We all talk to ourselves in some form. It’s less weird than you think.
But I’m not interested in the times that we just recite a shopping list or wonder whether we’ve locked the back door properly.
What about the times you hate yourself?
The times you call yourself stupid, worthless, meaningless. The times when, if you said them to anyone on the street, you’d probably be punched in the face and the aggressor would be cheered on.
When you repeat these things to your friends, you’re probably told that you’re not stupid, worthless or whatever other mean word of choice you pick that day.
The problem is… they are just so believable in the moment.
Whatever caused these thoughts are probably still present. Negative thinking is just continuously being triggered and reinforced.
I didn’t go to the gym so I’m fat and worthless -> I’m still not going to the gym -> I’m even more fat and worthless.
Now, these thoughts are often completely untrue if you give yourself the chance to challenge them in a meaningful way.
Does missing a workout suck? Of course! Does it completely shatter your self-worth? No – the same way one workout probably doesn’t justify your whole existence.
You may be told to challenge these thoughts. It’s a valuable way to tackle negativity and if it works, keep at it. However, I’ve found something else to be useful.
Stay on your own team
Or “talk to yourself as you would a friend”.
If you had a team of people to help you out in life, think of how you’d assemble it.
Would you have a person who you can turn to for advice?
A person who makes you laugh?
A person who makes stellar banana and chocolate chip cake?
Even a person with a voice that’s like audible silk?
Now, what about yourself – where would you stand?
Of course, you’re the person moving forward because you’re not being carried all the time. However, even if you stand still or move backwards, remember that you’re on your own team.
It’s the best thing you can do for yourself. A good teammate wouldn’t tell you that you’re a piece of shit if you missed a basket (and mean it) or conceded a penalty. They’ll help you get back on your feet and move on again. I’m not sure why I mixed up two sports.
They’ll be encouraging rather than demoralising and realistic rather than endlessly pessimistic (there’s a difference).
This is where talking to yourself helps. You can imagine yourself as a separate member of the team you’ve assembled and help yourself with a reminder that the hateful things you’re saying about yourself aren’t true.
Even if you really believe it, you can use that as a way to improve your life regardless. As Ryan Holiday says – The Obstacle is the Way.
When you begin, it won’t be believable. With practise however, you’ll slowly begin to correct your outlook on your own self-worth and reduce the negative self-talk that doesn’t inspire helpful self-improvement.
How stay on your own team
A thought that flies in my head when I think of advice like this is that I don’t deserve to speak to myself so kindly. Because the things I say are true.
Well, that’s not true. They just often feel true. And feelings aren’t facts.
Do you need to deserve a helping hand to have one? Maybe not. If you can offer yourself that helping hand, it may be the most useful thing you do for your own mental health.
I’m not asking you to lie about yourself – that’s simply not believable. I’m not the greatest writer in the world so I won’t tell myself that. However what I can do is tell myself but I can improve. For example:
- I’m a terrible swimmer … but I can get better with consistent practice.
- I’m not a kind person… but I can do one kind thing a day to learn how to treat others better.
- I’m not good at studying… but I can ask for help.
- I’m worthless… but I can find or create my self-worth with time and patience.
I try to use the “But I can improve” correction because I find telling myself “no I’m a perfect swimmer!” empty. It doesn’t mean anything to me.
Reminding yourself that you’re a draft in progress is a smaller and more realistic step to take. And it’s possible to prove it to yourself!
- Swimming: after not being able to swim a length without getting tired, I practised consistently and now can swim 1.5km without hating myself.
- Kindness: years ago, I challenged myself to point out good things about people and now it’s a habit.
- Studying: I took the time to ask for help and learn about better studying techniques, now I’ve done well academically throughout university.
Give yourself a chance
Really, this is all about giving yourself a chance. You’re a draft in progress and we all are. Sometimes your brain malfunctions and tells you falsehoods that you want to believe. Like any part of your body, it can just be faulty.
So remember, you’re on your own team. Try not to join the opposition – they aren’t as good-looking as you and don’t have nice cakes.
As always, thank you for reading!
My question for you is:
What stops you from treating yourself with compassion?