{This is the second part of short blog series exploring the power of retraining your thoughts. If you have not yet read Better than Sex Ed: Part 1, please take a few minutes and read it here.}

Thursday, I lay down on the doctor’s table. A loosely placed white protective paper covered the germ-ridden top and made a crinkling noise every time the gynecologist asked me to reposition my body. My knees seemed to have an automatic response--always wanting to fold closed and together; protecting against too much exposure.

I could see Dr. Minni’s brightly dyed red hair as she lifted her head above the table and yelled something to her nurse behind the curtain in Estonian. She assumed I did not know what she was saying, but I understood enough to know it wasn’t good.

She is an older woman with the wrinkles and years of practice to prove her mastery of the female reproductive system. At that moment, her hardened face softened and she had the look of a grandma. Her eyes looked at me with kindness and pity, as if her heart was saying, “You’re too nice of a girl to have this.”

I was quickly ushered to the ultrasound room to do more tests, the lab to give blood, and sent home with an appointment next week and a few words. “This is not good. We will get the results and discuss everything next Thursday.”

I tend to believe that her lack of English skills caused her chosen words to be more dramatic then they were meant to be. If a doctor in America told me, “This is not good,” I may start planning my funeral. Until I know more, I tend to believe that in her rustic English, Dr. Minni actually meant to say, “You have a little problem and I will help you fix it.”

The truth is that I had been ignoring the signs for far too long. After a few years full of stress, emotions, endless work and investment, I had convinced myself that my body would survive unscathed. I am strong, after all.

Looking back, I can now see that I just continued to dig deep for strength and had refused to acknowledge the warning signs. Although my body was screaming at me, I chose to believe a lie that became my truth. Don't be a wuss. Just ignore it. Just keep going. It will soon all be o.k.

I am sure that Dr. Minni, the gynecologist nearing retirement, could give me quite a lesson on my female organs-- how to pamper them and prepare them for holding and giving life. All of that knowledge in my head, or even pressure from the redheaded doctor, is absolutely worthless unless I take a moment to stop, listen to my body and move forward in truth instead of denial. 

I was reminded that this is the key to a healthy body, but it is also the foundation to a whole-hearted, healthy inner life.

In Better than Sex Ed: Part 1, I shared the first few steps of cognitive behavior therapy. After intensive counseling to overcome depression and being taught these life-changing steps, I was frustrated. Why was it obligatory for my P.E. coach to teach me the basics of sex education and not educate me on the steps to developing a healthy thought life?

Why? Many adults have never been taught to utilize these simple, life-changing steps for themselves. You, however, have no excuse. You are here, sitting at your desk, and it’s time to pay attention. Stop dreaming of the beautiful girl or muscular jock sitting across the room. There are far more important lessons to acquire than could ever be taught by a coach in sweatpants. During our last lesson, I challenged you to do four things:

  1. Pay attention to your feelings. This will always be the place to start, and work backwards for steps two and three. Don’t allow yourself to push any emotions down without first recognizing your feelings and reactions.

  2. Recognize the situation that caused the emotional response.

  3. Dig deep and explore. Find the exact thought or self-talk that resulted in the feeling.

  4. Although not necessary, but very beneficial, keep a written thought diary for one week.

Here is an example of one of my thought journals reflecting steps one through three.

It’s time to check your homework. How did you do?

As I said in in Part 1, if you did your homework well, you may feel quite miserable right now. Rolling around in difficult feelings, experiences and thoughts gives you the sensation of sinking deeper into the pit that you are ready to climb out and leave behind you.

If you are prepared to leave that ditch in your past, the next crucial steps of cognitive behavioral therapy will be your rescue ladder. If they are followed faithfully, you will revolutionize your thoughts, and in turn--your life.

By writing my personal diary pictured above, I realized that I had become inwardly critical of everything in my life (my weight, my looks, my intellect, my abilities). I felt ashamed and disgusted. When I took the time to analyze the inner story I was telling myself, I realized the truth. I had exposed myself by launching this website, and I had a fear that people would judge me and my work as unacceptable. I recorded the process of stating the truth in the rest of my thought diary below. The diary helps you to distinguish the distortion, identify the challenge standing before you, and record the actions steps to a healthy outcome.

 

My self-talk was exposed. It was evicted from the deep trenches of my mind and emotions and forced to stand in the light. The lie stands there, naked, with knees shaking from fear. Even in their weakness, they cry out and attempt to retain power over your soul. Although some of these lies may feel like life-long friends that have been with you since your youth, you MUST use every piece of strength within you to instigate the revolutionary and difficult step five.

Step # 5: Discover and listen to the truth, and only the truth.

Perhaps a lie has been your companion for far too long. How do you even discover the truth after so many years?

If you are unsure, imagine yourself sharing this lie with the most trust-worthy person you know. They know your strengths and weaknesses while completely loving and accepting you for who you are. This may be a best friend, a relative, or even God. If they knew everything you inwardly said and believed about yourself, how would they respond? Would they say it was truth or would they quickly demolish it with words of encouragement?

It is time for YOU to inwardly talk to YOURSELF like your most trusted relative, counselor or friend. If they would not say it about you, cast it out as a lie. 

Assess your inner thoughts against this quote from well-known researcher Brene Brown. It is your measuring stick.

"You are worthy now- not if, not when. You're worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” 

AS IS. Not if you change something. Not if you had made better choices in the past. Not if you get that education, job or partner you always dreamed of.  Not if you get your anger under control. AS IS.

If you make a list of things in your head that you need to change or achieve in order to be worthy of someone’s love or acceptance, this is a lie. Healthy, whole-hearted people are humbly confident of this truth. Accepting their imperfections allows them to live life in the light; loving and accepting others as well as embracing themselves.

Step # 6: Write the truth on your heart. Change your behavior.

After you discover your truth, write it down. When you live attentive to your feelings and situations, and recognize a lie as it attempts to squeeze the worthiness out of your heart, strangle it with the truth. 

Keep the truth on the tip of your tongue, playing on repeat in your spirit, and ready to shoot down the lie every time it jumps up out of hiding. Tattoo the truth on your soul in the brightest, deepest of colors. Don't allow anything to dull its brightness and strength. You must learn to be the protector of your heart.

New studies (University College London) show it takes an average of 66 days to create a new habit. So, prepare yourself for a long battle, but your behavior can be changed. You can even, little by little, overthrow the lies that have been companions for years. Just remember--you survived way more than 66 days of teenage gossip, complicated algebra and sex ed homework. Don’t give up! Once you are able to sense your feelings, challenge and uproot unhealthy thoughts, you will see a change in your behavior. A different future awaits!! 

 

Step # 7: Share your story.

Lies cannot survive when exposed. They often gain their power from remaining hidden under our shame.

Find a proven and trust-worthy relative or friend, and share it ALL. This is simultaneously the most difficult and bravest thing you can do.

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can't survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” – Brene Brown

We try to be strong. We try not to burden others with our inner issues. Wrestling with them alone, accompanied by shame, creates a stagnant cesspool in our souls. It’s lifeless. It smells stale and rotten. And it just keeps eroding deeper and deeper into our core.

The moment we sit down with someone we trust and share the lie, the situation, the wrong mistake that haunts us--fresh water floods the dying corners of our lives. A new outlet is opened, and the cesspool is destroyed. It will quickly reform, however, if we do not begin a habit of being repeatedly vulnerable.

Someone is waiting to help you walk through this. Every time you begin to weaken your stance and give precious battleground back to the lie, you will not be alone. There is someone standing beside you, holding your arms up in the battle; reminding you of the truth and who you are.

I ask you to leave the hormone-filled halls of your beloved high school behind. Those certainly were not your best years. Learn to make the truth your guide, and you will change. Your future transforms. It is finally time for truth to be the author of your life.

 “If you own this story you get to write the ending.” -Brene Brown

I’ve got my sweatpants on. 

I'm standing firmly in front of you, blowing the coach’s whistle.

Let’s get writing!

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{I know some of you may be worried about my doctor's appointment. Please don't be. I really do feel that with rest and some good medicine, all will be well. When possible, I try to use real examples out of my life to empower my words. That is why I chose to tell the story. Perhaps this does explain, however, my delay in writing the second part of this blog. I had promised to post it long ago. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. If prescribed rest means getting to wear sweatpants more often, then I'm all for it :). Life is so good. This is how I spent the evening after my appointment--see video below. There is always something great to dance about. Now THAT is the truth.}