So I promised I’d give you a how-to post yesterday. I want to reiterate – these things are the stuff I’m doing that’s working for me. Your mileage may vary. (If you’re really struggling, there is absolutely no shame in getting help from a professional. I’ve had excellent results in therapy.) With that out of the way, let’s get started, shall we?
First, let’s talk about self-talk. In my head, there’s a voice that tells me all sorts of things about myself that are either flat-out lies or gross exaggerations of the actual facts. I’ve dubbed this voice the Lying Bitch because that helps me put it into perspective. It helps me remember that this voice is a voice designed to drag me down and keep me down. The “why” of this voice doesn’t matter.
That’s important – the why of it does. not. matter. You can analyze where this voice comes from, why it says the things it does, etc, and there’s certainly a benefit to that. In my experience, though, knowing the why of it didn’t help me accomplish shit as far as shutting that bitch up. It gave me an excuse to not take responsibility for my self-talk. I could tell myself WELL IT’S NOT MY FAULT I TALK TO MYSELF THIS WAY!! And that’s a victim mentality right there.
Don’t misunderstand – we’ve all been through shit. We need to deal with that shit, but the thing is – until I accepted that, no matter what happened in the past, I’m responsible for my life, my life didn’t change. As long as I was looking to blame someone else, I wasn’t able to take the reins and actually get my shit together. I was still letting the people who treated me badly have power over me. Uh, no. No, thank you.
So, once I got my head together about the fact that I really could and SHOULD do something about this voice, I started with simple things. The very first thing I did was to say nice stuff to myself every single day. Yes, it’s very Stuart Smalley, but it really does work. Sure, I laughed myself silly the first few times, but after a while, I started feeling better. (As funny as the Smalley bit is, it’s sort of irritating as it’s ruined a perfectly legitimate therapeutic technique for a generation of people.)
Next, every time I thought something negative about myself, I stopped and forced myself to list five things I liked about myself that were directly contradictory to whatever negative thought I’d just had. As an example, if I thought “Ugh. I’m so fat,” I’d list five things I like about my appearance (I have pretty eyes, my hair looks good, my legs are pretty amazing, I have good tits, etc.). At first, it was HARD AS HELL because…well, because there just wasn’t a lot I liked about my appearance. But it’s gotten easier over time, and now? I rarely have a negative thought about myself; it’s just too much damn work really. Heh.
Here’s the thing that maybe will help the most – talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you really love. When you say things to yourself, ask “Would I say this to my BFF/spouse/child/sister/whoever?” If the answer to that is no, then don’t say it to yourself. I know, I know – that talk is habitual. But like any other habit, it can be broken.
Even if you don’t love yourself right now, act like you do. Sometimes, when we pretend something often enough and long enough, it becomes our truth. (Mel deserves credit for this idea, btw, as she introduced it to me first.) The more I pretend I have confidence, the more confidence I really have. Try it, if you don’t believe me.
Well. This is shaping up to be a two-part post. So, start with all this. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to deal with people who try to make you feel like shit.