Play with the thought that you are out with the family on a picnic. You choose a nice place, sea view, fresh breeze, some trees that gives you shade and all is set for having a lovely day. You brought some food and drinks and can’t wait to share all the goodies with your loved ones. You have placed a blanket on the grass and decided to relax for a while before you invite your family to eat. The kids are playing near the sea side, some birds are singing and nothing can destroy your moment. Nothing, until you suddenly see some ants at one corner of the blanket. Two ants is nothing to be bothered about, you say, and brush them away.
You lay down on the blanket and close your eyes, listening to the kids’ happy voices and the other family members speaking silently. The sounds make you sleepy, until you suddenly feel some itching. You scratch yourself but the itching doesn’t stop. You scratch more and open your eyes to see that the two ants have got company. The whole neighbourhood of ants have got the message that a picnic is set and a lot of delicious food is there for them to share.
You try to brush the ants away, but it is not possible because they are too many. You shout to your family to hurry up to help you. All of them come to your assistance, but it’s not easy as the ants are too many and they are quick. As soon as you have got rid of some of them, others appear and the battle goes on. Annoying little creatures crawl around everywhere, in the bread, on the watermelon slices and in your drinks, everywhere!
What if these annoying insects instead were your thoughts? Negative thoughts that cover your days like black clouds on the sky. I called this essay: Don’t be an ant, and I will explain to you what I mean.
ANT stands for automatic negative thought. Some examples of ANTs in your life might be “that person hates me” or “I have nothing going for me” or “I’m never going to be happy.” ANTs tend to just pop into our heads without any warning. Think of each automatic negative thought (ANT) as a real-life ant. One or two ants at a picnic aren’t going to ruin your lunch, but if an entire colony of ants shows up, then the day probably won’t be very pleasant.
It’s impossible to control one’s thoughts, you might say, but that is not true. It can be hard, but it is not impossible, it only requires some effort and a conscience mind. Ask yourself what good has your negative thoughts done to you? Have they changed your life in the right direction? Have they helped you make more friends, improved your marriage, lifted your career? If the answer is NO, then why do you keep on pestering yourself with your negative thoughts? You are trapped in an endless wheel of misfortune, and every time you stop and think of it, you might tell yourself that there is no use, nothing will ever change for the better. Well, it will certainly not change for the better as long as you don’t allow yourself to be kind to yourself.
Whenever I speak to some of my students about feeling dissatisfied with themselves, I ask them if they would speak about their best friend in the same way as they speak about themselves. The students answer no on that question, of course they wouldn’t tell their best friends that they are worthless, stupid, ugly or whatever the problem is. But then why do you tell yourself that, I ask them. Try to be your own best friend, be kind to yourself and try to change your mindset from negativity to positivity.
It will take a while to get used to it, but it is possible. Negative thoughts spread from yourself to others. It is very easy to act in a negative way towards others, because you are unhappy with yourself. Will that improve your life? No, you will be stuck in a puddle of misery, with your negative thoughts keeping you down like sticky mud around your feet.
Gautam Buddha had said that to allow negativity in oneself means to drink poison and expect someone else to die. Negativity is not only affecting our minds, but also our bodies. High blood pressure, depression, eating disorders, self-injurious behaviour are only some of the effects. You might begin to see enemies everywhere, you begin to believe that people are only there to harm you. These thoughts will make you to either hide from whatever could harm you, or you begin to fight back to …..what? There might be no enemies you need to fight back, but if you allow yourself to only see others as enemies, they will certainly be that with time. The more you fight, the more desperate you become and the crowd of enemies will grow.
Being some kind of leader is not easy, you will be questioned by people who surround you, so you need to be strong and able-minded. The people who are there to support you should be chosen for their abilities to advise you, not for their ability to pat your back and agree with you whatever you say. A leader with a low self-esteem tries to hide that behind a pompous way of speaking. He (in the most cases it is a man) is trying to silence those who don’t agree with him, or who question his actions or words. Let us look at our President Barrow. I haven’t talked about him for a long time now, but it is necessary right now because it seems like he is not holding on to his promises to be a good president for the people of The Gambia.
He doesn’t agree with what some of them say, or do, so instead of just ignoring them, or trying to hold a discussion as grown-ups do, he is trying to silence them. The pattern of the past is not forgotten, but it is the people who hold the actual power in their hands, so I think that President Barrow should begin to change his mindset. People are not satisfied with the small achievements Barrow has made this far, so they complain and have the constitutional right to do so. Let the dictatorship be an ugly memory of the past, don’t forget that so easily and allow those who are leaders only for their own benefits of it to continue. You have a voice, so use it! Don’t give up and allow the ants to eat up your picnic. Decide together that you deserve a good life where you don’t have to fear for the future of your children and yourself.