(This post is dedicated to my friends, whom I appreciate, very much.)
In my blog post yesterday I wrote about people reading and not reading my blog. My focus, in writing that, was letting go of some unhelpful thoughts, most of which involved the Cognitive Distortion of Mind Reading. (Example of mind reading, “People who aren’t reading my blog think I suck!”)
And that has been my focus, lately, to let go of unhelpful thoughts. I do that work with other people (in my job as a therapist) and I do that work with myself.
Digression about Why This Blog? including Why the Title?
That is The Main Reason I started this blog and committed to writing in it, daily for a year — to practice and learn about letting go of unhelpful thoughts, which usually involve self-judgment (like assuming that people’s thoughts about you are negative). That’s why I chose the title of this blog. And the title is somewhat ironic, because it’s a goal, not an expectation. I mean, I don’t expect that I will ever NOT have judgmental thoughts. I just want to get better at recognizing them and letting go of them. I’m human. Cognitive distortions are human. That’s why I don’t like the word “distortions.” Humans aren’t distorted, so how can our thinking be called distorted? Although, I do like the word “distortion” in this context: cognitive distortions are (usually) not true. They just feel like the truth.
So, returning to where I was … my blog post of yesterday. I got some interesting responses (here and elsewhere), including (1) people letting me know that they are faithful readers and (2) people focusing on my increasing my readership. When I first read those comments, I thought, “Hmmmm. That really wasn’t the point of my blog post.”
Or was it?
My intent in writing that blog post may have been letting go of unhelpful thoughts. However, whenever we put a communication out there, people will receive it in their own ways. And what people receive often has to do with (1) their own stuff AND (2) other stuff that was there in the original message. And I DO have thoughts about who is reading and increasing readership (and not all those thoughts are unhelpful, distorted ones).
Man, that paragraph was almost a long digression about Communication in General, but I pulled it back. However, I feel another digression coming on (cue the digression music, which sounds a lot like regular flashback music):
Digression about Digressions
Phew! These Thursday morning posts are more digressive, naturally, because I always think I have more time (because I’m scheduled to go in late on Thursdays) (although I sometimes go in earlier than scheduled, because there is usually an interesting lecture to attend). So I tend to luxuriate in writing a Thursday-morning post. (I guess I like settling in to a nice, cushion-y digression or two, if I have the time.)
The End (or IS it ?)
Maybe I should write these “luxurious” blog posts using a non-linear format. Perhaps I should look into using a flow chart, using arrows labeled, “If you want to follow the original point”, so people can make their way through them more easily.
Okay, this is the point where I imagine my linearly-minded readers getting annoyed. That’s Mind Reading, on my part, but here’s the deal: sometimes when we mind read, we’re right (about some people).
Oh, man. I may never get to my intent in writing this blog post today, which I stated in the title — “Fame Fortune, and ‘The Ceiling’.”
Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve speculated that when I DO digress, it’s because I’m avoiding getting to the topic I’ve set as a goal. Maybe I’m avoiding this one because there’s some pain associated with it.
That would be a good guess, actually.
Let me cut to the chase and explain the title.
I have a ceiling for myself about how much fame and fortune I will attain in this world. It’s related to what I Think I Deserve.
And it’s complicated, because I honestly don’t want to focus on attaining fame and fortune. I KNOW that is NOT the path I want. When I let go of (unavoidable) wishes to move towards those things, I am much happier, much more fulfilled, much more directed to my real values (which include authenticity, soul-deep work, and The Golden Rule — treating others the way I would like to be treated).
But I live in this world, and those material values are pervasive here, aren’t they? And some fame and some fortune can be fun, in a way — as long as they don’t guide my path.
But I’ve got baggage about my worthiness for those kinds of rewards (and I’m assuming I’m not alone in that).
Here’s one of my personal stories about Fame and The Ceiling:
Getting on Game Shows
I love puzzles, word play, and trivia, and I’m good at those. And I’ve won some contests, using those skills. And I’ve used those skills, at times, in some pursuit of Fame and Fortune.
I tried out for a quiz show that used to be on the old Game Show Network, in the 90’s, called “Inquizition.” That show had in-studio contestants and phone contestants. I tried out to be a phone contestant, made it, and won (against three other people, and a prize of about $250) (it was The Game Show Network, people). Then, I was invited to return — as a phone contestant, again — and compete with three other previous winners. I won again (with three times the cash, I think).
Then, I tried out for the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” And, I almost got on. I was verrrry close. Twice. Both times, I didn’t make it, in ways that (1) made excellent stories and (2) were quite painful for me, at the time.
I’m not telling THOSE stories today. Too long. Probably still a little painful.
The disappointment of NOT appearing on a TV show becomes much more painful — if there are underlying beliefs/fears that I DO NOT DESERVE to be recognized, beyond a certain ceiling.
I’m not sure if I want fame, actually, but that’s not really my point right now. What I’m focusing on is that Sense of Self-Worth — That question: How much do I deserve?
And I’m focusing on that because I think THAT’S what’s behind most Cognitive Distortions. Thoughts like these:
I am not worthy enough. I do not deserve this.
Those thoughts are The Mother Lode of all the other distorted thoughts. They are the Core thoughts about our basic worth. And when they’re negative, they’re very, very painful.
They can distort our thinking, our vision, our hopes. Big time.
The Wish to Become Famous Through Appearing On A Game Show is not as powerful a wish for me these days. I know that, because I actually tried out for one — a NPR radio show — last week. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it. And while that’s generated a twinge or two, and a stray thought like this:
I knew I wouldn’t get it! Even though I had moments where I thought, “I deserve to be on this show as much as anybody else,” that’s obviously not true.
I let go of those thoughts, really quickly. They barely lingered.
But they lingered enough to come up during this blog post. And who knows? Perhaps if I hadn’t tried out for that game show, I wouldn’t be writing this post now.
That wish for fame — which may not be attached to being on a game show, now — DOES still exist in me. It can free-float, attaching itself to other things. Like this blog, for example.
A few friends have said this to me, “I think your blog post is going to get picked up somehow, like with that woman in ‘Julie and Julia.'”
I have very wonderful friends.
Did I have a reaction to my friends saying things like that? Sure. I got a little thrill. Every time. That’s s a fun thing to consider. It is! It’s recognition. Validation. Big Time. Fame and Fortune! (And I’m guessing some other bloggers reading this have had a similar fantasy. How could they not?)
But I’m not letting the reactions to my blog — no matter how big or small — guide me. I’m letting go of my investment in that outcome. Not obsessively. Not puritanically. Just because letting go of investments in outcomes, in general, works well for me. And also, focusing on how people react to this blog can obscure my original intent.
But here’s what I really what I want to say this morning, before I leave for work. This is the punchline. The end of the flowchart.
I am worthy and deserving, exactly how I am, right now, no matter what.
No matter how much recognition I receive. No matter who reads this blog post. No matter what it generates in the universe. No matter whether I get on a game show, or not. No matter what I do. No matter what I achieve — Fame, Fortune, or Variations Thereof.
Try using that sentence, in italics above, dear reader, and see what happens. It may seem like a cliche, it may be gloopy …. but it helps.
It’s acceptance of exactly where you are.
Thanks for being there.