Bass Ackward

My dad is fond of swearing without actually swearing. It’s the act of making a point without triggering censure. (Or at least that’s the idea. It doesn’t always turn out that way…) One of his favored approaches is to swap the first letters of words in a phrase that would otherwise be unfit for delicate ears. That’s how we end up with Bass Ackward. (I’ll give you a moment to untangle that and realize that, no, it isn’t just an embarrassing typo.)

It’s no secret that I started this blog at a point in my life when happiness was a theoretical concept, a faint memory. All I wanted was to be happier. I wanted to figure out how to build a life that brought me joy. A good goal, definitely. And I even made some progress. But then I hit a rut, and my half-hearted efforts to drag myself back out just created a wider, deeper track. One day I woke up and realized I was staring up at the sky from the bottom of my own emotional Grand Canyon. That might be a wee bit over-dramatic (and by “might” I mean “absolutely”). It’s not that things were so bad; they just weren’t particularly good, and I felt mired in it. What I wanted was there, but it seemed just out of reach.

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And then, one random, magical day, my mind opened itself up and embraced one of those truths about the world that sounds simple in theory but is remarkably challenging to internalize.

I stopped being mean to myself. And what I mean by that is that I changed the internal monologue that runs through my head. Instead of being critical, instead of taking a positive experience and focusing only on the one or two little things that didn’t go exactly right, instead of holding myself to impossible standards, I approached myself with compassion. I approached myself with kindness. I approached myself as I would a friend or a loved one.

It was staggering for me when I took a step back and realized that if I heard someone talking to another person the way I talked to myself, I’d punch them in the face (or at least yell at them).

Change didn’t come overnight. At first, I had to remind myself every day. I had to stop my monologue and turn it around. Every. Time. But then it got easier. The voice in my head turned softer, more gentle. If something at work didn’t go quite the way I hoped, I would first give myself a pat on the back for getting through it before turning to a constructive “conversation” about how to approach it differently the next time. It’s an ongoing process.

In the grand scheme of things, the act of deciding to be nicer to myself was a simple thing. But, on a personal level, it was revolutionary and it transformed my life. I’ve opened myself up to new things and become braver. My relationships with others have deepened. I’ve become more flexible and relaxed about things. I don’t sweat the minor annoyances nearly so much, and I find myself delighting in things more; teensy or monumental, it’s no matter.

I feel empowered. Actively participating in my world. Shaping my life into something that brings joy and satisfaction. I am present. I am not surviving, I’m living.

In short, I’m happier. So much happier. That’s the beginning and the end. But it’s also the journey.

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