In our house, we have this thing we call the Bullshit.* It’s when any one of us falls into our “Bad Wolf” thinking (to borrow Jenny’s very cool terminology). So, for example, when Alastair says to me, “Hey, thanks for doing that,” and I say, “Oh, please, like there was anything involved in what I did, a monkey with a lobotomy could do it, it’s not like it even counts against what you do every day,” that is The Bullshit. It’s my particular brand of Bullshit, which is, “I’m awful and hateful and nothing I do even puts a drop in the bucket of Good Enough.” Alastair has almost my exact same brand, so it makes it easier for all of us to recognize. Sweetness’s Bullshit is when she believes that she’ll never get over her shyness and be able to connect with people; Light’s Bullshit is when she believes that she has to do what other people do in order to be accepted, that she isn’t completely loved exactly for who she is.
I have to say, as much as my internal Bullshit screams, “BAD MOTHER,” every time one of my kids says, “Hey, that’s the Bullshit,” at the same time, I love that I’ve taught them to recognize the part of them that can be so internally hateful, separate it from themselves, and acknowledge it as nonsense. Their favorite thing, of course, is saying, “Hey! That’s the Bullshit!” to me and Alastair (which, believe it or not, is really helpful to us, because when it’s been a tough day, we’ll honestly not notice) but every now and again, we’ll see them falling prey to it and say, “No Bullshit,” and you can see their eyes light up as, right in the moment, they realize that their internal doubter is just wrong. God, I love that.
And okay, fine, sometimes you need that internal doubter. For instance, when you’re about to do something stupid, you need that second voice inside going, “I’m not so sure this is a great idea…” But that’s different from the Bullshit. “I’m not sure this is smart,” is a good voice. “I’m pretty sure you’re a useless loser,” is the bad voice. It’s pretty easy to tell them apart, and I’m really thrilled my kids are going to grow up with their internal Bullshit detector calibrated and ready to go.
So, what’s your Bullshit? You know, right now, you may not know. Until I moved in with Jenny, and then married Alastair, and was surrounded by people who loved me enough to tell me about my Bullshit rather than use it as a weak point to exploit, I had no idea. Sometimes, it takes other people to tell you, and sometimes, you’re so good at hiding it that those people have to live with you every moment of every day to see it. I was very lucky to have the situation I had, and I’m so grateful for it now.
But if you can sniff it out—and you’ll know it less by how it smells than by how it makes you feel like… well… shit—try to take a moment every time and recognize what it is, what language it uses, what lies it tells. Because they are all lies. It takes a long time to be able to recognize it, separate it from yourself, and then call it out when it shows up, but I have to tell you, it’s really worth the time and effort. It’s making an astonishing difference in my family.
*If you have small kids, though, you may want to call it something else. I get a little hit of joy whenever my sweet little darlings say, “Hey, that’s the Bullshit!” but I understand that most parents aren’t like me. I’m just glad they haven’t said it in school.