If you love the idea of going on a Bullshit Diet and want some quick tips to get you started straight away, I’ve put together this quick guide.
Get started on your BS Diet
1. Identify the toxic people and relationships in your life. From the drainers who sap your energy, emotions and esteem with their own negativity, to the people who at best take advantage and at their worst are abusing you, to those who you tend to feel like a child while anointing them with too much power, to the people who for whatever reason, you engage in people pleasing, comparison, and basically beating yourself up – identify the people and relationships in your life that are affecting the way that you feel and think about you and life. If there’s a toxic person in your life, acknowledge the behaviour and issues that contribute to this and evaluate whether it’s time to opt out, distance yourself and/or protect yourself with boundaries. (see #2). You will feel lighter when you let go of a toxic person. Believe.
If it’s not that the person is toxic but more that you keep twisting yourself into a pretzel around them, it’s time to have an honest conversation with you about what you’re getting out of engaging with this person and whether you can conduct yourself in a manner that will allow you to treat you and engage in a manner that puts you on equal footing. You must treat you with love, care, trust and respect around people.
2. Identify your boundaries and live them. Boundaries are your personal electric fence. They enable you to treat you with love, care, trust and respect by knowing what you are willing to accept, as well as signaling discomfort, and ultimately having a line and a limit. Others know the line when you know the line. No boundaries, no love and too much bullshit. Don’t kid yourself that you can live your without boundaries or that they’re ‘bad’ – everybody has boundaries, it’s just some of us are more assertive and in some instances, too aggressive about them. But they’re there. You will find that your life dramatically changes when you stop inadvertently victimising yourself through busting your own boundaries. Identify examples in your life of where you recognise that boundaries were needed and use the insights gained to set boundaries now. Also get clear on what toxic behaviour is – know what most of your boundaries are in advance of something happening and it saves you from having to agonise over what to do. You also have to learn as you go and adapt.
3. Cut down your People Pleasing – learn to say no and examine your motives for ‘helping’ and doing stuff. No isn’t a dirty word and it’s also a complete sentence. You’re not contractually obliged to say yes to everyone and the fact is, it’s better to give an authentic yes or no, than it is to agree to something and then either back out at a later date (passive aggression) or to end up feeling resentful due to the person not meeting your unvoiced expectations. Don’t overexplain when you say no – it sounds like a bullshitty justification. If you do agree to do stuff, your litmus test has got to be: am I doing this in order to gain validation, love, a reward or to avoid something? If you wouldn’t ‘help’ or do something if you didn’t think that you were going to get some sort of reward or that the person would do X/Y/Z, don’t do it. Do it because you want to and it reflects who you are, not because you’re trying to get ‘store credit’ to claim back something at a later date.
4. Own your own and let others own theirs – stop making other people’s behaviour about you. Not everything is about you. This is one of the biggest sources of bullshit in our lives and each and every time you blame you for other people’s behaviour or internalise everything that happens as an indicator of your worth, you not only burden you with another person’s responsibilities but you actually avoid your own at the same time. People do what they do because of themselves. Each of us are built on habits and we all have our own thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, fears, motivations etc., that are driving these. What’s about you is you and you can take control of you at any time. Terrible things happen to good people all of the time and they do not ‘deserve it’. For you to believe that other people’s behaviour is about you is to suggest that we provoke it in others and that they have customised characters and personas influenced by how they calculate the worth of others. This is bullshit.
5. Catch your negative self-talk and try to respond positively and/or realistically. You don’t have to chase negative thoughts and then feed them with even more negativity. Let them pass or even more importantly, start truly listening to what is running through your mind each day and respond and correct this stuff. Not every thought is a fact. Just because you think that you can’t do something, it doesn’t mean that you actually can’t. Berating you, critiquing you, comparing you, ridiculing you – this just isn’t on. Hopefully you wouldn’t treat another human being in this way, so why do this to you? If you’re still beating yourself up about stuff that happened as a child, it’s important to note that it’s highly unlikely that you would blame another child or talk to them in the same way, so why are you still doing that to your childhood self? Practice self-compassion. Instead of dining off what you perceive as your ‘mistakes’ or even failures, recognise who you were at those times, be empathetic and self-compassionate, take the insights gained and apply them positively to your life going forward.
6. Reclaim you and your power. Stop being helpless and giving away your right to choose. Be responsible and accountable in your own life. I’m going to assume if you’re reading this that you’re an adult and where we can fall into the trap of bullshitting ourselves is reverting to a ‘child role’ around certain people who we give almighty powerful ‘parent roles’ to. You’re a grownup now and you can’t keep giving away your power and stealing your own wind. There are people out there who are only too willing to seize power you give away. Don’t look for people to fill voids created by your parents because this is how you can end up in codependent relationships and feeling excessively emotionally reliant on others. Adulthood is about unlearning any unproductive habits, on-the-job training, and gaining self-knowledge through experience and raising yourself into being you. Don’t make your adulthood about pursuing your childhood because you’ll end up abandoning yourself while often being with unavailable partners who bring out your fears of abandonment and ultimately feeling insecure because you have no personal security.
7. Stop overfeeding the worry fish. Goldfish don’t know when they’re full and will eat whatever you feed them. Worry and other negative spirals like comparison, are also like goldfish. When your ‘life tank’ is full of fear, it doesn’t leave much oxygen or food for your self-esteem or happiness.
8. Stop making excuses. That’s both for you and for others. All excuses do is hide or sugarcoat the real reason. When you make too many excuses for others, you end up coming up with all manner of bullshit to justify unacceptable behaviour. Let them make their own excuses on their own time. When you make too many excuses in your own life, you just end up mired in bullshit and avoiding taking action. Next thing you know, you begin to feel down because you can’t escape the truth and you end up feeling regretful because you look back and realise that time has passed but your outlook and actions haven’t. You don’t have to end up feeling like this if you keep the excuses to a minimum. If you find yourself making excuses a lot around a particular person, this is a code red alert. You’re not really ‘in’ whatever involvement you have with them and there are potentially commitment and passive aggression issues.
9. Evaluate whether it’s fear or knowledge. If it really is fear, then you know that it’s not actually happening at the moment, otherwise if it were, then that wouldn’t be fear; it would be knowledge and you would hopefully be responding with action. When you’re afraid, try to identify whether it’s internally based or externally influenced. Is the fear based on your insecurities and a tendency to forecast doom or is how you’re feeling a response to a cue or trigger from something that’s happened externally, such as the other party’s behaviour? Or is it a mixture of both? By examining where your fear is coming from, you can calm you if there isn’t an actual threat or you can respond. What you don’t want to be happening is for you to be calling it ‘fear’ when it’s actually knowledge and for you to wind up knee-deep in an unhealthy situation due to ignoring that knowledge.
10. Practice mindfulness. If you spend the bulk of your time living in the past or betting on potential in the future, it’s time to come back to earth and be mindful by spending the bulk of your time in the present. You always know you have a great deal of bullshit in your life if you spend your time being anxious about what isn’t happening (fear) or trying to anticipate what’s next, which can also include predicting doom. You just end up in limbo. If you’ve found yourself still living out a break-up that happened a few years ago, you’ve been involved in a fantasy relationship, or you’ve been avoiding your feelings and thoughts and don’t know who you are, or you’ve been ruminating over the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s or you just can’t seem to get the action part of your life going, practicing mindfulness will help to gently bring you back to earth so that you can be happy in your own life instead of hiding out in your imagination. I highly recommend Headspace, a wonderful website and app that makes mindfulness accessible.
11. Make decisions and own your right to make choices. Indecision is a decision. If you’re not making decisions, not only are you sitting on the fence in your own life but you may actually be directly impacting on others with your flip-flapping. There’s no perfect decision and trying to avoid making decisions so that you don’t have to be responsible or accountable, or so that you can avoid the possibility of ‘failure’, actually sets you up for a great deal of pain, frustration and ultimately, regret. There’s no such thing as a decision-free life. You also can’t keep avoiding decisions due to trying to future proof yourself – the future will catch up with you and then you’ll be stalling all over again. If you struggle to make decisions, it’s due to lack of self-knowledge as well as lack of confidence in owning your right to choose. Get to understand how decisions work and start small and keep building up. The sky won’t fall down.
12. Resist the urge to control the uncontrollable. As soon as you’re basically expecting to be able to Jedi mind trick and to essentially have the power to control and change others, you’re immediately bullshitting yourself, not least because you’re using up your energy on a futile endeavour when you could be in control of you. Observing habits for over 8 years has shown me something about control – when we feel out of control about an aspect of our lives, we tend to overcompensate for it by exerting excessive control on another area. I have a friend who hates his job and feels out of control in the chaos. Years later, he hasn’t left but he is near OCD about his home. I’ve also come across far too many people who opt for substandard relationships so that they feel more in control and less ‘vulnerable’. Funny enough, they’re all unhappy. You will always feel unhappy when you’re avoiding an aspect of yourself and your life, or when you’re just letting life happen to you and trying to control the uncontrollable.
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