Regardless of who you are; how popular, rich, successful or happy you feel, I’m sure that every single one of us has, at times been the victim of the same scathing and wounding abuse. It can be relentless at times and penetrates far deeper than general comments and for me, the saddest truth is that often, the person who is most cruel to you, is yourself.
Now, I’m not about to launch into a self-help guide for eradicating negative self-talk and transforming your life into a domestic version of the sound of music. I’m almost 40 and despite knowing that I am generally a good person, I can still reduce myself to tears with the horrific things I accuse myself of. Things that I would never say to my children or anyone else for that matter.
I saw recently an exercise by Kristina Kuzmic (find her at Truth Bomb Mom) who I have quoted before. She talked about the negative things we say to ourselves and asked some friends to share the types of things they find themselves saying at times. Then she showed the women a picture of themselves as young children and asked them to repeat it to the picture. They all struggled.
Somewhere along the winding path of our lives, during the U-turns, dead ends and flat tyres, we lose touch with the innocence, blind optimism and potential that we all had once. Where we would rationalise a child’s fears and encourage their hopes and dreams, we simply berate and criticise our own. It appears that somewhere through this ‘escape room’ of pressure and overwhelming options we call life we decide at times that we fail to live up to the standards we have set for ourselves but allow others to fall below. What’s that all about? And I don’t really think anyone is immune. We are all guilty its just that some are better at dealing with it than others.
I’m ok but I’m not great. I can have a couple of days every few months where my viscous self attacks that part that is working so hard and says delightful things like “following a dream while everyone else is working hard? You’re ridiculous” and “You’re only worth what you are earning, right now that’s not very much at all” and my personal favourite (not really) “You’re a fraud and you don’t deserve people to like you”
So just in case you, like me are your own worst bully I thought I’d share a few things that I do which helps drown out the crap!
When I was studying psychology at university we touched on one aspect of the working memory called the phonological loop. I don’t remember loads about it and a quick google search hasn’t enlightened me much but I remember a conducting a study where I tried to count in my head as I said the alphabet. I couldn’t do it and concluded that talking out loud disrupts any mental processes – including, I have found, negative self talk. So the next time you find yourself hearing criticism, get the radio on and release your inner Beyoncé full blast because if you’re singing, you’re not torturing yourself. I have a playlist of upbeat tunes on my phone for such an occasion. Its called Cheer The Feck Up. True story.
Challenge the thoughts
This is something that a lovely NLP practitioner once asked me which I still use when im loosing my head. I hear each statement and ask myself if it’s actually true and what the evidence for that is. So “following your dream while everyone else is working hard? You’re ridiculous” becomes – you ARE working incredibly hard and the job you once loved made you ill. You’re not ridiculous, youre happier and healthier and your boys need that in a mum.
“You’re only worth what you are earning, right now that’s not very much at all” becomes “its what you do and who you are that denotes your worth – not what you earn. You know loads of wealthy knobs and if you could choose, you’d be skint but a good person every time.”
“You’re a fraud and you don’t deserve people to like you” – A fraud at what exactly? Being thoughtful and considerate? Wanting the best for the people you know and love? No-one is perfect but you always try to be the best version of yourself. You DO deserve to be liked, you ARE enough.
That constructive self-talk can bring you back from the edge and if its hard to challenge the questions on your own, think of it from the perspective of a friend and how they would answer them.
Do something you enjoy.
For me, that’s going to the gym at the moment. Walking the dog clears my head too but not quite as well as an hour sweating like a pig in a butchers and deafening myself with loud music as I fight hard not to sing along. For others its might be lying in a hot bath of your own filth (I’m a shower fan) with some candles, it could be reading a book or simply watching a favourite film. Distracting your mind is always preferable to indulging it.
Text, call or better still visit a friend.
Stepping out of your own life can be very powerful. Talking with a friend to find out how they are can remind you that you’re not the only one with problems and if you’re able to offer some advice to someone else, it might just remind you that you ARE a good person and provide some evidence against the self-depreciation.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a friend who will hold the truth up to you like a mirror on the days when you’re constantly criticising yourself then its worth confiding in them because you’d want to reassure them if they needed you.
See the bigger picture
(This is one for the times you’re beating yourself up about something that’s gone wrong or a mistake you’ve made) Ask yourself “will this still matter in two years?” and by that, I mean will you still feel as screwed up then as you do now. If the answer is no, then remember that it will pass soon and do all of the above again until the only vibes you’re feeling are positive ones. If the answer is yes, then take a deep breath and give yourself a shake – you have a plan of attack to create so the time for self-pity is short.
That’s it. The things I do when I turn against myself and feel overwhelmed by the lies I hear. These ideas may not work for you but I wanted to share them because its lonely to battle with yourself and if you can have some strategies up your sleeve then it could be the difference between a tough day and a tough week.
And if that fails, I find that cheese and gin always helps!