Pretend It’s Someone Else Saying It

I have come upon a Useful Motivational Tool. It is not going to work for all personality types or for all motivational situations; in fact, for some personalities and situations it would be awful. It’s similar to the “Think of how other people are worse off” perspective-resetting technique, which ONLY has a chance of working if self-applied, and is DREADFUL otherwise, and can backfire and/or be inappropriate even if self-applied—and it taps into the otherwise wasted/misspent resource of “feeling like other people’s lives and emotions are eye-rollingly easy to direct/correct.”

Here is what it is: Pretend it’s someone else saying what you’re saying. That is, when you have a reason you can’t do something you want yourself to do, pretend you’re listening to (or reading a blog post by) someone else saying that same reason. In some cases, you will nod your head and agree: “Yes, it sounds like that situation really is preventing you from doing that.” But in many other cases, you will say: “What? Are you kidding me? That’s easy to fix!”

This works particularly well for those of us who are Fixers AND Too Easily Discouraged. You know how some women will complain that they just wanted to vent but their male companions kept trying to FIX it instead of just LISTENING? I have “male” fixing inclinations of that sort, and often have to remind myself, “She just wants to vent. She is PERFECTLY CAPABLE of thinking of the same obvious thing you feel an urge to point out to her, but she feels like complaining right now.” And the reason I know that’s likely the case is that I myself sometimes just want to whine about something for awhile: I know I have to fix it, but I want to WHINE about it FIRST, oKAY? I slump my shoulders and think, “It’s HOPELESS. To fix this window situation, I’d have to go to TWO STORES! Including one I DON’T ENJOY. AND I’d have to measure a shade before I go! AND choose a curtain color! JUST FORGET IT.” And then eventually I answer myself: “Psh. Don’t be ridiculous. You’d be completely done before the kids got home from school. I think you can handle an hour and a half of Not Your Favorite Tasks.” The whining ends up being an important part of the solution-finding process: if there’s no whining, no solution is generated.

Or I remember when I had a tiny baby and was inwardly despairing because I COULDN’T EVEN GO TO THE BATHROOM. I was getting myself all the way to TEARS of frustration and injustice and resentment and self-pity over the issue. It was IMPOSSIBLE! This situation was SO UNREASONABLE!! I was TOO BUSY to PEE!! And then I remembered how I felt when other people said the same, which caused me to say to myself, “Don’t be ridiculous, of course you can pee. You just put down the baby in a safe place and go to the bathroom. Yes, he will scream while you are peeing. Are you seriously saying that’s literally, actually, genuinely something you can’t work with, or are you just locked into a self-defeating self-pity mode now?”

So I was already familiar with this concept—but now I’ve been applying it ON PURPOSE. For example, for a few weeks now I’ve been inwardly whining about wanting to exercise but also NOT wanting to exercise. When I imagined reading a blog post written by someone else mentioning all my same reasons, I nearly gagged on all my excellent ideas and sarcastic dismissals.

Not for ALL of the reasons, though, which is good to keep in mind: this technique can work as a SORTING tool as well as a fixing/dismissing tool. For SOME of the reasons/issues, I thought, “You’re right, that’s a legit problem.” Sometimes I then thought “But that problem will be over soon” or “It’s true, that’s a problem that would take a bigger solution—so let’s do the easier fixes first and see how that goes,” and sometimes I thought, “Yeah, I’m not sure that’s fixable.” But a lot of other things I thought, “Yes? So that would take, what, 30 seconds to a minute? That seems…pretty reasonable” and “Well, that’s what exercise comes with. There’s no sense whining about reality as if whining will change it somehow” and “Well, could you try A or B or C to fix that aspect of things?” and “Well, then what you need to acquire is a D and an E. And you could consider acquiring an F and a G.”

I think this technique is already part of the automatic whining-leads-to-solution process, but I tend to have a….LONG process. Deliberate application is helping me speed things up a little.

11 thoughts on “Pretend It’s Someone Else Saying It

  1. Bird

    Something similar happened to me this morning. I’m on day 3 of a bad head cold and the 5y.o. said to me “all you need to do is eat healthy food and get lots of rest and you’ll feel better!” To which I wanted to reply, “stuff it short stack” but then I realized that I probably say that to him all the time and it probably sounds just as annoying to him. Point taken. Will try some other less annoying helpful hint next time.

  2. Sarah

    I love this technique. I also love that it works in reverse- if you’re stuck in a pattern of beating yourself up about, say, your constant mounds of laundry or your yard looking crappy or your floor being sticky all the time (JUST FOR INSTANCE) try to imagine how you’d evaluate the situation as an outsider looking in with an objective eye.

    Occasionally I find that I do indeed need to pick up the pace a bit (objective stranger says with raised eyebrow, “It’s been HOW long since baby had a real bath?!”) but most of the time what I find myself thinking is, “Well of course her house is unorganized and chaotic- they’re remodeling and she has four little kids who’ve been sick all winter long, AND one of them is a nursing baby! Poor dear!” And then I breathe a sigh of relief and drink my tea and stop self flagellating.

  3. Melospiza

    This sounds a little like my technique of trying to solve problems thusly: if I were ___ [some person I greatly admire], how would I handle this? (is, WWJD, with J being substituted by people whose issues are smaller than trying to save humanity from itself)

    (By procrastinating to the point where Nothing Can Be Done? Probably not! Okay, self! What’s Plan B?)

  4. Bibliomama

    Yeah! This got me all the way through going to Canadian Tire (which I hate) and buying a treadmill and getting someone to help me load it into my van. However, now said treadmill is stuck in my van until my husband comes home from China. Silencing my little voice until then with peanut butter chocolate cookies.

  5. Elizabeth

    I have often thought that the times I say “I can’t _____ ” (get up earlier in the morning to exercise, eat less and not be hungry, find time to get that done) is just the way that my brain gets me ready to accept those circumstances. A lot of times the “I can’ts” are things that I OBVIOUSLY need and can do, but that I don’t want to do, and putting them out there, even preceded by I can’t, is how I work my way around to trying them.

  6. fairydogmother

    Love, love, love this post! It. Has. Been. A. Week. around here & this is so helpful. Funny how so many things that just a week ago seemed like impossible insurmountable things that are just going to suck forever until the end of time and God! What Is Even The Point Of Anything Anyway?! just a week ago, and now they are either taken care of, in progress, or not even on my radar anymore in the midst of actual chaos because I had to Suck It Up and Deal, Butterrcup. And I also had to ask for help, which, as it turns out, wasn’t actually so difficult after all. You would think I was actual grown-up or something.

    Also, your drops in the bucket theory has preserved my sanity this week, no joke.

  7. Erica

    I definitely do this a lot. The other day I thought “I don’t know how I’m going to get through today.” And then I IMMEDIATELY thought “Wait, seriously? Because none of these things are that critical.” Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. (I got through that day, so.)

  8. TinaNZ

    What a truly excellent idea.

    I just hope I don’t end up hating myself for all my own ‘excellent ideas and sarcastic dismissals’ though!

  9. nicole

    I definitely do this to myself. Once I get the complaint out of the way, I am ready to move on and actually do whatever needs doing.

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