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When thoughts feel true
It's not always easy to distinguish facts from thoughts.
This week, I was talking to a client who mentioned that they were inadequate when they couldn't answer a job interview question correctly.
I asked them whether their inadequacy here was a fact or a thought. They felt pretty confident that it was a fact.
"Most people would agree that this is inadequacy," they said.
"It feels true," they said.
But what happens if, as a thought experiment, we start to play with some of the boundaries of this situation?
Suppose you go to a job interview for one position, but they interview you for a very different position. If you couldn't answer one of those interview questions correctly, does it mean you're inadequate?
Suppose you go to a job interview, but your interviewer doesn't speak the same language as you. If you couldn't answer one of those interview questions correctly, does it mean you're inadequate?
Suppose you go to a job interview, but you must evacuate the building before answering one of the questions due to a fire alarm. Does it mean you're inadequate because you didn't answer that interview question correctly?
So, in answering those last three questions about those different scenarios, who decided what was inadequate?
The person answering the question.
No book tells us what is adequate and inadequate, in which scenarios, or under what conditions.
There is no official poll of the human population evaluating which answers to which questions under what conditions make a person inadequate.
It's all just a thought that comes from our very human brain.
But that thought can lead to feelings like fear, anxiety, or impatience.
And those feelings can drive us to give up. They can push us not to break down the problem into more manageable pieces. They can prevent us from asking our interviewer for clarification.
These actions produce unwanted results: we prevent ourselves from finding the answer.
This also fuels a vicious circle that strengthens our belief that our inadequacy is a fact, not a thought.
(This is why it has come to feel true in the first place.)
It can be hard to distinguish facts from thoughts, especially when we've thought something is a fact for decades.
What adjectives do you frequently use that are thoughts masquerading as facts?
Here are some common ones: