This is the term I use when I need to re-set myself. Imagine your brain is a computer. Just like computers, they can shut down or freeze when overloaded. When this happens you may have feelings of being overwhelmed or drained. How many times do we judge ourselves too harshly? There’s an adage about how we are our own worst critic and that, my friends, is being mindless. Now, mindless does not mean less intelligent. No, mindless is when you go through the motions. Sometimes, I get caught up in the clutter of a mindlessness minefield and when I’m aware of this happening I need to “control, alt, delete” and re-set myself, basically, clear my mental cache.
In my honors thesis, “Eating With Your Eyes: What You See May Predict What you Eat,” I discussed the differences between mindlessness and mindfulness with the help of Langer, Pirson & Delizonna’s (2010) article. The researchers suggested that when we compare ourselves to others (aka social comparison), whether we think it’s a good or bad comparison, we create a standard to measure ourselves against. The researchers found that when people make mindless social comparisons (i.e., comparing oneself without realizing it), they are more likely to accept their comparison at face value without considering whether the criteria makes sense for an accurate comparison. This could have a negative effect on oneself. However, a social comparison that is made while being mindful, or having awareness of making a social comparison, could have a positive effect as people are aware of the differences between themselves and the comparison target without judging themselves.
The researchers suggested “two modes of social comparison processes, mindless and mindful” (Langer, Pirson, & Delizonna, 2010, p.69) exist. The first, mindlessness social comparisons, would have consequences as to how a person feels towards themselves overall. The second, mindfulness social comparisons, would allow the person to realistically evaluate themselves by understanding who they are through self-awareness. Another good point the researchers made is that when making social comparisons, contextual information, such as standards, or ways of evaluating criteria; “what is good now, is not good later” (Langer, Pirson, & Delizonna, 2010, p. 70), change. To put it another way, how they perceive themselves may change depending on the time and situation.
Ok, Liz, what does this all mean? Simply this, when you compare yourself to someone else, remember that your circumstances may not be exactly the same as the other person. There were times when I felt like I was taking on too much, and my mental cache was overflowing with data spilling out of my ears! I mean come on, I went back to college and graduated magna cum laude in May (2018), all while managing our home, planning our wedding (October 7, 2018) and building my career as a realtor. Goodness gracious – I’m going to just take a minute to pat myself on the back and give myself a big hug. I bet you know the feeling, give yourself a big hug too. I know I’ve been stuck in a few ruts where I lose inspiration and wonder what my purpose is, and how could I make the world a better place? But I’ve realized something, I have to look at the “world” from a micro perspective rather than a macro perspective. By seeing my world from a micro perspective, I’m aware that I feel inspired when I am helping people, and embracing my need to nurture; whether it was by motivating my classmates in group work (if you worked with me then you know that we strived for A’s), my work in real estate, and sharing recipes that I know will nourish you. Professionally, I feel inspired when I help people find their dream home or sell their home where they’ve enjoyed living their dreams and assist them in finding a new place to dream.
There’s a saying in the real estate industry, “show, don’t sell” and my interpretation is that no matter how good of a sales person you are, if someone doesn’t feel right about a purchase, then no matter how hard you “sell it” baby, they ain’t buying. What I really like about this industry is that each transaction is different- each interaction is different, it’s like stepping into someone else’s life and living vicariously through them while you help them go through this emotional rollercoaster process of buying or selling their home. Both require sensitivity and empathy.
Remember, practicing mindfulness takes work, but you know what? You’re worth it. Let your mantra be “I am worth it. I am worth the work. I deserve to work on myself and be kind to myself. I deserve to stop, pause, take a break and breathe.” Taking a break by walking away from the task at hand (ummm unless you’re a surgeon, then maybe try this at a later time) is not a sign of weakness or failure. It is a sign that you are self-aware, you know yourself, and by taking a break, you can come back to your task with a fresh outlook and a calmer mind.
Believe me, I know life can get overwhelming. Deadlines, responsibilities, and obligations fill me up like my inbox overflowing with junk mail and shoe sales. Just take a step back, breathe, reevaluate and come back later. Better yet, go nourish yourself with something that makes you feel satiated, maybe you’ll even find that recipe here on my page!
Langer, E., Pirson, M., & Delizonna, L. (2010). The mindlessness of social comparisons. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 4(2), 68-74. doi:10.1037/a0017318