The Pesky Mind Game You Don’t Know You’re Playing on Yourself

Last week I went to see the new Star Trek movie. On a Wednesday. In the middle of the afternoon.

It was lots of fun, even though we didn’t take the whole things as seriously as…other couples.

Blog - trek couple

While I’m not a big Star Trek fan, it turns out that Hubbie is. And partnerships are about…compromise. (Which is why the lunch beforehand was at one of those organic, “what-do-you-mean-there’s-no-meat-on-this-menu?” kind of places. Give and take, my friends.)

As we made our way to the movie complex, the pesky mind game began. I felt incredibly guilty…like I was slacking off. Like I was somehow playing hooky from school or the office.

All of those beliefs I’d learned about being a “true professional”…the ones I was now defying…built up into a shame bubble inside of me. I ducked into the theater, afraid of running into a client or a colleague.

I couldn’t let it go until I realized something quite simple.

I wasn’t playing hooky. Because I don’t go to school. And I don’t work at a traditional office.

I’m a business owner…an entrepreneur. Which means I work with all kinds of people at all kinds of hours. Traditional office rules do not apply.

And those beliefs about work I’d learned since I was a kid? They don’t apply to me either.

And so I realized I had to let go of those beliefs.

I had to detach from my past.

(Now, even if you’re not an entrepreneur, stay with me. This lesson, and all those mind games that come with it, apply to you.)

Most of us have heard that a key to happiness is detaching from our future. We know the dangers of getting too attached to things that aren’t certain…new jobs and new partners and rain-free vacations.

Detaching from the past, however, isn’t nearly as popular of a concept.  And yet it might be even more important.

Think about it.

We are all brought up learning lessons and beliefs that are stated as absolute truths. And we assume everyone else believes them, too.

everyone believes that boys shouldn’t ever show fear….

everyone believes it’s important to go to a certain church on a certain day…

everyone feels that wearing designer clothes reflects success…

We learn these lessons from lots of people throughout our lives. Parents and teachers and friends definitively exclaim how things are in the beginning…then new colleagues and the media join in. And many of them mean well.

Before we know it we’ve got a whole bunch of beliefs about life…about the way things should be…that actually might not be true. At least not for us.

Sometimes, when we run up against a belief that no longer works for us, it turns into a horribly pesky mind game. We feel like we’ve done something wrong. Like we’ve failed.

We don’t consider that the problem might be with the belief itself.

Need a few examples? Here are just a few beliefs I’ve detached from over the last few decades:

  • Everyone should have kids
  • Taller is more attractive
  • You must vote a certain way
  • Failure means you just didn’t try hard enough (Read: You are LAZY!!)
  • The thinner you are the better you are

And…true professionals work their butts off, 9am-5pm, every weekday.

Often, a belief is accompanied by that dangerous “should” word. And when we’re convinced we should do something in a certain way, but it doesn’t feel right, it can make us miserable.

We never consider that the belief itself might not be true. We never consider detaching from our past.

Detachment can be done in all kinds of circumstances. Even simple attitudes or judgments about something or someone are up for detachment grabs. We can choose to detach from them, to start fresh.

Of course, not everything is about detachment. There will be core values you have throughout your entire life. There will be hard lessons you want to hold on to. There will be a passionate belief in the soothing power of mint chip ice cream that will persevere from childhood to death.

But there will be other beliefs that will evolve and change over time. There may be some that, frankly, were never right for you in the first place.

The important thing is to recognize when a belief runs up against a different truth inside of you, to catch the mind game before it starts.

To understand that the truth of a lesson learned long ago (or not-so-long-ago) simply might not apply to you. Or it might not apply to you anymore.

And then? Challenge the belief head-on. Consider where it came from. Consider whether you might want to detach from it.

Remind yourself that life choices are different for different people at different times in their lives. That other people’s beliefs might not always apply.

I’m working on this one every day. Which I know, in the end, will make me that much happier.

Now, go live long and prosper.

Blog - live long prosper

PS: Special thanks to Steve Baker for the Trekkie-couple shot, and to Michael Verdi for the fun “live long and prosper” shot.


8 responses to “The Pesky Mind Game You Don’t Know You’re Playing on Yourself”

  1. Jeana Wallace Avatar

    Another great article that really hit home. I deal with this specific issue on an ongoing basis being self employed for the last 10 years. Yet I choose this path so that I can have the luxury of making my own schedule. What I try to remind myself is that although I can make my own schedule and dip out for a movie in the middle of the day I have actually taken the harder path by being self employed and wearing multiple hats that comes with this type of employment. So I try to ease up on myself but it is not easy task to say the least. Thank for a great read!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Great points, Jeana – glad this one touched on an issue you (and I!) deal with so personally!

  2. Patty Avatar

    Thank you Deirdre. I hear you. Two great words here: guilt and should. It is hard to delete the guilt word but we can try to reason it out and not “should” on ourselves.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      And those are two of the trickiest words, ever, aren’t they Patty?! If we could get past them, our lives would be so much easier. Thanks for the great comment!

  3. Sue Kindred Avatar

    Another great article! I have been self employed for about 4 years now … after decades of working a “traditional” job. But, even in those “traditional” jobs, I often not only worked 9-5, but checked emails in the evenings and worked on Saturday mornings. I am slowly learning to LOVE the flexibility of setting my own schedule … which means I can slip into Wal-Mart mid-morning to avoid the crazy people and work in the early evening when my energy level and my thinking is at its highest and sharpest. Thanks for articulating what I’ve been struggling with (and am learning to embrace). Power to the solo-preneurs!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Power indeed! Thanks for giving this a read, Sue…I appreciate your taking the time to comment!

  4. Barbara Haines Avatar
    Barbara Haines

    How about this one, as I work from home, too, and feel guilty -thrilled that my beloved 14 year old son is off to highschool today and will be gone for an entire 12 hours due to before and after school football practice. Mixed emotions… woking without interruption and about grateful there won’t be a teenage argument all day.
    #badmom ?

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      How about #perfectlynaturalandawesomemom Mixed emotions are what being a working parent is all about…if it were all good or all bad there might be a problem. Thanks for the comment!