Baby Steps, Mental Health, Random Ramblings

Even Darwin Had Bad Days

This week, I stumbled upon an NPR post, Charles Darwin And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, written by Robert Krulwich. It made me pause, then smile in recognition because I’ve felt this way. (We’ve all felt this way!) So many times. You can read the original post here.

On October 1, 1861, two years after he’d published On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote a letter to his friend, Charles Lyell:

“I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything… I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchids and I hate them worse than everything.”

When we are in a bout of depression, or just having a bad day, we feel like we are the only person who ever experienced pain. We think we are not enough. Not smart enough. Not good enough. We believe the stories our brain invents. Stories to make sense out of the nonsensical: This is happening to me because I’m not enough. We think we are lacking…something.

Charles Darwin was a brilliant man. His ideas changed the world. And yet, Darwin still experienced days where he felt “very stupid.” This is a universal feeling. We have ALL been there. We feel like we are an imposter. As if at any moment, the rest of the world will discover that we a fraud and a fake. We don’t know what we’re doing. We are not enough.

This “Not Enough” story keeps us paralyzed. It keeps us from moving forward with our dreams. If we don’t try, we can’t fail. Easier to binge-watch Netflix. Easier to eat our weight in chocolate—my guilty pleasure—than to risk humiliation.

Now, I am NOT a medical professional, nor do I pretend to be one on the Internet. However, I believe our feelings are valid. We feel what we feel and I think it’s important to allow ourselves to feel ALL of the emotions human beings are capable of experiencing. But the stories we tell ourselves…aren’t always true. This person hates me because…reasons. Really? Did they tell you they hated you? Do you know this for sure? Or did you tell yourself a story, a story to make sense of things that are often out of our control? Unless you’re a brain surgeon, you can’t see inside someone else’s head. (And even brain surgeon’s can’t see feelings.)

Don’t believe everything you think.

If you can tell yourself stories that may or may not be true, what would happen if you created a different story? I’m NOT saying you should start chanting mantras, “You are smart. You are kind…” (Although you could chant mantras if you wanted to, I suppose. Do what works for you.) But what if you asked yourself questions, instead? Maybe crack a few holes in your own belief system?

For example, you might think you’re stupid. Fair enough! Your feelings are valid. But how would you treat someone else, a child perhaps, if they came to you and told you, “I’m stupid.” Now, imagine that child is you. YOU are that child at maybe four or five years old. What would you say to that younger version of you? What would you tell that child?

This a great thought exercise to meditate on or to journal. Deep down, you KNOW what you would say to that four or five year old child. You’d tell them, “Of course you’re NOT stupid!” You’d do everything in your power to comfort that child.

You know how to treat other people with kindness. So what does that look like? If I’m NOT stupid, then how should I treat myself? If I was giving loving advice to a friend, what would I tell them?

And here’s a tough one: If I did love myself—and I’m NOT saying I do—what would that look like? How would I want to be treated? How do I treat people that I love? What do people who love themselves do? How do they treat their bodies? What do they eat? Do they make sure they get enough rest or do they beat themselves up because there are dishes in the sink. Again.

Sometimes it’s okay to fake it, to tell yourself a NEW story, a different story. It’s also okay to acknowledge your feelings.

I don’t feel like I’m enough. I don’t know what what I’m doing. But if I were the kind of person who had their life all figured out, I’d probably get dressed in the morning instead of spending the entire day in my pajamas. I’d try to do at least ONE THING that made me feel proud, or happy, or accomplished. Even if it’s just making my bed in the morning. I also know that if a friend told me they didn’t have the energy to get dressed everyday, that life seemed hopeless, I’d tell them that it’s okay, too.

And I would still love them.

xo Juli

2 thoughts on “Even Darwin Had Bad Days”

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