Thanks to Twitter, I came across Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think and went “Hey, waitaminute, this is talking about me and how I’m feeling at this very moment.” We all have this little bullying voice inside us that goes on and on about everything. What we choose to wear, how we interact with one another, the overreaching of our dreams and how they will never come true . . . Basically, it feeds off of and exploits every negative thought we’ve ever had about ourselves, what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Why does this nasty creature exist? Well, the need to be accepted is hardwired into our brains. Another name for it is the herd mentality. Members of the herd that don’t stand out usually survive better than those that don’t.
With the upcoming release of my book weighing heavily on my mind, mine is about the size of this planet and then some. It’s my fear of failure combing with the hurt and pain of being teased as a kid, the uncertainty of whether I’m doing the right or wrong things to promote my book, the perceived lack of reaction to what I am doing, and the millions of questions that are going through my head about the book and my life.
On the negative side, it’s stuff like have I reached my quota of mistakes and screw-ups, so that anything I do from now on is going to be a failure? Is anyone going to read my book? What are my family, friends, clients, and other associates going to think about me? Am I sending the right message? Are people going to think I want to hurt animals because I deal with the subject of animal cruelty? Are they going to think I’m insane because of the way two of my characters lose it? How are complete strangers going to judge my work? After multiple read overs by both me and my publisher, is there going to be some crazy typo that makes me look like an incompetent fool who failed her 3rd grade writing class? Are readers going to find my characters shallow and the story predictable? Is the book going to be too confusing for them because it tries to do too much?
Thinking positive isn’t much better. Are people going to like my book so much that a private person has to develop a public persona overnight? How can I strengthen the one I already have? How will I defend and protect the parts of my life that I do want to keep private? How can I be accountable for the mistakes I did make, yet not look like a fool for making them?
Lots of questions and those are ones that come to the forefront of my mind because I keep asking myself them. Some, I can’t answer until the book is out and I have readers. Others are my mammoth challenging the warrior known as my true, authentic voice. As the article says, keeping the mammoth tame and well-feed is a lot of work. Not to mention what I have to do to fight it while making sure I do the stuff I want and have to do in order to promote my book, keep on being a writer, and survive. It’s amazing that I have enough time in the day. Sometimes I don’t and things don’t happen the way I intend, which starts a whole new round with the beast.
According the article, the beast has been around since the beginning of humanity. It’s what we needed to survive. Now, not so much. In fact, if we don’t listen to the warrior that is our authentic voice and keep being bullied by the mammoth, we are doomed to live a life controlled by other people and their opinions. Worse yet, overreacting to things because we have no sense of self or self-worth to center us.
I only have to look at my writing to know when my mammoth is driving my life instead of me. When I’m writing from the “you must obey the rules, even if they contradict one another” dark side of my creativity, my words are dull, flat, uninteresting, and boring. My character are worse than robots, they are paper dolls. Not to mention the fact that I get very frustrated with myself. When I’m tuned into heart and soul of my characters, then my story is alive. I’m more than happy, I’m ecstatic, or whatever other emotion I need to be feeling at that moment for my words to have meaning.
So how do we keep the beast under control? The post gives some great advice there. First off is taking the time to reflect on what we know, we want, and what we want to do without judging them against what others might think. For example, do we buy a bright, polka-dotted outfit because it’s the latest and greatest trend when we hate polka dots and just want wear something that’s one solid color? The solid color wearing person is our inner voice saying, “I am me and this is what I like to wear.” The polka-dotted wearing weenie is giving into the mammoth just to score points that really have no value. The caveat to this is that there are laws and morals that must be obeyed despite what our inner voice might be saying, so we can’t do absolutely everything we may want to do to ourselves and others in certain situations.
The second thing is figuring out how the mammoth is ambushing our warrior. It’s definitely going to be when we are feeling very strong emotions. Fear and anxiety are probably the biggest negative ones, but then the are also the giddy, over happiness of doing something to please other people. Helping someone when they need help or surprising a person with a kind gesture or act definitely don’t fall into this category. Those are being true to ourselves and doing what it is right. Whether or not the act gets praise or acknowledgement is an added bonus. It’s the “look, I’m standing on my head when I have a bad case of vertigo just because everyone else is doing it” kind of things that are the mammoth overwhelming the warrior.
Worse than the straight emotion is trying to deal with justification or thinking we need to, and can’t, do stuff without someone’s approval or permission. I’ve soured a few relationships with that poison. The antidote for this is asking how important is what needs to be done compared to getting the authorization. There are times when an endorsement is necessary because if we don’t ask, there are going to be serious and real consequences. For example, losing a job because the boss was made to look like a fool in front of the company’s biggest client over some minor flaw in his presentation. It when the repercussions are more imagined than real that the mammoth needs to be reined in. Like doing or saying something that is important and meaningful, then bracing for a tsunami of negative reaction when only a few small waves might actually happen.
The mammoth is always going to be a part of us. In some cases, we need him to temper our actions, especially when our warrior wants to take on the world and we can’t without either driving ourselves insane or ending up dead. Keeping the mammoth and warrior working together, instead of fighting one another, requires balance. We need to recognize when the mammoth is being just a stupid bully who is driving us to do stupid things and when he’s being a rational voice for wisdom and control that is keeping us out of harm’s way. When approaching any situation, we need to take a moment to reflect on the impact of what we are about to do or think. Now, there are times when a precise and immediate response is more important than hesitation for contemplation. When they happen, all we can do is rely on our heads, hearts, instincts, and souls to guide us and then think about what we did later, weighing both the pros and the cons. Every moment in our lives, whether good or bad, is a learning experience that we can use to better ourselves.
We all need to think, feel, and act. When we do, we need to keep things in perspective and do them with moderation. It’s the only way to keep the mammoth, warrior, and human within all of us happy and moving forward with purpose, instead of looking back with regret.