Lately I have found myself the victim of that little green monster – jealousy. I usually am very comfortable with who I am, but I have found my self-talk leaning more to the “I wish…” I wish I could just pick up and move to a new city. I wish I had that person’s fashion sense. I wish I had that woman’s body. I wish I had that woman’s hair. I wish I had the willpower to do that diet. The list was going on and on and I felt I needed to put a stop to it. I believe one of the hardest things to do is take on your self-talk head on. It takes practice to be aware when self-talk turns negative, put an end to it, and turn it back to the positive. How did I do it this time?
I started with answering my self-talk with the above quote. It is one of my favorites for bringing me back to who I am. I could try to have that woman’s fashion sense, but that is HERS not MINE. Maybe someone is envious of the way I dress. And so on through all my “wishes” until I re-established my belief that I was a first rate version of myself. The way I am right now, at this very minute, is what I need to be and all I need to be. Will I never be visited by the green monster again? Of course not. But each time I stop the talk and turn it around, the easier it gets, and maybe at some point the wishing stops. That, to me, is a goal worth pursuing for sound body, mind and spirit.
Why do we suffer by believing the grass is always greener?
“…many troubles of the mind involve turning away from reality by being preoccupied with the search for another life, a different life, perhaps a better life somewhere else. Psychoanalysts have job security because we have an understanding that the only way to find mental health is to turn toward the life that you have and to deal with it. (bold added for emphasis)
Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called this human task “the acceptance of reality”— and she viewed it as a cornerstone of mental health, contentment, inner security, and peace of mind. She is in pretty good company, as this philosophy can be found throughout the ages. Buddha once said that the way to happiness is actually quite simple; the secret is to learn to want what you have and not want what you don’t have.
Troubles in life come when we believe the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. We are taken over by envy, believing that other people have the good stuff and then feeling depressed, anxious, and persecuted by the belief that we have so little. We are taken over by greed, wanting more and more and more, feeling that what we have cannot ever be enough.
The reason why this attitude undermines mental health is that it leads us to turn away from the main task of life which is to make the most of what we have. By denying the goodness of our very own lives, we believe that we have nothing good to work with nor the capacity to work with it. We lose focus, self-confidence, and hope.
Psychoanalysts spend a lot of time trying to help their patients re-orient themselves to dealing with the life that they have. At first, this can feel very deflating. We must bust the myth that we can have someone else’s life, someone else’s castle, someone else’s lawn.
No, we only have our own. But that is the pivotal spot. If we can accept reality for what it is, we have the chance to develop it, to improve it, and to grow it.
Robert Fulghum, author of that classic book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” put it this way: “The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are.””
“When crossing fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are”—I am going to add that to my repertoire for dealing with negative self-talk. Maybe something like “Be a first rate version of me – carry my own water” will get me through the next bout of jealousy. Then I can focus my attention on creating the GREENEST DAMN GRASS right where I am.