I’ve discovered some unique self talk that instantly turns my feelings from negative to positive, reduces my self-righteous outbursts, I’m being kinder to those around me, and immediately makes me feel better about myself. I do it by recognizing my knee-jerk reactions and then changing my pattern of thought with a simple phrase said out loud: Whoops, I’ve done that before!
Let me give you some background leading to my discovery of the utility of Whoops! As humans, we wear the black hat—that’s the part of us that instinctively and immediately pounces on anything around us that we perceive as wrong, incorrect, or unacceptable to our fine-tuned and often mislead sensibilities. We criticize others incessantly: Use a turn signal, you schmuck! (or words more colorfully expressive); It’s spelled with an e, everybody knows that!; You can’t wear that, for God’s sake!; Oh, you didn’t do it again, didja?; That’s not how you’re supposed to build it, dammit!
We excel at seeing what’s wrong to us, we edit other’s words and actions—every decision they make—and we can find any fault that exists anywhere, period! We are the best spotters and tellers of what shoulda-, coulda-, or woulda-been! But I’ve found a maneuver that helps me to percolate happiness in me and in those around me, instead of lecturing, playing holier-than-thou, or upsetting myself and others over life’s constantly occurring little miscues.
You catch someone doing something stupid; your knee-jerk reaction is to register the stupidity and to let them know you caught it, or to mutter under your breath to yourself how dumb they’ve been. Instead of those imprecations, I now say: Whoops! I’ve done that before! I’m simply reminding myself how we humans make mistakes and of our human-ness—our humanity—and of our mistake-prone existence.
Whoops! I’ve done that before! The next time you discover something or someone wrong (they’re being…, they’ve been…, they are an ******* and you want to pounce on their stupidity), say, Whoops, I’ve done that before!, reminding yourself that you, as great and truly wonderful as you are, have made all these same mistakes (maybe even trumped them!) and taken every misstep they’ve just taken, simultaneously becoming more positive, nicer, and more forgiving. The beauty is: you can continue to do it as often as you choose to in the future. Don’t fret, you’ll have unbelievable opportunities ahead—people won’t stop doing stupid things, making mistakes, committing errors around you…nor will you around them.
So far, Whoops, I’ve done that before! or, the variation, Whoops, I’ve done that a million times myself! is working for me about 25% of the time. I’m sure my average will go up as I take more shots on goal. A reminder that we’re all in this life together, and we can do something to improve it, sure eases the distress we feel while we’re developing our new habit. I remind myself when I’ve just done something egregious, saying, Whoops, I’ve done that before! and chuckling to myself as I forgive my latest transgression.