This thought came to me this week as I watch a female cardinal on the back porch, flying into the glass sliding door to protect her territory.
No, her nest is not inside the house. Nor is her food and territory. It’s out in our backyard. Yet, every few seconds, I hear a “bonk” as she attacks the glass, beak first, dive bombing her reflection. It kind of makes me crazy, until I think of how relentlessly she is pursuing this task. She is really serious about defeating this “enemy.”
I feel sorry for her.
Apparently, this is common with cardinals. Willie told me a female cardinal is doing the same thing at his friend’s house. She has a nest somewhere close, and she’s threatened by her own reflection in the glass.
She’s determined to attack it until it goes away. Except it never goes away. She’s sabotaging her natural ability to protect her survival by allowing herself to get distracted by none other than… herself.
How do you reason with a bird?
If I could, I’d give that little pink bird a gentle side squeeze and say, “Hey, I get it, momma. You have to get rid of the threat… Except YOU are that reflection in the glass, and you’re spending a ton of energy psyching yourself out! Stop it.”
Truth is, I sympathize. Some days I, too, fall into the bird-brained act of self-defeating belief.
Overcoming Self-Defeating Lies
When you’re in the throes of a super serious task – maybe almost as important as protecting a nest of babies, or finding food to live – do you ever sense a threat coming from somewhere so close you just can’t put a finger on it?
I have. It’s that negative self-talk again. It sounds like this:
- You’re going to mess things up again.
- You’re going to fail at this, just like before.
- Fight or flight! (over something that’s not even really that important).
When you hear something like this, know that you’re choosing destruction over creativity and protection. This is all wrong.
I sympathize with this bird because I’ve seen nature at work at its awesome best, and its fearsome worst. And fearful survival makes you do some pretty crazy things.
Maybe I’m more of a fighter than a lover at heart, but somewhere in my younger years, I learned that it’s good to be able to take the (proverbial) punch. I tend to scan my environment for hurdles and obstacles. I even actually used to be drawn to conflict. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. That reflection in the mirror was an easy mark. “I can take her,” I thought… Until I realized it was my own reflection was struggling against.
In all of these examples, I finally realize those thought patterns perpetuate lies.
Sometimes we business owners, parents, homeowners — anyone who has something to lose or fight for — work so hard to eliminate every fear, protecting our territory, as if that’s the most important job.
Meanwhile, you lose perspective of that big, happy goal you set. You start banging into the glass instead of enjoying the woods, distracted by your own insecurity.
Maybe you even think this is the last push – like, if this thing doesn’t “work” then you’ll have to quit and join the ranks of everyone else. Settle for something less. Get a “real job.” Or finally accept whatever you are trying to overcome in your business, your relationships, or your living situation.
Just when you’re feeling a little desperate, as if to pound that last nail in your coffin, out of the corner of your eye you see a flitting threat, a dark ominous shadow of doubt swooping in from above. You start to think you’re on the wrong track.
The real battle you should be fighting is self-deception, which diverts you from your real work.
It’s good to occasionally re-evaluate your plan, but make sure you keep your goals in front of you so you can clearly see them.
You were meant to go higher. So stop pecking and struggling with your own reflection!
May I give you a big, virtual hug and remind you that you have other, bigger things to do? You are on a path to greatness, and you won’t “mess this up.”
Why the struggle? Why the fight?
The enemy is The Resistance, The Illusion, The Obstacle, The Liar. Whatever you want to call it, it’s real.
I call it the devil. The devil thinks it’s funny when you get thrown off course by self defeating instincts, like that little bird throwing herself against her own reflection in the glass. If the scene takes place in nature, then you can bet your last dollar that it’s an easy mind game for the enemy to play with someone destined for greatness: you!
Here’s what I think is really going on. I believe that the times you see the enemy in yourself are the times you are working really hard to accomplish something great. The stakes are high, so it’s easy for the great “Liar” of the world to step in and make you scared. I believe Satan was cast down to earth because he was so good at deception, he didn’t belong in the heavens, where Truth lives. But don’t buy into these false survival tactics, whatever you do! It’s an old trick of the devil. You, my friend, belong in heaven! You can enjoy a more heavenly existence in life, too, if you learn to stop fighting yourself.
Whatever you believe about good and evil, I hope this makes sense. You are working at something big and wonderful. You’ve carved out time and energy. You are not lazy, and you are not wasting time. You have a plan for something big and beautiful! When your life and future are on the line, you’re attracting attention from outside forces, both positive and negative.
When you’re onto something good, expect resistance.
I’ve learned to welcome the obstacles. I figure God’s choosing me for a special relationship with him when I’m handed something big I can’t handle on my own. This recognition has enabled me to view my past hardships — mental illness and addiction in my family, separation, betrayal, professional losses — as gifts to make me stronger. It’s a sign that I’m probably on the right track, thank goodness! If the devil is trying to stop me, then this is probably what I’m supposed to be doing.
It’s a fight, yes, but finally I’ve learned this struggle is not against myself; it’s against the lies I sometimes tell myself.
The simplest way to get into someone’s psyche and create total chaos (or encouragement) is to assume an important position in their mind. Self-defeating words carry the most weight. After all, who knows better than you where you’re the weakest? You know your pitfalls, your past defeats, your weakest links and your deepest fears. The enemy uses those memories and misperceptions to drag you down because it’s the easy way in – using your past mistakes to slam you down and make you fear your vulnerability.
Just like that cardinal’s reflection, these are not true, nor even terribly threatening when you get a good, clear look. They don’t even begin to define the possibility and the fullness you have within you.
If a magnificent idea is planted in you, then you CAN do it. You just have to know where the truth comes from and keep after your goal.
You can do it! The task at hand is the easy part; it’s the mind games you have to watch out for. Everyone who has ever been successful knows this is the most challenging part of success. Don’t fall for your own self deception, like the pathetic cardinal. Know that you are destined for better things. You are created for joy.
What you believe matters. You were made to fly.