Are you unable to be joyful because of the expectations you set for yourself? Learn how to improve your mental health by adding the “must” filter to your brain.
Your mind works as a proofreader. One of its responsibilities is to decide how to tell the story of what happens to you on a daily basis. It decides how every discussion and misfortune fit into your personal story. Whether or not a dispute with your partner or a failed job interview causes unpleasant feelings and self-defeating ideas is determined by how your brain processes these occurrences.
When you’re worried or concerned, your editorial brain is motivated to cut corners in order to save face. The “must” filter is one such shortcut. Musts are our views about how the world should function and how we should act in it. They’re tidy little boxes that your brain attempts to stuff every occurrence into, but the reality is that these “musts” aren’t always correct or sensible. For the sake of black-and-white truths, they neglect the subtleties of human experience. When you start to worry, there are a few typical “musts” to keep an eye out for. Stop reminding yourself these five musts and notice how your mental health improves.
1. I must always be loved by everyone.
The expectation of total and unconditional approval is at the root of many self-defeating beliefs and behaviors. Though it is immensely human to want to be accepted, loved, and appreciated, you begin to lose your sense of self if you are continually modifying your behaviors and reactions to accomplish this desire. You transform into a chameleon, changing your appearance to suit the perceptions of others. Because you’re focused on everyone else, you can’t recall what’s important to you. Self-worth is equated with Facebook likes or pats on the back.
The truth is that you will never be able to please everyone all of the time. This “must” is both hazardous and foolish. Instead, try concentrating on your own personal principles. What behaviors foster self-respect? How can you be kind to others instead of only looking for their love? What kind of peer recognition is useful, and what is mere vanity?
2. I must be successful in all of my endeavors.
Setting yourself up to be fearful and anxious by expecting perfect behavior from every action. When your expectations for yourself are unrealistic, you’re more prone to delay. The most successful people have frequently failed and accepted their imperfections. Consider how your life can be complete in spite of and because of your limits, rather than being paralyzed by perfectionism.
When you fail, avoid making broad generalizations to combat this “must.” If you don’t get that job interview, it doesn’t mean you’ll never find work. If you’re turned down on a date, it doesn’t mean you’ll be alone with 70 cats for the rest of your life. You know you’ve entered unreasonable terrain when your brain starts to go into autopilot with phrases like “always” and “never.”
3. I must be upset by things I’m afraid of.
With 24-hour news networks and social media, it’s easy to obsess endlessly about your issues in today’s environment. You get trapped in the loop, believing that if you let your guard down or focus your concentration on something else, you’ll be in danger. Examining, on the other hand, is not the same as obsessing. When you evaluate the nature and substance of your concerns, you’ll often discover that you have two options: confront them or accept their inevitability. Acceptance does not imply surrender; rather, it is concentrating on what you can control rather than what you cannot. You can’t stop the universe’s impending heat death, but you can recycle your waste.
4. I must avoid all forms of conflict at all costs.
Cutting off or separating oneself from problematic individuals may appear to be the safest option. Anxiety decreases, and we are able to avoid the unpleasant and dirty emotions. However, this deception is merely a band-aid solution. When you always select the quickest exit, you’ll feel more emotional reactivity and self-defeating discourse within yourself.
We will all meet people with whom we disagree at some point in our lives. There will be arguments, misunderstandings, and communication tension. At first, facing conflict head on while striving to comprehend it may appear difficult. However, in order to reach a calmer and ultimately better living, communication is a muscle that must be flexed. In the long run, the better you are at being thoughtful and vocal in times of uncertainty and stress, the less interpersonal drama you’ll have to deal with.
5. I must be in charge of everything.
It’s not a bad thing to have a strong sense of control over what happens to you. People who have a greater sense of internal control are more likely to be resilient in the face of adversity. When this expectation is applied to all events and situations, however, it becomes a potentially harmful “must.”
Much of what occurs to you in life is purely coincidental. We won’t be able to make 100% accurate predictions, but that doesn’t mean we should hide in our beds. Instead, think about how you can still have fun and be resilient despite the odds. You’ll be able to bounce back faster from unfavorable experiences, and you’ll feel less self-blame and guilt.
A simple inspection is the first step towards challenging your brain’s editing process. Consider which of these “musts” applicable as you write down your ideas and expectations about a circumstance. Accepting painful and unmanageable times, ironically, provides you more control over your emotions and behaviors. It’s remarkable how much more fascinating life gets when you embrace the complexities of your humanity and the world around you.