Academically speaking, I wasn't a great student. I read at about a third grade level and spelling was even worse. I didn't play sports and I was almost always the 'last kid' picked. I wasn't bullied; rather, I felt invisible.
I can't really explain why I felt this way but I just did. My feelings of worthlessness clouded my mind everyday of the week and all-day long.
The original Nintendo gaming system had recently been released to the market and I tried my hand at gaming with little success. I remember sitting on the carpet in the basement and getting so mad at myself for not being able to save the princess from the evil King Khumba that I would literally punish myself by punching myself in the face.
At age 10 I didn't understand depression, anxiety, and adolescent Attention Deficit Disorder but looking back I think that is exactly what I experienced.
On a particularly lonely evening for me, I was sitting on a chair with head hanging low and my mother approached me to ask what was wrong. Fighting back tears I told my mother the words that every good mother HATES to hear.
I said, "I hate myself and I'm not good at anything."
I cant remember her exact words but her Reply changed my life.
I went something like this, "That's not true and I want you to start telling yourself nice things; like, 'I like myself.' Now, I want to hear you say, 'I like myself.'"
I told her "No" because I thought it was stupid. In reality I was thinking to myself, 'I can't lie because it's not true. I don't like myself. And why would I say that if I'm stupid and it's not true?'
My mother persisted and said, "I want to hear you say I like myself."
Anyone who knows my mother knows that I was not getting up from that chair until I said what she wanted me to say. So I reluctantly mumbled the words "I like myself." While I set there I remember feeling so awkward and ridiculous saying the words because, at the time, I knew they were not true.
After saying the words, "I like myself," she responded, "Good! Now every time you start to tell yourself negative thoughts, I want you to exchange them with positive thoughts like, 'I like myself,' 'I'm good at things,' and 'You can do it!'
As the weeks, months and years passed on, I've remembered what my mother said and I always try to fill my mind with positive thinking. The day eventually came when the positive self talk gibberish became my truth. I began to truly BELIEVE what I was telling myself. For the time, I experienced self-worth and confidence.
Fast forward to my adult years and anyone who knows me will agree that I I believe I can do anything with the appropriate amount of effort and desire. I owe all of this to that one conversation with my mother in the 5th grade.
I still suck at spelling and this doesn't mean I don't experience times of discouragement, depression and/or anxiety. I experience these things on a regular basis. In times when I don't reach a goal, my relationships are struggling or I feel like I'm being a lesser parent than I could be, I think back to the brainwashing advice a loving mother gave to her sad little boy...
"Fill your head with positive thoughts."
Thank you, Mom for brainwashing me.