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Silencing Your Lizard Brain: Stop Feeling Pressured and Inadequate

Holding Head

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” ~Unknown

Damn lizard brain, I hate you sometimes. Why do you always have this thirst for more? Why must you have such impossibly high expectations for everything?

It’s good to have standards, but when is it too much?

Things can be going great for me and I could have the entire world love me, yet it wouldn’t be enough.

I still wouldn’t be happy even every human on Earth left me a voicemail to tell me I’m wonderful. Instead, I’d be wondering how everyone got my number.

Why is it never enough? It’s because the moment it slows down, my lizard brain is going to eat at me again. It always wants more.

My mind needs to be constantly bombarded with success and pleasure.

It will tell me I’m not good enough; it will tell me how I should probably just give up, because what’s the use if I’m not constantly getting results?  

Yesterday, I had around ten new people follow me on Twitter, six new people subscribe to my newsletter, and over twenty new comments on an article. Today, I had only four more people follow me, several others unfollow, no new newsletter subscribers, and two new comments.

Lizard brain, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t beat yesterday’s achievements.

The problem with this is that I set high expectations in at least 10,000 areas on a daily basis. This is draining because it is unrealistic to be able to hit all those marks and exceed all the time.

This adds up and really affects my happiness, because there are these expectations I feel I have to meet.

Over the years, I’ve noticed this about myself and try my best to stop my lizard brain during its peak hours.

You probably have an annoying lizard brain too. It’s the part of you that controls you, makes you afraid, and pushes you because it says you’re a failure.

If your lizard brain is bothering you, here are some reminders that might help:

You can’t always win.

I have to constantly remind myself it is simply impossible to always beat yesterday’s achievements. Think about it. If you land on the moon today, what are the odds of you going to Mars tomorrow?

Celebrate your victories from today and don’t worry about the next day. You can worry about going to Mars maybe a month from now. You already made it to the moon, relax.

Celebrate and truly appreciate your accomplishment.

Besides, you can’t always win. So even when you fall just remind yourself you’re growing and you’re a work in progress. Use your failure as a motivator or a marker for where you need to be.

You can’t always win. Accept that.

Stop comparing.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~Steve Furtick

Steve Furtick’s quote is gushing with truth. We often compare ourselves to others’ achievements and then we beat ourselves up.

Well, chances are we’re all just comparing our weakest moments to everybody else’s strongest. See how ridiculous that is?

You can’t possibly outshine everyone’s highlight reel. You have your own highlight reels too, but they’re not always playing. Stop comparing yourself to others because that is a sure way to feel dissatisfied.

What you can do instead is focus on your own highlight reels and then work on your behind-the-scenes by learning from them.

Eventually, others will be in awe at your highlight reels and they won’t even notice when you’re not at your best. It’s okay to slow down every now and then because not every day has to be breaking new ground.

Don’t let the journey bring you down or the end of the path won’t be as great as it could have been.

Remind yourself that no one cares.

Okay, look: this is some harsh truth but in reality, no one cares. No one will realize how many times you’ve failed or every time you smile funny. Everyone else is the protagonist in his or her own story and you’re just a side character.

When you remind yourself that you’re not in the center of the universe and not everything revolves around you, things get easier.

This may be the hardest part for me. For some reason, I always feel like all eyes are on me and that every micro-movement will be noted by literally everyone in the room and eyes will be rolled as I adjust my leg positions. “Ugh, who does Vincent think he is? Sitting all cool like that…”

See how ridiculous that is? I highly doubt thirty people are constantly watching me for as little as a leg twitch. Chances are people just don’t care or are too busy with their own problems.

Keep reminding yourself that others have things going on too. You’re not the protagonist in their book; they are.

Meditate.

When I’m meditating, my lizard brain just does what it wants, but I act as the detached observer. I let it talk but I don’t interact. I watch it babble on and on as I crack a smile, because when I meditate, I no longer care.

Then I take it to the next level by focusing in on my breath. I make sure that the only thing I’m worrying about is breathing. My lizard brain doesn’t have anything on me now because it slowly starts to fade away.

There are tons of extensive guides on how to meditate. Pick a method that seems interesting to you and try it out. You can be the detached observer or the silencer.

What do you do to silence your lizard brain?

Photo by Gibson Regester

About Vincent Nguyen

Vincent Nguyen is the author of personal development blog, Self Stairway, where their motto is “Self-Improvement through Self-Reflection.” Vincent often draws through personal life experiences to tie into his life lessons. Follow Self Stairway on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Hi, Vincent. It’s such a nice article of yours! It was fun reading your post. 🙂

  • Thank you, Sandeep! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Huge thanks to Lori for allowing me to be on here. 🙂

  • Cristina Serverius

    Thanks for this refreshing and funny read, Vincent!

    I keep notes around the house and on my computer to remind myself that it is just lizard mind talking (I call it “monsters yapping”). Frequent reminders help me single them out more easily (“Oh, hello monster, it’s you”), allowing me to disarm them by not taking their yapping seriously.

  • Lorrie Jones, MBSR

    Thank you, Vincent, for this timely and relevant post. I am amazed at how often my lizard brain is in charge! I have found mindfulness meditation to be a practice that allows me to observe my mind and restore serenity – or, at the very least, awareness.

  • That’s a good one, Cristina! I may have to steal your reminder quote. 🙂 Makes your brain seem a lot less scary that way.

  • Meditating is very powerful! I’m glad you’re receiving its benefits. 🙂

  • Maria

    Thank you, Vincent. What you say is so true.

  • Kelly

    Love this! When I need to work with my lizard brain, I remind myself that these are merely thoughts and not the true essence of who I am!

  • No problem, Maria. Thanks for reading!

  • More often than not it’s your ego talking. Check out “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. Wonderful book on the ego.

  • Mary Martin

    I enjoyed your article – and the way you made me smile to make your point. now – don’t count how many comments you got just because I went ahead and wrote this! smiles mm

  • Judy Crawford

    Thank you! Now I have a name for this, Lizard Brain/(Breath), hahaha. I visualize it more like a dragon, breathing fiery demise to my garden of good deeds, because that garden is always my intent. When I dismiss the lizard/dragon, I am free to go about watering and weeding and take positive actions to keep it growing.

  • Uh oh, you caught me, Mary! I actually did glance at the number of comments before I came down here to reply. 🙁

  • Judy, that’s an awesome way of visualizing it too! I think I got the Lizard Brain term from the popular show, “Dexter.”

  • Vid

    nice article ..agree with all the points ..i made my life easier with first 3 points

  • Jon

    Good article. In Buddhism they call it the Monkey Mind.

  • Imagine how it’d be if you incorporated the fourth as well!

  • Interesting! So we’ve got the lizard brain, monkey mind, and Judy’s fire-breathing dragon. A lot of ways we can envision it which makes it fun.

  • Manouchka

    Here we say: the hamster running into your head!

  • growthguided

    Seth Godin popularized that term “Lizard Brain”. A very interesting concept!

  • growthguided

    Check out my thoughts on the lizard brain here.,

    http://www.growthguided.com/3-methods-to-control-the-lizard-brain/

  • Ivan Chan

    Great piece! This is just what I needed to hear today, Vincent!

    It’s so true how our “lizard brains” are always thirsting for more. No matter how much we feed it with good feelings and accomplishments, it is never enough.

    I love the quote by Steve Furtick! It describes perfectly what I used to do (and still does sometimes now). The best way I find to combat that is to create your own highlight reel to uplift yourself. Don’t be too modest now. After all, you’re the protagonist of your life, right?

    Yes, we all have fumbles and failures, as well as highlight-reel moments and glorious victories. Silencing our lizard brains will definitely help us keep life in perspective!

  • Sati

    Great article…thank you Vincent.

  • Humbleeye

    Hello Vincent! Thank you for uploading this, you put the story of my life into words. You put the lizard-brain-issue in a light that is understandable. One thing I find challening is that its so easy to slip back and let lizard-brain loose again.

  • It is easy, you’re right, but if you are mindful of it then you can practice my four steps daily to ensure it never takes control without your permission.

  • No problem!

  • Furtick’s quote is very profound! It really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for contributing your thoughts to this discussion, Ivan. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing!

  • Ha, that’s a good one as well. 🙂

  • Chelle

    Great insightful article.

    How true it is that we compare our weakest moments to other’s highlights and fall into this pit of inadequacy.

    This has really sparked a different way of thinking in me. Thank you!

  • Hi, Chelle! Great to know it made you think differently. 🙂

  • Chris

    Truly needed this, thank you, and thank you to the comments people have left which are just as great as the advice you give Vincent.

  • JM

    Phew. Okay. Maybe I should get this whole thing tattooed on my arm, so that I can remember it and read it when I feel terrible about my awful life (i.e. every day, and also, it’s not awful at all).

    Thanks for writing this, Vincent. I really mean it. Thanks. *hugs*

  • SunriseGuidedVisual

    Oh, that was excellent! (I would leave you that voicemail to say you are wonderful!) A nice tip for silencing the chatter is the “Uptime Trance” — allow your gaze to remain stable, and then stop focusing in the center. Instead, allow the peripheral vision to come into play, seeing the big picture. Something about the peripheral vision triggers the relaxation response and some quiet.

  • Priyanka

    I have always found something to connect with at Tiny Buddha just when I most needed to hear/read it. This article is one of those moments…thank you so much for sharing, Vincent!

  • Great advice. Meditation is a surprisingly effortless way to reach goals.

  • Sorry it took so long for me to get to you, but you are welcome!

  • I wouldn’t call it effortless. It is definitely difficult for many people (myself included.)

  • You are welcome, Priyanka! Thanks for stopping by.

  • That sounds useful, I’ll have to try that right now. 🙂

  • Glad it helped, Chris!

  • kavin paker

    You deserve the very best of everything, and I wish that for you, wholeheartedly.
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  • kavin paker

    I found it really touching as well. As a recovering perfectionist, I
    know that pressure all too well–and what a relief it is to let it go!
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  • Z

    People do care. Your parents care because they start thinking you are a disappointment, your s.o cares because they start thinking there’s something wrong with you and they can do better.

  • Teddybear

    Vincent, you rock! (And that is just the best name by the way!) This made such a huge difference to my outlook. The highlight reel thing is crazily true. I hate this feeling of inadequacy most because I fear the future, that I’ll never be good enough, and I hate that I can’t find it in myself to be truly happy for others while I watch their achievements overtake mine. I am normally a pretty selfless person in many ways, just a bit too driven sometimes.

    I think to let go truly our own goals when we are supporting others, is an achievement in itself!
    But I find that the more I try to achieve achieve achieve, the more I seem to get left behind. So probably it is best to have patience, focus on small, reachable things and visualize the big dream occasionally. Even if it never happens, we enjoy the vision at the time 🙂 and patience is non negotiable.