'Is she really comparing my life to a bookshelf?' you might be asking yourself. The answer is yes. If you're like me, then your life IS like a disorganized bookshelf.
What do I mean? Our mind works like a series shelves and compartments. We see something, think something, experience something, and then we categorize it. These categories act as compartments and cubbies in our brains- strictly organizing the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of ourselves and others accordingly. The categories, compartments, and cubbies are created based on our mental schemas, or mind frames. For instance, if you're religious, you may believe that premarital sex is bad. That belief acts a blueprint for other thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to be categorized. So if a friend shares something about their relationship, you may categorize them as good or bad based on your pre-developed schema. Got it?
Make space in your bookshelf. Make space for new ideas, feelings, and a new schema. Think about the schemas and mind frames your parents hold. How are yours similar and different? How did you develop different schemas than your parents on the same principles/thoughts? Your experience! And thank goodness for it! If our thoughts and perspective stayed the same for generations, then we wouldn't have civil rights and marriage equality.
So how are the cubbies on your bookshelf serving you? Or not serving you? What categories should you eliminate, combine, or make more room for? Hint: Making more room to explore your rationalization for certain schemas, being open to new schemas, and new labels for healthier schemas is key! Until we accept our need for growth and make it a priority, your bookshelf will appear full and crowded. Get rid of what's not serving you for some new books (ideas)!
Your bookshelf is for practicing containment. For instance, one cubby of your bookshelf (the self-help section!) may be overflowing with books, going all different directions, and very few have actually been read. Sound familiar? You may have some anxiety around wondering 'Am I good enough? I feel like an impostor. I'm lacking fulfillment.' You may have found several things that could be helpful, but you're not sure what's actually going to work. Feeling some uncertainty? Overwhelm? So how well can you sit with these feelings- the anxiety, uncertainty, incompetence? My guess is not good. Most of us struggle with these feelings.
What can you do about it? Become an observer of yourself! Take a step back and look at what you do when you experience these feelings. Do you rush out to buy another book or "something that will make the feeling go away?" Observe the feeling and your reactions to it without being judgmental. Take responsibility for the feeling by stating them out loud - "I'm don't feel adequate in my job."
When you're immediate remedy doesn't alleviate the feeling (buying that book), what's your next move? Tip: placing judgment on yourself or the feeling won't help here. So don't hate, appreciate. The feelings are signals. That's it. Use them as such. What are they really trying to tell you? Tip #2: it's usually not the surface thing you think it's telling you. Dig deeper by observing. Contain the feelings not but suppressing them, but by allowing them some space on your bookshelf, acknowledging them (out loud!), and being aware of your reactions to them.
So how will you clean up your bookshelf? Here are some suggestions:
- Get rid of the books (mental schemas) that aren't serving you. i.e. You're not good enough, You will never succeed. These aren't good books, trust me :)
- Reorganize the books your want to keep. Know where to find books like You Are Loved and You have support at a moments notice. These are the best books to reread as needed!
- Leave open space on your bookshelf for future readings. Being open to new ideas about yourself and world requires mental space to do so. So make room for the You that will continue to grow and evolve in your career, relationships, and life.
Tell us about your mental bookshelf below. How have you organized it for the better? Share your experience now!