Negative Thinking – What It Is, And Isn’t.

On Negative Thinking.

So much talk about positive vs negative thinking. But what is it exactly? What are negative thoughts, and why do we need to stop them?

When I had cancer, here’s something I heard a lot – “You just need to keep thinking positively!” After hearing this for about the thousandth time, I began to realise most people didn’t actually believe thinking and speaking positively was going to help me get better. Asking me to think positively was actually for the most part just something to say when they didn’t know what else to say.

But something else became clear to me also, after many years working in cancer supportive care and mental health support.

People were talking about positive and negative thinking as this big thing with immense power over circumstances and people, over minds and metaphysics and the Universe and even over God, but only as it applied to very sick people or people under extreme duress.

In other words, not themselves.

So they would ask a sick person not to talk about their being sick, and make out like being sick and not talking about it definitely helped sick people get better more quickly. Further, they talked about it in such a way, with such fervour and pragmaticism, that if you were sick and talked about being sick, you could be forgiven for thinking just the talking alone was likely to cause a far more rapid and certain demise.

And somehow all this was considered positive thinking.

Nobody ever seemed to think about the consequences of a very sick person never getting to talk about their experience, their pain or ask for help with that, or their believing talking about it was likely to make them sicker and maybe die. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see how this is positive.

Further, the person asking the sick or hurting person to stop being negative often seemed to do so because they felt helpless and inadequate to do very much else, even though it would’ve been so much skin off their nose to simply sit with the person and listen for a while. And the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy which caused a person to say something benign like “You just need to keep thinking positively!” was never considered to be a kind of negative thinking or itself.

So, let’s review what we’ve just learned. Having cancer (or some other physical or perhaps mental illness, or having suffered abuse or realising you’re an addict or a perpetrator and need help) and needing to talk about that is considered negativity, but believing you have no power or capacity to help a person with cancer (or any of the other life-impacting issues above) feel better, and telling them that to even utter a word of complaint, or own their problem, or articulate their fear will make them get sicker and maybe die faster.

And I started to believe maybe we needed some help to work out what what kind of thinking can really be classed as negative, if, that is, negative means –

• unhelpful, and not conducive to getting help
• unhealthy, not enriching or life-enhancing
• incapacitating, or speaking to lack of capacity
• not reflecting the reality of the situation, and
• not connecting people in meaningful ways.

Because when it comes to a person in pain telling another person about that pain, and then the person being told about the pain wanting to run away, or deny it’s happening, or not do anything about it or just not hear it in the first place, I tend to think there’s a lot more in the above list applicable to the latter person just described than to the former.

So, I guess there’s negative thinking, and then there’s negative thinking.
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Negative thinking  – what it ISN’T.

• Telling others you have, or describing, a medical or mental illness is not negativity. This is passing on information. Being informed, and being informative, is positive.

• Telling others you are experiencing pain or describing that pain – mental, emotional or physical – is not negativity. Verbalising and expressing your pain to a person who can help you is essential in getting help with that pain. Getting help with your pain is positive.

• Informing others you are an addict or alcoholic is not negativity. Acknowledging you have an illness or area in which you need help, and accepting help and support, is positive.

• Informing someone you are experiencing or have experienced abuse is not negativity. The first step to moving out of and processing the consequences of abuse is reporting that abuse, and describing the consequences and circumstances surrounding it. Verbalising the conditions and results of abuse is positive.

What negative thinking actually is.

• Believing pain and process are not inevitable in life. Such thoughts will cause you to demand perfection and invulnerability of yourself and others in the face of pain and process, vulnerability and imperfection. Expecting perfection of self and others is negative thinking.

• Believing yourself inadequate to render appropriate and generous support, kindness, gentleness, compassion and understanding to a fellow human being in distress. Withdrawing from hurting people because of your fear of inadequacy, or of their pain, is selling yourself short. You have so much to offer, and even the smallest of kind gestures will help. To be mindfully present is to help. To not believe in your amazing capacity to always be able to be kind and compassionate is negative thinking.

• Denial of your own flaws, and your capacity to hurt others, for vice and avarice, is negative thinking. Believing there is such a thing as the “other” is negative thinking.

• Ignoring, neglecting, denying or providing justification for abuse of any kind. Believing this is ever okay is negative thinking.

There are others we could add to this list.

What you’ve probably believed was negative thinking or negativity are perhaps not quite correct, and even unhelpful. We thought it was plain old bad to talk about our pain, but asking a hurting person not to talk about that hurt is like asking a starving person not to to ask for something to eat.

Behind every complaint, every sad tale, every description of illness or abuse, there is a person with a story. The real story may not be the story they are telling you, but stories of pain are always a request for help in some form.  There is a place for affirmations; they can and do work. But the hurting ones’ cry to be heard is not “negativity”; the negative thinking is our belief we are inadequate to offer them more.
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(c) Jo Hilder 2015

Bound and hobbled in the dark; the lie of fear-based thinking.

Fear. It’s got nothing for us, it’s got nothing on us. The Bible tells us to fear not. Says that perfect love casts out all fear. We know fear twists and stunts and drives us hobbled and naked into the darkness. Fear is dysfunction, it’s paralysis, it’s toxic and its debilitating.

And yet, a great many of us are living under a fear-based psycho-emotional and spiritual regime. Many of us are so programmed into fear-based social and emotional practices, we don’t recognize there is any other way. And the problem with fear is by its nature, it is vision-limiting. When you’re in fear, you can’t see all the options before you. Your options seem limited, your choices few. You suspect whatever you choose, all you’re left with are varying degrees of your not being able to cope. You choose the option where your failure will cause the least fallout. This is the character of fear-based thinking. Holding the status quo is all you ever truly hope for. You cannot go forward for fear of failure, change or loss. You cannot go backward for fear of revisiting a great sorrow or untenable situation. So you’re stuck. You never go anywhere or do anything, because fear has you convinced hurt, rejection, failure and shame await you on every side. Fear based living says that failure is not inevitable, and is to be avoided at all costs, because failing is proof you are less than, unworthy and wrong. Fear tells you that you are all the things that happen to you, and you are intrinsically bad, weak, foolish and unworthy. This is a recipe for mental, spiritual and emotional illness.

Love-based social and emotional practices are characterized by an intrinsic belief in your strength, goodness and capacity. They do not offer guarantees, but instead count on your ability to handle whatever comes. Love-based living presumes your worth, and does not assign badness or stupidity or weakness to any failure or difficulty you experience. Love-based living says you’re not what happens to you, and you have within you now the resources and capacity to traverse any challenge. Love-based living says failure is inevitable, is to be expected, essential for creativity and success, and is a teacher. Love-based living is the way of Christ, the path toward healing and wholeness.

It’s difficult to give up our addiction to fear, but like all addictions, break away from it we must. We need support, we need good teaching, we need wholesome spiritual and emotional food and lots of exercise. As with any addiction, with fear based thinking, there has to come a time where you’re willing to imagine a life beyond the prison. Sometimes the first step is simply agreeing with your deep suspicion if you take that step forward, you will be able to handle whatever comes, believing you will not be alone. You will not be alone.

Living true to save your life.

Live in your truth.

I woke up this morning with this phrase sounding like a bell in my soul. And I feel my sharing it is more than just bringing you a sweet sounding platitude to lift your spirits.

For someone, maybe several someone’s, this is the key to breaking free. I believe it may even save someone’s life.

Live in your truth.

You know just what I’m talking about when I say truth, don’t you? You know precisely what I mean. Nobody needs to explain what that truth is to you. It’s who you really are. It’s what you know yourself to be. It’s the you underneath the layers of what you had to do to survive, to stay safe, to keep the peace. It’s the you behind the identity you created so you could belong to the tribe, to the only family you’ve ever known, to the God-people, or the ones who promised to protect or promote you. It’s the you who has been shielded and guarded all this time, since she was hurt so badly, judged so harshly, disciplined so arbitrarily, ignored so coldly, mocked so cruelly. She is safe in there, safe from them, even the them you’ve been hiding with for all this time. You would never risk showing her to them again, would you?

The problem is, something is wrong. You know this to be true. You know that deep inside you, something is not right. There is a sickness there, a disease. You don’t know if it’s physical, nobody has been able to find anything. But you know it’s there. You’ve asked to be tested for things, you’ve told them something isn’t quite right. But they tell you there is nothing, you’re just tired, overwrought, you need to take it easy. But you can’t rest easy – there is a dis-ease within you. And it’s way deeper than flesh or blood. It’s in the very core of you. Something is not all right with you. And your physical body is beginning to respond in the only way it knows how.

It’s decided wherever it is you’re going, it’s not coming.

Where ever you think it is you’re taking your body, your body is beginning to rebel. Your body was made to sing with health, harmony, vitality, life. But you’re on a path to somewhere your body knows it has no business going. It’s trying to tell you, I’m not going. You can go there if you want, but I’m not going.

Your body is trying to tell you what your soul and spirit has been telling you for years. This life you’re living? You have no business living it. This is not your life, and you know it. This is the life you believe you are supposed to have. This is the safe, perfectly respectable life you feel responsive to live. This is the life you need to live to stay safe, to get what you need, to go where you want to go. But this? This is not your life. Your body knows this. You stopped listening to your soul and your spirit long ago. What will it take for you to hear what the whole universe is conspiring to tell you?

You can create a huge pile of excuses, reasoning, justification and logic and keep climbing to the top of the pile and surround yourself with your inauthenticity and a false identity and build a little house up there on the life you’ve created which isn’t the life you were destined to live or made for, and live out your existence in the little hut of your avoidance and security and safety….but at some point, way back there, you promised to do whatever God called you to do. You prayed with your whole heart for God to send you, remake you, mould you, take you anywhere. And God took you at your word. God said ok.

And God has not forgotten.

But you changed the plan, didn’t you? It was taking too long. It was hard to wait for things you could not control to fall into place. You had to watch others move quickly through places where you got stuck. You struggled to understand who you were without the safety of others perceptions and reassurances. You feared. You fell. You were judged, corrected, shamed and wronged. Abused. You lost and suffered and were so, so alone. And it was hard. You lost your faith. And you believed God lost faith in you.

But my love, I want to tell you this. What you dismissed as a losers journey was anything but. It is a heroes journey.

And it is not too late.

I don’t know what your true self looks like. But I think you do. I think you know what’s underneath the persona and the professionalism and the public face. I think you know exactly where you wanted to be right now, all those years ago. And you think it’s too late.

I’m here to tell you it’s not too late.

While there is breath in your body, it is not too late.

I tell you this. Nobody will step in to subvert the life you’ve made for yourself, perched atop the identity you’ve created and the chattels of your success and security. Your life works just fine; it’s perfectly serviceable, perfectly acceptable. But I tell you this, this is not your life. Your soul knows this, your spirit knows this. And if you will listen, you will hear your body chanting the same drone. This is not your life. This is not who you are. And your body is telling you, you can live this life if you want to, but I am not coming too.

Will you listen? Will you hear the song all of creation is singing? Live in your truth. Live in your truth. Go outside and listen closely. Open your eyes, it will be written everywhere. Live in your truth.

In fact – and hear me now – in your truth is the only way to live.

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If this resonates with you, and you’d like to seek support to transition into a life which reflects what you feel it be your deep, inner truth, will you consider joining us for my upcoming online course, Do Awesome Broken?

Do Awesome Broken is an eight week online course written and facilitated by Jo Hilder, for women who wish to grow into a greater appreciation for their own beauty and greatness, and who would like support to build a healthy platform emotionally, socially and spiritually from which to live their purpose and be their most authentic selves.

Do Awesome Broken involves –

Unique and stimulating course content, vibrant group discussions and a place to share, relax and connect with others.
A secret (private), facilitated Facebook group where we view course content, and where course participants can interact with each other in community every day, talking about our discoveries and experiences and sharing our discoveries, thoughts and ideas.
Support, both technical and pastoral, individual and collective, in real time (Facebook messenger) or via email, as well as a safe, facilitated space accessible 24/7, and a creative, supportive group culture.
Do Awesome Broken kicks off Monday, October 27th. For more info visit the link below or contact me, Jo Hilder at info@johilder.com

I hope you’ll join us.
Love Jo xxx

http://www.johilder.com/do-awesome-broken-online-course-with-jo-hilder/

Understanding why people hate you is BRAVE.

People will hate you mostly for one of two reasons.

They feel you don’t see or hear them.

They wish they had your courage.

Whether they are the bully in school or the troll on the Internet. Whether they are the cold, aloof relative, or the staring stranger. Whether they are the best friend who turned on you, or the tribe who rejected you. They hate you because it matters to them that you notice them.

They hate you because you are different, and even though you may know this and wish you were not, and perhaps even feel powerless to change it, the fact that you are different can provoke a feeling of intimidation in a person who would never, ever risk being seen to be different, and has taken steps to ensure they are never seen as weak, different, vulnerable or less than.

Because here you are, being willing or simply resigned to be all those things they are most afraid people will find out about them, out in the open.

Your willingness to leave the house despite your imperfections, your overwhelming feeling of not-enoughness and less-than-ness, and your preparedness to keep functioning despite the deep suspicion you have you are never going to fit in, measure up or be accepted is the most threatening, challenging and confronting thing you will ever do where others are concerned.

When faced with these feelings, and everyone has them, most people would rather work to change themselves into someone they are not rather than ever risk being seen for what they suspect they actually are.

They heard, just like you, the voice that says “Just who the hell do you think you are? Who are you to be strong, different, peculiar, remarkable?” And they obeyed that voice, and became something they are not. They made changes. They compromised. And it takes a lot of energy to hide and be something you’re not. And here you come, being honest, vulnerable, who you are, which you think makes you look weak and stupid and dumb and unoriginal, but which actually makes you the most threatening thing in the whole world. You don’t use your energy working to keep up appearances. You don’t spend all your time defending your borders and maintaining your defences. How dare you? How DARE you?

This is why they hate you. Truth sees truth. You are about to namaste them right in the eyeballs and they are terrified. They do not want to see you, and they do not want to be seen. They want you to hide and to let them hide. But when your truth has surfaced and made you know you must walk with your open face to the world at all times, you won’t be able to go back to being the hider. And your light will make the dark scurry away before you, everywhere you go. And there won’t be a thing that you or anyone else can do about that.

Except criticise you. Except mock you, and question your authority (even if you never claimed to have any) and ask you who you think you are. They may subject you to physical or emotional attack. They may work to make sure you’re excluded from the tribe, even if you no longer belong there anyway. They will lie about you, gossip about you and twist your words. But often, they will also copy you, without even knowing. They will mimic your words and actions, because despite themselves, they are learning from you. Especially if you don’t bite back. Especially if you don’t resist or defend. They will copy and mirror your strength and your courage, as if trying it upon for size, testing it out. You see, bullies are not acting from a place of real strength. It’s feigned power. It’s all an act. Once they find what they think might be a better method of looking strong and being safe they’ll try it on to see if it works better than the one they’re using now.

Bullies have no weapons except the ones you bring into the battle. Their whole strategy is to get you to bring the fight, because they know in reality, they have nothing. The only force that will be used is the force they exert against your resistance to them. If you don’t bring a big gun, then in actual fact, they got nothing. This is why you need never fight back when your ideas, your art, your beliefs and your life-management are criticised. You don’t need to defend yourself. You’re not the one under threat. They are.

Bullies have only two motives. To challenge your courage, or to get you to see or hear them. True courage has nothing to prove. It’s this courage that will empower you to stand in the face of criticism, bullying or other forms of intimidation, whilst seeing the underlying fear driving it. Once you understand there’s a tender person behind that bravado trying not to be seen or heard and yet at the same time seen and heard, you realise who truly has the power.

And the wisdom to use it well.
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Like Jo Hilder Writer on Facebook and jo_hilder_writer on Instagram for more spiritual sunshine, and visit johilder.com to find out more about programs, groups and courses for the brave and beautiful.

Loving all the broken things is BRAVE.

Do you sometimes feel as if you are surrounded on all sides by broken things?

Things that once were whole, and could not be kept that way. Things that fell. Things that were knocked too hard. Things that you tried so hard to hold together, but which seemed determined to pull themselves into pieces. Things you stood and promised to bind yourself to, bind yourself with, but which unravelled like a slippery satin ribbon despite all your desperate fiddling and knotting and tearful pleading. Things that undid themselves unseen and unhindered while you were busy doing other things. Things that sent themselves flying against the wall while you cried, rocking yourself and begging for them to stop it, please, stop it.

Broken things.

Marriages. Promises. Minds. Hearts. Spirits. Resolves. Families. Plans. Hopes. Confidences. Trusts. Dreams. Agreements. Contracts. Covenants.

Childhoods. Brotherhoods. Sisterhoods. Parenthoods. Grandparenthoods.

Broken things.

Some were not your fault. Some were. Some you would’ve stopped if you could. Some you helped. Some you knew were inevitable. And you hated yourself for thinking so. Some you would’ve died rather than see go that way, would’ve rather it was you that was broken, that broke, that had it broken upon you.

Broken things.

The pieces of things that were once worth more to you than life itself. Those whole, hoped for, wondrous things that were answers to prayer, blessings, fulfilled dreams to you, but now which sit in drawers and pockets, pricking you with their sharp corners when you reach in for something you needed to work out a knot in something, stinging your palms and fingertips and leaving their grit under your nails. Their hems and seams undone, their nails rusted and their edges chipped. Their colours faded. Too precious to ever throw away. Bits of you and all the ones you loved, wished for, wanted, birthed and bound yourself to. Their essence is in the fragments, and every piece is steeped with all the thrill, the fear, the longing and the letting go. Sweet and bitter.

Broken things.
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This last few days, we’ve been reunited with our family after six months interstate on the farm, and almost a year on the road. Our four children. Our two grandchildren. Brothers and sisters. My parents, grandparents. Cousins and aunts from an uncles first family, a man long since passed. It was a different homecoming this time. We were all more relaxed. Age, and watching the older ones grow more fragile mellows a person. The thing I noticed the most about this time was how we all seem to not be trying quite so hard. We seem tireder, more worn out, but yet we all looked and sounded more like ourselves than ever before. It was quite remarkable.

As I reflected on the weekend I began to understand why our conversations were so markedly different this time, particularly between my brother and I. It seems for once, we were not talking about our discontent and what we’d achieved to alleviate it. We were talking about what we’d lost, and what it felt like to let it go.

We were talking about acceptance.

Of self, and of others. Of all that is ours, and of what we would never have. Of what we lost. Of what we found in the losing. And we spoke of the broken things.

In fact, we were surrounded by the broken things.

And it was, we decided, more than enough.

Our hearts, and our minds, we mused, have been broken. And yet here we are, all loved, and at last also capable of love, of self and others, which is probably more important. Our relationships, ambitions, and aspirations have been broken. Marriages we tried to help that could not be saved. Souls that escaped the mawing throat of death and divorce and addiction and cancer and indescribable loneliness and aloneness with just with the skin we stood up in, a shell of a person remaining behind, yet that was enough to start again with. And all the fragments of all of us, assembled for these few days to make up a joyous mosaic of shared history and experiences, places, times, tragedies and celebrations. We compared our salvaged bits, like trophies. We held our pieces up side by side along the broken edges to find they almost got together, well enough. Acceptance.

You were not there for me. we lamented, you were not there for me, but you are here now, and that is enough. All the broken pieces of us and all the things we were not able to make good, to put right or to fix up, all laid out, edge to jagged edge, and it was all right, it was just fine. Yes, it was very good.

Broken things.

Imperfection is hard, because brokenness is pain. But time mellows, and peace comes to all eventually. We can embrace that peace this side of the grave, or after, but sooner or later, accept it we must. Trying to secret away the bits and the chips and the broken shards of failures and shortcomings and disappointments leaves us weary from trying to hide our bulging pockets with hands bruised and grazed by shame. Show me your palms, broken dreamer, all isn’t lost. Gather them all up, don’t lose a single one. There is a day coming when you, like I just did, will lay all your broken things down around you and realise there is beauty in them, and in you. The whole may have been your dream, but that essence remains in each sliver, every shard. There was love there at the beginning, and there is love there still.

Acceptance is brave. Loving all the broken things is brave. Broken things. Yes, even the broken things.

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Like Jo Hilder Writer on Facebook and jo_hilder_writer on Instagram for more spiritual sunshine, and visit johilder.com to find out more about programs, groups and courses for the brave and beautiful.

The gold within you.

When I was six, the bullies in my class told me the quiet, skinny boy with the patch over one eye was my boyfriend. I didn’t get the memo that said this was an insult. I was totally stoked. Who knew it was that easy to get a boyfriend, right? I doted on that poor kid; sat with him at recess, brought him little gifts, tried to make conversation. I’d been so lonely up until then, and I could see he was too. I was so excited to have a “boyfriend” – he was completely baffled, I’m sure. Poor David Frost, fellow kindergartner from Mount Austin primary school in Wagga, circa 1973. How could he know his first romantic attachment was a set up by class bullies?

You know, there are often clues about the awesome people we really are embedded in our childhood.

When I was sixteen, I fell from a horse, breaking my elbow into pieces. I spent two weeks in the children’s ward at the hospital, and the most impacting part of the whole experience was getting to know Max, the occupational therapist. He entertained all the kids, did craft with them, sat with them when their parents weren’t around. I ended up spending lots of my time helping him, following him around, fascinated by the way he connected with everyone and made them feel special. Months later, despite the fact I wanted to be a famous actress for a career, I chose for my high school work experience to go back and spend a week with Max at the hospital.

The clues were always there. I love people. I love helping them, I can’t help it. Years later, despite having only ever worked in retail, I started volunteering for cancer charities, fundraising and doing advocacy. I ended up working for the Cancer Council NSW in several paid roles, partly because of my own cancer experience, partly because it was clear I was passionate to connect with people and use my skills to support and help them.

Honey, the clues are already there. If you’re wondering what God has for you, follow the breadcrumb trail. You will see a thread running through your life, a common factor to all those moments when your heart, head and hands were all connected, all working in unison and firing you up with energy even now you remember, and it still fills you with excitement.

Your story holds the clues to your purpose. Follow the golden threads. You’ll be amazed where the road will lead you.

Love, Jo xx
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Like Jo Hilder Writer on Facebook and jo_hilder_writer on Instagram for more spiritual sunshine, and visit johilder.com to find out more about programs, groups and courses for the brave and beautiful.

Sunday benediction – the damn I give for you.

I have a mental list of folks I think of during the day and pray for in the mornings (post-coffee, although isn’t everything that gets done in the morning post-coffee?). This morning, every time I pull up my list I feel weepy and tender, like it’s me who needs a hug.

Maybe I needs a hug.

So Ben walks in with the Sunday papers and I schlep up to him to get a hug, he asks if I just got up, but I’ve been up for ages. This morning I can’t break my fog, the just-kicked feeling in my heart, and yet, I’m okay. Nothing’s wrong. It’s all good. Maybe I just need some eggs. Or maybe it’s you.

Hon, maybe it’s you.

Maybe what I’m feeling is the shit nobody gives for you, and I’m giving it? If so, I can do that. I can give a shit for you, a dang for you, instead of the one who matters to you who isn’t giving it. I can do that.

Babe, that would make my morning. I care. For you. I’m going to walk around the rest of the morning thinking of you, reading this, and feeling like nobody gives a shit, about you, about what you’re up against, about the battles you fought, the mountains you climbed. I do.

I know I’m not there. I know you don’t know me. But in this moment, if I close my eyes I can feel those feelings you’re having, because I’ve had them. I know them. The feeling of having cried your eyes out curled up in a fetal position, knowing nobody is coming, nobody noticed. That feeling of having been totally fucking heroic and realising nobody saw you do it, nobody’s world was rocked, nobody clapped or smiled or cared. I know. The greatest things we ever did were done lying on our backs in the dark fighting battles in our head, and writing on the wall of our soul, “I will not come back this way again. I will not come here again. NO MORE.” And it changed everything, didn’t it? But there was no fanfare, no testimony. No congratulations and no promotions. But you and I both know, don’t we, those anonymous moments of colossal shift are the biggest and best of us. They were the victories. And nobody knew. Nobody saw. Nobody cheered.

This morning, in a moment, I’m going to make myself eggs. But before I do, can I do this. Here is me standing back and giving you the slow clap. I know what you did. I know what it took for you to do it. And I believe you. I believe in you. I know you have decided to only go forward now, whatever it takes, and I’m proud of you. You’re not alone. Fear is a liar. Your tribe is out here, baby, and we are cheering you on. I am cheering you on. Well done. Just, well done.

Love you lots,
Jo xx

Radical kindness is BRAVE.

If I knew back then what I know now, here’s the number one thing I would do to change my life the most dramatically, the most quickly.

I have no regrets, but I do wish I’d not bothered with about ten really hard things i was struggling with which I thought would help me when my life was a real struggle for survival, and I’d just done this one thing instead.

Here it is.

Don’t care what others think about you. Don’t think about it. Don’t worry about it. Don’t plan your days around it. Don’t accommodate it, ruminate on it, or organise your thinking to consider it.

Thinking about what others may think about you is a bad habit. A BAD HABIT. You must give it up, instantly. I know you will need time to ease out if it, like all addictions. And you’ll need something to replace it with. I have just the thing.

Kindness.

So, here’s what you do.

Replace all the instances when you perceive a person is judging you, assessing you, accumulating an assumed knowledge about you in their head, plotting to overthrow you, or about to throw a fake smile (or something worse) at you, and thwart that exprctation on your part with a kind act instead. Smile. Put your hand out to shake theirs. Ask them how they are doing. Sit by them. Stand by them. Give them an attentive presence. Exchange your bristling, defensive hostility for physical acts of kindness, acceptance and peace.

Do this as an experiment and see what happens. Give it a week.

Later, at home, you can jump to all the conclusions you like about them. You can write a mean essay or scream into your pillow about them. But you won’t, because in being kind to them, you’ve neutralized fear. Your fear.

And fear is what makes us care what others think about us. Fear of being judged, disliked, rejected. The cure for this is to actively refuse to judge, dislike or reject others.

This isn’t about helping what you feel. This is about not acting on what you feel. This is about directing your feelings gently into making you behave in a way which is less likely to get you what you’ve been assuming you’ll get anyway – judged, disliked, rejected. Gossiped about. Punched in the face.

Now, if you feel or are unsafe, get yourself out of there. This is not about accepting abuse, or allowing yourself to be hurt.

But if we are just talking about a room full of people, real or virtual, and your rancid, overwhelming fear of those people’s thoughts about you, then here’s the sauce. They are not thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves. They are thinking about how you are judging them, making assumptions about them, seeing through their facade and hating them already. Because that’s what we all do. And it’s not helping, not helping.

Someone has to stop the rot.

The antidote is kindness. You be kind to someone first, and watch how the atmosphere changes. Kindness becomes a culture in the space you’re in, in fact, if you’ll create safe spaces where kindness is the culture, you’ll go from being a frightened follower, to a shining star, and people will be drawn to you, and you won’t believe the nice things they will assume about you. It’ll be shocking and amazing. And addictive.

Forget about creating a persona to defend yourself from behind. Forget about your image, your public face, those walls you’ve stayed safe behind. Be kind, not perfect. Be gentle, not brittle. Be the culture-setter in the space. It’s like magic. It will change your world.

If I’d known I could change my universe from a hostile, angry, defensive, judgement filled shit-fight to a community of safe, vibrant spaces where people are not afraid to be authentic and where I have friends everywhere I go, simply by giving up my addiction to caring what others think of me, and using that energy caring about them instead, I’d have done this years ago.

Try it. It’s like magic.

Love you lots,
Jo xxx
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See the King. Hear the King. Be the King.

I just experienced another of those confounded divine appointments, on a train journey.

I entered the carriage and sat at one end, and within moments became aware of a situation happening at the other end. A young man was verbally abusing some little children sitting with him. It was startling, confronting. My first instinct was to get up and move away to another carriage; others probably already had, the carriage was empty but for me and this group. I sat tight, prayed, even asked friends on Facebook what I should do, if anything. God, help me to see the King in this situation. Tell me what to do.

Over the next half an hour, the situation vacillated between outright rage from this person towards the children, to quiet moments where one would climb on his lap and all would be quiet. Then the mood would change in seconds and he would snap at them yelling at the top of his voice. At one point he took a phone call from a Telco, demanding payment of $250 for an internet service he hadn’t even used yet. I know this, because the conversation was conducted at volume, in detail, between demands for the children to sit down and be quiet, using some colourful language. Then someone else phoned him, and he explained he was on his way and couldn’t make the train go faster, and was planning to be there at five in time but had been held up thirty minutes by trackwork, which was out of his hands. All this time, the kids giggled, and laughed, punctuated by silences which followed his tirades of frustrated anger. As time went on, it became clear this wasn’t simply some hot-headed bogan taking it out on his kids…this guy was doing something very stressful (ever taken three kids under ten on a long train journey?) and was having, as well as that, a very bad day.

My head was saying, get the hell out of here. A young guy brushed past him and touched his leg, eliciting another tirade of expletives. I thought, if get closer, and say the wrong thing, this guy could start swinging. But my guts were saying “Get closer. Wait for an in.” Are you crazy? I don’t want an in…I want an out. But I couldn’t do it. So at the next stop, I pretended I just got on the train and sat three seats away from them.

Last week, there was a huge controversy in Australia when vision taken on a phone of a woman in a verbal rage on a train over a seat – on this very route, in fact – went viral on TV and the internet. Everyone had an opinion about the woman and what should’ve been done about her rage-filled racist tirade on a crowded commuter train, other than film it, which is what everyone actually did. I don’t know what I would’ve done, but I hoped I would’ve offered her my seat, then stood between her and the subject of her abuse, well, that’s what I like to think I would’ve done. And here I was today, in this incredibly gut-wrenching situation thinking, here’s the chance to see the King, bring the King, be the King. What are you going to do, Jo?

God – I have no idea. Give me an in, and let’s see what happens.

A second later, one of the girls says, “Daddy, I’m thirsty.” “I don’t got no water, I didn’t have time to get water. You’ll have to wait until we get to Sydney.” I know that’s two and a half more hours away. I remember I have a bottle of water in my bag with one slurp out of it. Here’s my in. I take a big breath, grab the water, and head across the aisle. I drop to my haunches, look the guy in the eyes, and in a quiet (trembling) voice, I offer my water for the girls.

He stares me in the eyes for the longest second, like he’s trying to decide whether to haul off and punch me, or thank me.

He thanks me.

I smile. I tell him I can see and hear he is having a very bad day. He tells me he is taking the girls to Sydney to meet a child services worker, and has to be there by five pm. I say, wow, that’s stressful, and you can’t make the train go faster, can you? No, he says, he looks like he might cry. His voice is low and his eyes are on mine. I turn to the girls and ask them their names, they giggle and tell me the longest most impossible-to-repeat back names I have ever heard. I gasp, and tell them I had no idea I was sitting so close to real, live PRINCESSES. Where are their crowns? Do they have glittery gowns on under their jeans? They laugh, their dad relaxes. I tell him I know how hard it is to take little kids on a train, and he’s doing a great job, and his family is beautiful, he must be so proud. I touch his arm and smile. I feel as though I am about to shake to pieces.

It’s almost my stop. I tell the guy I think he can refill the bottle in the rest room downstairs, and ask the girls to kiss their fairy friends for me. I go. The carriage feels filled with light, like fairy glitter is everywhere. I am crying and trembling when I step onto the platform. I don’t know what happens when I leave. Oh, God, bless those little girls. God, help them never to forget the King loves them, sees them, knows them.

And may that dude know he is not alone, he is doing hard things, and he is seen doing them, and is respected, because I know what it’s like to feel like you are doing very hard things and nobody knows, or sees, and when they do, they only see how badly you’re behaving, or how wrong you are, or what a monster you’re capable of becoming when you’re stressed. I hope he feels seen, heard, and noticed for who I feel he really is under all that anger and emotion and frustration. Because he is us, and he is me, and you.

See the King, hear the King, be the King.
Love, Jo xxx