If you tend to look at life through a lens of searching for problems to fix, eventually you’ll turn that gaze inward.
When I’m having a particularly intense day with ADHD issues, bumping my head against a wall on a task that feels like it “should” be easy, or struggling in a place whether other people seem to find smooth sailing, I often fall down the well of
What’s wrong with me?
I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in asking this. It’s a common question many of us ask ourselves in moments of despair or frustration.
If you’re asking yourself this question, the short answer is that nothing is wrong with you. You may have challenges that others don’t have. You may be trying strategies that don’t work for you. You may have beliefs that need to be untangled. Perhaps you’re in an unsupportive environment.
There may be many things wrong, but not wrong with you.
But I don’t want to talk about the answer. Because this is a question that doesn’t need to be answered.
I want to focus on the origins and the impact of this question, and how to shift the habit of asking it in the first place. Because quality of life would improve if we didn’t even ask ourselves this question, don’t you agree?
Here’s the thing:
Nobody is born asking themselves what is wrong with you?
None of us come into the world with a belief that something is wrong with us.
So where does this question come from?
Where do we develop the belief that experiencing difficulty in an area of life means that something is wrong with us?
In short, it’s a conditioned response.
We repeat what we hear. We take the comments and questions that others direct to us and we direct them to ourselves.
We seldom realise, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society. — Alan Watts
If your brain is wired to ask What’s wrong with you? it’s likely you heard it as a child, and perhaps continue to hear as an adult. Most likely you heard it from the people closest to you; the ones entrusted with your care.
But before you blame them, consider that their questions reflected societal beliefs.
Think about this:
When a baby cries, nobody asks “what’s wrong with that baby?”
But by a certain age we start hearing that question, what’s wrong with you?
Maybe we hear ourselves saying it about others:
What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with people?
The more we hear it, the more we internalize it. Until it becomes an embedded belief. A habit of thinking.
Notice what the impact is of this question.
How does it feel to live with the belief that something is wrong with you?
How does it impact your relationships when you’re asking yourself what’s wrong with others?
Shifting the Pattern
Shifting this pattern, like breaking any hardwired habit, takes time and practice. Rewiring thoughts is not an overnight process. Especially deeply-embedded thought patterns.
With practice, I’ve learned to see it. With awareness, I can pause and ask a different question.
It creates a small crack, a space to breathe and remind myself:
Not everything needs to be fixed. Maybe there’s nothing wrong at all.
If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water… You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all. — Alan Watts
One of my favorite inquiries from meditation teacher Tara Brach that she has posed a fair amount recently:
Who would you be if you didn’t believe that something was wrong with you?
To be honest, I don’t always have a clear vision around this. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate or even imagine a me that didn’t have this belief.
But even if I don’t yet have a footing in the new belief that nothing is wrong with me, the willingness to sit with this inquiry — just remembering to ask, and to consider the possibility that nothing is wrong with me — is enough to interrupt the pattern.
It’s a step. And sometimes a step is all you need.