By Rachel Factor
Tamar is about to enter the social hall. She can hear the music playing and the guests chatting. She wishes she were anywhere but here. She can feel the nervous feelings welling up inside. She can hear her thoughts taunting her. “Where will you fit in here? No one will care to talk to you. You won’t have anything worthwhile to say.”
Tamar is caught in a “thought storm.” Her problem is not so much her thoughts, as that she believes them and will act upon them. Tamar spends the first part of the simcha examining the food. Then she proceeds to interact with people she sees as less threatening. She does not even feel worthy of interacting with many of the guests at the party. After all, why would they have any interest in socializing with a simple person like herself? She has a story created from her thoughts.
If only Tamar would realize she is a healthy person temporarily experiencing thoughts that feel uncomfortable. If Tamar would allow the uncomfortable thoughts to be there, and would not act upon them, they would eventually pass and a true feeling of wellbeing would emerge.
One may argue, “But I’ve never been the confident type. I’ve never been the type to reach out, to initiate ideas, to be socially proactive. That’s for others, not for me.” One has the choice whether to continue thinking along those lines or create room for new thinking and ideas to come forth. Imagine what our community would look like if everyone paid attention to their insecure thoughts. We wouldn’t have all the services and establishments we have today. And imagine what our community could be if more people would let go of insecure thinking.
Yosef, an educator, shared with his colleague that he was offered an opportunity to speak at an educational conference and did not accept. His colleague could not understand why. Yosef gave a few lame excuses before admitting that he lacked the confidence to do so. His colleague looked at him with amazement. “Yosef, everyone sees you as a self-assured and talented educator with a wealth of knowledge to share. How can you be so blind?” Seeing our true worth is only possible when we are open to letting go of the old story and beginning a new one.
What if I really do make mistakes? What if others don’t like what I have to say? Believing in ourselves and our humanness means that it’s okay. The thought that I have to be perfect and never make mistakes is just a thought that I can choose to believe. It is not a universal truth. If I could choose to believe a thought, I can choose to stop believing it as well.
While it feels good to please others, the need to do so can stand in the way of our growth. People often try to guess what another is thinking about them. However, when it comes down to it, it is only really a guess. Shimmy excitedly shared with Dovid the great brainstorm he had that morning. Dovid did not react enthusiastically to it. Maybe Dovid didn’t think it was such a great idea, or maybe he just had a headache, or had a tiring day. Many great ideas are dropped because of what we think other people are thinking.
One does not need to stand on the sidelines, and wait for the “thought storm” to pass. In doing that he may be passing up on golden opportunities. Rather one can learn to be comfortable in all types of weather and pursue social interactions despite feeling discomfort inside. The more one sees experience is created by passing thoughts, the more comfortable one can be with it.
Let’s do a replay of Tamar entering the Simcha hall. The music is playing and people are chatting. Tamar feels discomfort inside, but has a feeling that others may too. They are just as human as she is. Instead of self-monitoring how she is feeling, Tamar engages others in conversation about their lives. Tamar’s true nature starts to emerge. Here and there, the insecure thoughts reappear, but Tamar has learned to accept them. She has gratitude for the time she is feeling good, and such times keep growing.
Are anxious thoughts holding you back from realizing your potential? Have you decided that life is too short to stay stuck in old thinking patterns? Schedule an appointment, or join a group, and see just how far you can go.