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On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.

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We all are constantly living under the influence of our thoughts. How we think can really make an impact on our actions: whether or not to smoke, initiate conversation with others in a gathering, or even as simple as writing this blog. When I received the invitation to share about this topic, I was completely in the state of shock. I thought to myself: “Why me but not the others whom are certainly more knowledgeable than me?”, “Would I even be able to share the right message?”, and the list just went on and on for the next couple of minutes. Anyone that is reading this willy likely have similar experiences in life.

It is also true that I could have just reject the invitation to escape from this state of self-doubt and carry on with my so called “normal” life state. However, I chose a different path this time and here you are reading it. The question is – how did I decide to overcome this?

I was first introduced to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) last year when I was working in a mental health centre, and was once introduced again in my master programme. The main concept is that pain is inevitable in life, yet we can still move on towards creating rich and meaningful life. This really strikes to my core. My main takeaway so far would be that all thoughts are nothing more than just words. All too often we take in our thoughts as if they are the absolute truth!

If thoughts are nothing more than words, why do we even bother to focus on words that are not helpful?

I reacted to the thought that “I am not good enough to share” as if I am really not good enough to do any sort of sharing. I was so fused to the thought that it made me trust it completely and this eventually made it a true fact about myself. I know at this point, you may ask: "what if it is really was the truth?” The thing is, it doesn’t matter whether is it true or not, what matters the most is whether is it helpful. If thoughts are nothing more than words, why do we even bother to focus on words that are not helpful? “I am not good enough to share” isn’t gonna inspire me to work on building my self-confidence or appreciate my self-worth; it just made me feel terrible!

Going back to the initial question: How did I manage to overcome this thought to accept the invitation and write about ACT? I took a step back to look at the thought. We are so used to looking FROM our thought, indirectly assuming the thought is already the absolute truth. For instance, instead of “I am not good enough to share”, I took a step back and said “I am having the thought that I am not good enough to share”. By adding the “I am having the thought...” instantly create a distance between me and my thought, allowing me to observe it rather than instantly believe it.

Upon realising that this thought is not helpful, what I do next is accept it. Why would I accept an unhelpful thought? Acceptance here doesn’t mean that you have to like it, it means you stop wasting time struggling with it, and put the energy into something more useful instead. Imagine avoiding a thought as holding a basketball under the water. The more we try to push it down, the more pressure will be created and eventually we will feel tired and the basketball will still resurface. So after becoming aware of my thought and taking a step back from it, I accept it and work towards how could I approach this differently. This eventually led me to accepting the invitation and writing about this sharing.

Of course there is more to ACT than what I’ve shared here. I would highly recommend the book by Russ Harris, ‘The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living’ for those who wish to dive in more. As for visual and audio learner, I would recommend watching MedCircle on YouTube.

I’m still in the progress of learning ACT, and sharing this really helped me to gain a more practical sense of it. Thank you for reading and I hope you would find this sharing helpful.

Derrick Ching was born in the small town of Kedah, Malaysia. He graduated with a BSc (Hons) in psychology in 2020. Upon working in a mental health centre after graduation, he decided to pursue his career into the field of counselling. He is currently a master student in counselling. In his free time, he enjoys reading, cooking and playing keyboard.

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