about this. He says, “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom”
In other words, you always have a choice to choose what story you will entertain. You get to believe anything you want to believe. Sometimes it feels like we have to believe a certain thing – like, I hear my clients tell me sometimes, “No. I know this person. This isn’t like them. There is something wrong.” And then they tell me why this person is acting the way they are but the problem is that that story is hurting them. It doesn’t feel good. It chisels away at their confidence.
So when you own your greatest superpower, your agency and ability to choose whatever you want to believe. Why not spin the story is a way that will have you showing up as your best and highest self – which will always be from love.
What would love think right now? For me and for her?
Maybe love is just thinking, she’s busy and because I love her I’ll give her a few days and try again. Or I’ll reach out and offer to help lighten her load. Or I’ll just choose not to think something ugly.
I love the quote from Marvin J. Ashton that reads:
“Perhaps the greatest charity (the highest form of love, right?) comes when we are kind to each other when we don’t judge or categorize someone else when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down, or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
None of us need one more person bashing or pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses. Whatever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt? Whatever happened to hoping that another person would succeed or achieve? Whatever happened to rooting for each other?”
So in filler #3: what do I want to believe? What will create love and charity for me and for her? This is power, my friends. This is a confidence builder – quiet confidence because you create your own sure footing and foundation and love which is what we all really want deep down anyway.
So filler #4: I don’t know all the details and I don’t need to know
This one goes right along with #3 and well all of them actually. Your brain needs to latch on to something. It needs closure and something that makes sense because your brain doesn’t like things just lingering. It wants to conserve energy, box it up, and move on – which is why we dive into that unhealthy cycle I talked about earlier but there is a way you can move on, create closure, and still feel confident and that’s filler #4.
I don’t need to know all the details. I don’t need to know why she didn’t text back. I don’t need to know why she unfollowed, unliked, didn’t rsvp, didn’t respond – whatever it is that you’re struggling with.
I don’t need to know the answer to that because I get to decide what I want and how I want to feel. If you pause for a moment and just ask yourself why you want to know in the first place you’ll find that it’s because of a feeling. You want to know – aka you want to feel that closure, understanding.
So what if you skipped a step and didn’t need to get the answer from them but rather decided to make the decision ahead of time. Decide how you want to feel ahead of time.
I don’t need to know the answer to her actions or why – I just love her. I’m just going to decide that I love her no matter what. Like a baby, sometimes they cry. Sometimes they throw fits and you don’t know why. But your love isn’t conditional. You just decide that no matter what I’m going to love them.
We can do this with our friendships, family relationships, and all connections. You can decide ahead of time – I’m going to love them no matter what and we do this not for them – not because they deserve it – but because we show up as our best self when we come from love.
Love is just like that quote from Marvin J. Ashton. It’s giving them the benefit of the doubt over a painful tale in our minds. It’s loving them because you want to feel love. These fillers feel much better than the unhealthy cycle of confusion, worry, and set story.
Instead, give yourself these fillers:
1.) What do I know and what don’t I know? (Stick to the facts – make it bland and boring)
2.) It’s just math
3.) What do I want to believe?
4.) I just don’t know for certain and I don’t need to know.
And see what happens in your life. It is a game-changer. It will help you to keep going, to avoid mental drama, and to feel more confident. I can’t wait to hear from all of you and how you’ve tried practicing this. Definitely let me know!
So don’t forget to head over to iTunes and leave a rating and review, please! And I’ll talk to you all next week! Have a beautiful week!