How do you talk to yourself?
And I don’t mean the funny or meaningless chatter as you go about your day, thinking of things you need to do or what you thought about those pictures on the internet of cute baby animals or the most recent Ryan Gosling meme.
I mean the real self-talk…the kind that no one but you hears. The things you say in your head when you make a mistake…when something doesn’t work out like you’d hoped…when that picture looks less than flattering…when something happens and proves that you, like the rest of us, are not practically perfect in every way.
What does THAT sound like?
Last week Kel and I talked about her decision to extend her Tech Clutter Challenge. I personally was all for her doing that. She was enjoying what she was getting out of it, and I knew exactly how long she’d been away from home, and you know what? There is no such thing as the Challenge Police lying in wait for you to admit online that things didn’t go as you’d expected and you want to change it after you started it. Really.
I also thought it was a great example, to show people how to be kinder to themselves and make these things work for THEM. I know I have been brutal towards myself about this kind of thing.
While we were talking, and I was being her encouraging friend, I started to wonder: what would I be saying if I had this conversation with myself? Would I be as kind? Would I be as encouraging?
I didn’t know. Which is an improvement over what I would have answered previously: not a chance. (Which was an improvement over the answer before that, which was “there’s no problem” while I suffered the abusive ranting in my head.)
a new guideline
A friend of mine once told me that when the voice in her head gets particularly nasty, she tries to think of what I would say to her instead. Bringing your best friends in as backup is a great tactic.
For me, though, this moment of not really knowing how I’d treat myself was an opening to create a new guideline for myself: if I wouldn’t say it to one of my best friends, I don’t get to say it to myself.
putting the theory into practice
I’ll be honest. The reason I didn’t exactly know what my self-talk would sound like these days is because I haven’t been paying much attention to it. So I spent the weekend paying attention as I went along living my normal life. I noticed two interesting things:
I’ve gotten much nicer to myself about my body image. This was actually something of a surprise, because I wouldn’t describe myself as thrilled with my body. But even though I began my search for a holiday party outfit this weekend, and that involved trying on clothes–previously, a minefield of nasty self-loathing–the self-talk was fairly neutral. My internal voice spent more time quoting a post from Sally McGraw, “It’s Not You, It’s the Clothes,” than anything else.
Hidden in the nastiness there was something worthwhile. I did catch myself being mean, quite a few times, over issues of focus and organization. (The self-talk called it “laziness, self-centered procrastination, and being scatter-brained,” among other things.) I did tell myself each time that I wouldn’t say these things to a friend so I can’t say them to myself. Then later on, since there were quite a few moments on the same theme, I spent some time considering if there was any truth underneath the nastiness.
And it turned out, there was something that needed my attention. I haven’t been sleeping well for a while, and my Seasonal Affective Disorder is starting to kick in, both of which make it harder for me to focus. I’ve got a lot of projects in various stages…maybe too many. I need more time than I’m giving myself to organize and prioritize all the things I have going on. And truthfully, the thing I’ve let slide the most is doing something fun.
Those are all things I can work with. It’s much easier when the information isn’t coated in a thick layer of meanness.
and now, back to you
Answer this question: would you talk to anyone else the way you talk to yourself? And if the answer is no, are you ready to change that, and start practicing being kind to yourself?
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
Ready for a kinder world, for you and me and everyone else,