Reading: Time to Take Out Your (Psychological) Trash

Wisdom

Time to Take Out Your (Psychological) Trash

So you’re no longer a corporate big wig. Feeling “less than” is the kind of trash that needs discarding

By Anne Devereux-Mills

Photo by Gary Chan

What’s your weekly routine? Laundry on Saturday and calling mom on Monday night? Listening to a podcast in the morning? Taking out the trash every other afternoon? 

But what about your psychological trash? When do you take that out?

Psychological trash is the stuff that gets into our heads and prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are. It’s the self-criticism that reeks of “not good enough,” smells embarrassing, and nauseates us with fear. Most of us have negative feelings and behaviors that eat away at our true sense of worth.

Hauling that trash out leaves room for something better.

So along with laundry and podcasts, my new routine includes dumping my psychological trash on a regular basis. This week’s trash is my perpetual pattern of discounting my worth because I no longer helm a company.

For years, I was Anne the CEO or Anne the Chairman of the Board. But when I left my position running my last ad agency and recently gave up my Board Chair seat, I found myself sweating when people asked about me about myself. 

What am I, after all, if I am not defined by what I “do” for a living?

Logically, I should know better. I decided not to run another agency because I realized my business relationships were based more on the power I wielded than on authentic connections. When I was not in power, many who said they were my friends weren’t there for me when the going got tough. 

Tossing out this trash and replacing it with truth is not easy. I was a good leader, and I miss the reinforcement of that feeling every day.

But I’m so much more than that. 

I’ve raised strong children who are now thriving adults. I actively support causes I believe in, like women’s rights and social justice. I’m growing Parlay House, a global organization that empowers women to have authentic conversations through community and connection. 

These are all pieces of who I am — proof that my self-definition doesn’t reek like trash without a “job.” But without the income, without the routine, and without the “cred,” I still find myself feeling less-than. 

Of course, I know this “less-than” garbage is just that: garbage. Rotten lies. 

And yet I hurl these critiques at myself often. So starting here, I’m practicing taking out my psychological garbage…with a sticky note.

It’s one small thing that has had a profound effect on changing that narrative in my head.

I write on sticky notes (made of recyclable paper) the statement: “I am what I do.” I then use a red pen to draw a big, fat line across the statement, replacing it with some phrases that celebrate my other qualities and contributions:

– I am a champion of women.

– I am an activist about issues I care about.

– I am a nurturer — and proud of it.

I put those sticky notes on my mirror, in my wallet, and on the dash of my car.

Now it’s time for you to take out your own trash. 

Is there some voice that says harsh things to you that you would never say to someone else you care about? Write them down, cross them out, and put those reminders in places you will see daily and be reminded of your excellence when you need a boost.

Then tell those you trust that you are working on a psychological trash disposal project. They are to keep an eye out for the junk that tries to pop out and degrade your self-image when you talk or get together. They need to help remind you that your dirty self-talk is not your truth.

By being open about the self-improvement projects you are working on, especially those involving self-worth, you are setting a standard of self-love that can be contagious. 

And it all starts with the awareness of your personal mental trash. It ends when you spot the pattern, use the red pen to strike it down, and make room for the truth.

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