What do you do when you become aware of an aspect of your life that doesn’t please you? Do you become your greatest enemy or your best friend? It’s easy to tell. If you find that you’re saying things to yourself like “I’m so stupid,” “there, I’ve done it again,” “how could I be so dumb,” or anything along those lines, you are not your best friend. Would you say any of those things to your best friend? What if this is not the first time they did it, would you say that to them? What if they weren’t careful enough or acted in an irresponsible manner, would you say that to them?
Chances are that you would not say stuff like that even to a stranger, much less to someone you know and love. Most people wouldn’t talk to us that way either, yet when it comes to ourselves we turn into our worst enemies when we should be the ones offering kindness, support, love, understanding and encouragement to ourselves in any situation.
It is very possible, in fact probable that the unkind words we say to ourselves are not our own, or at the very least, we did not pick them out of thin air. Most, if not all, of that negative self-talk we’ve been repeating to ourselves we picked up along the way in the form of direct or indirect comments or expressions that made us feel that way. We heard those words or the essence of those words so often that at one point we adopted them as our own without even realizing it, and we’ve been repeating them to ourselves ever since.
And has that helped at all? Has the negative self-talk and self-criticism helped us to improve our situation or behavior at all? Did it then? Did it make us more productive, more efficient, more aware, more determined to try again, more confident? I’m willing to bet that it did not and has not. In fact, if anything, it exacerbated the problem. The negative self-talk turned situations into bigger deals than they were, making us feel even more embarrassed, ashamed, depressed, sad, guilty, afraid, etc. which only kept us focused on what went wrong and prevented us from seeing the good and making real progress.
So why, then, is negative self-talk our go-to tool for fixing ourselves? Why do we even think that we need to be fixed? Whether we realize it or not, that is the essence of our negative self-talk, isn’t it? We can easily wrap the entire scope of negative self-talk into this statement: “I’m bad, I’m broken, and I need to be fixed.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is that we’re neither bad nor broken; we are human, and as humans, we make mistakes. We mess up, sometimes due to negligence or carelessness and sometimes due to lack of knowledge or experience. But this does not make us bad or broken, no matter how many times it happens. Each of those experiences has something to teach us, and our job is to get the message, learn the lesson and keep moving forward. Our self-talk should encourage us to do just that, instead of paralyzing us and keeping us from trying again.
We must treat ourselves the way we would treat a growing baby who is just learning to walk. We would never call him foul names or verbally put him down no matter how many times he fell down. We also should not go the other extreme and turn to feel sorry for him, gasping or making sad faces, to the point where he feels sorry for himself and doesn’t want to try again. We would use a chirpy tone and kind words like, “It’s OK baby, you can try again! Come on, get up, you can do it! I know you can!” If he hurt himself in the process, we would not say, “See that’s what you get for trying that! Serves you right.” We would nurture him and still tell him to try again.
Can you imagine what would happen if we used negative feedback every time the baby fell down? He would learn, soon enough, not to try to walk again because whenever he does, not only does he fail to accomplish his goal and possibly get hurt, but he gets yelled at, called bad names, or made to feel like a horrible creature. Would you want to attempt walking again? And yet, Isn’t that what’s happening to us as adults? Aren’t we keeping ourselves from walking (substitute the word “walking” for any endeavor you’ve given up on) because we don’t want to experience the negative feelings that result from the way we scold ourselves?
So today I want to invite you to be kind to yourself. Whenever you accomplish something good or whenever you make a mistake or fall on your face (literally or metaphorically), treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. Use encouragement, love, kindness, understanding, support, and all forms of positive reinforcement. I guarantee you that you’ll see great improvement, not only in the way you feel, but in the way you approach life. From now, commit to be your own best friend. You’ll thank yourself later.
Do you have any input on this subject? Drop me a line in the comment box below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
To your success!