Am I Censoring My Own Thoughts?
Should I be thinking this? Why am I feeling like this? Shouldn’t I feel differently?
I never really realized it, but these were the types of questions that began the filtering process of what came out of my mouth. Every time I felt something, it subconsciously went through a “politically correct” test, a “will this make me less popular with my current audience” test and a “will people think I’m crazy” test. Once the criteria was met, I was able to vocalize the perfectly inoffensive thought.
All of this within seconds; the human mind is a spectacular machine.
Since I was a little kid I knew what to say, to who, and exactly how not to ruffle any feathers. It helped me become a chameleon and adapt to environments, gain approval from different circles and largely remain unnoticed. It was safe.
So when I interacted with people I spoke about safe things: sports, the weather, the job, the news, tv shows and whatever other mundanities that couldn’t possibly reveal a glimmer of individuality.
Sometimes when I was out of my comfort zone speaking to a big deal in business or a pretty girl, my processors seemed to overload. Trying to formulate the perfect sentence or trying to say the right thing always ended up making me look stupid, because that’s exactly how I sounded. It’s like the filtering process mixed with anxiety sabotaged my system.
Why am I choking? Why don’t I know what to say?
The deeper I dug, the clearer it became… I was overthinking!
In the day-to-day, small talk with familiar faces was easy and the words I spoke came from muscle memory. However when it came to having real conversations there was no memory, only overthinking; the attempt to say the perfect thing resulted in the absolute opposite.
Now why am I overthinking?
Why do I want to say the perfect thing? What does perfect even mean? Why is it so hard to just speak my mind? What happens if I don’t say the perfect thing?
These questions now led me on a path of further questioning; I realized I never actually spoke my mind, from the gut, I was only giving answers I believed would satisfy the person or group across from me.
What am I feeling? Well I can’t say that, it’s not 100% safe!?
And that’s when I began to understand I had always been talking, but never really said anything. It’s when I figured out my conversations didn’t come from within; they were just calculations, not feelings.
So I started to experiment. When I met for coffee with the regulars in the morning I’d throw something out of left field, something on my mind. When it came to the football pool, instead of coming up with a lame excuse and leading on the idea I may be interested next year, I flat out said I didn’t care for football and didn’t agree with betting; not the popular answer at a table full of contractors.
When asked why I didn’t want any breakfast, I replied I practiced fasting in the morning because I felt my mind was clearer without the heavy food and ensuing, comatose-inducing digestion period. Once again not the popular answer with a table full of people stuffing their faces.
Sure it was more of a risk than skirting answers, but what did I learn? Well some of them opened up and said they don’t really care for the game either but it brings friends together. With regards to my fasting, some replied they had read about it and were considering giving it a try. And some disagreed, but it sparked good natured debate, bringing everyone in on a fun discussion.
Wow, was it so bad to say what I actually thought? I guess not. No one beat me up or threw me out. I was confident in my delivery and it seemed to actually earn respect from voicing my true thoughts.
I liked that, and so like a sport, I practiced, and exercised and got better at avoiding the filter, and shooting from the hip. My ability to speak from my heart improved, I showed vulnerability and benefited from meaningful conversations. Like I’m doing right now.
It’s become a huge part of my identity, pretty obvious, right? It’s strange how unobvious it was for such a long time, the subconscious goal always being to fly under the radar to avoid exposing my personality. I’ve been doing this and getting better at it for years now and it’s led me to a completely different way of thinking and interacting.
When something happened, I used to be compelled to ask myself how I should feel, rather than just feeling. Is it wrong to think this, or to not feel bad, or to feel guilty or to not really care about this situation or the other?
I’ve come to embrace what I’m feeling in the present moment and not concern myself about what I should or should not be feeling. If I’m feeling a certain way, what value do I get out of distracting myself and worrying about how I think I should be feeling; it is what it is!
It’s almost like there’s this odd idea people can judge us for our thoughts. I know because I’ve only just understood this and I’m starting to realize a lot of people around me act in a way where they’re censoring their own thoughts and consequently their words, just like I had been for so long.
If someone passes away and I don’t feel sadness does that make me a bad person? Do I have to convince myself to feel sad if it’s just not how I feel? If I watch a movie and feel really sorry for a kid who’s being bullied, why should I try to block my mind from feeling sadness? If I’m married and I see a beautiful woman stroll by and I have sexual thoughts, am I a cheater or a bad husband, do I have to convince myself to kill those thoughts?
I can go on but this is the kind of thinking I’ve begun to understand has been responsible from removing me from the present. Instead of being so concerned with changing my current thought process, as if it were on trial, I now embrace the current moment and acknowledge my feelings.
It’s led me to have very interesting conversations, it gives me unlimited subject matter for my blog and music. As long as I have a thought, a feeling or an emotion, then I’ll never have a shortage of inspiration.
I’m starting to appreciate what I’m feeling in the moment and no longer concerning myself with abandoning it. I’m human, I feel. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Our thoughts and feelings are the purest representation of what our hearts feel, why would we try to escape them? They could be very well be our greatest allies.