I’ve been thinking a lot about this one. For months. I was taught from childhood that if I can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Great advice. I try to live by it. I am not perfect, but I am successful more times than not. Most of us, who have a modicum of civility left, are pretty good at holding our tongue rather than speaking in a derogatory, demeaning, nasty manner to a fellow human. Some circumstances excepted, of course.
My mother never taught me the same about myself though. There is no neat and tidy expression advising us to abstain from self-flagellation. In fact, what we are taught to do is actually fill our mind with thoughts that we can’t say out loud. “Keep it to yourself”! It literally means keep all the BAD thoughts INSIDE.
So, if we just take a pause and realize that hey, we’ve got x amount (insert how old you are here ) years of bad, ugly, demeaning, negative, judgmental and mean thoughts stuffed inside us, it starts to explain some things. There’s more. We don’t go around blurting out the constant conversation in our head that we are having with ourselves. And, all the myriad thoughts we think all day long, very few of them positive, most of them judgmental are all part of an internal dialogue. It’s so automatic, we don’t even know that we are doing it. It is pervasive and sneaky and can make us feel pretty ugly, on the inside and out. Even when we are acknowledging an accomplishment, it is in a backhanded way and almost immediately replaced with a thought that begins with but…….
We are also taught from a young age that it does not do to be conceited. To think ourselves attractive and to openly admire ourselves is a big no-no. We are taught to be humble and to be pleasing we must be self-deprecating. To refuse a compliment. To write, produce and distribute our own movie in which the hero or heroine is just never quite up to the task, is not good-looking enough, is not smart enough, fast enough, big enough or small enough. This is especially true, and damaging if we are walking a path outside of societal norms and our family is not willing or capable of supporting us on this journey. Our internal dialogue can be even more vicious when this is the case.
The way we think and the inner dialogue we have with ourselves is important. Negative self talk, the incessant, judgmental self chatter is toxic to our relationship with ourselves and by extension, with others. Simply put, if we can’t be nice to ourselves, we won’t like, or heaven forbid, LOVE ourselves. If we aren’t liking and loving who we are, we are in trouble. How can we expect someone else to?
When we don’t feel loved, by others but more importantly by ourselves, the effects can run the gamut between mildly annoying to moderately problematic, in some cases debilitating in the form of isolation, depression, anxiety, addictions and anger issues. Chronic health issues are almost always present. Solving this one thing can very likely be the key to solving many types of conditions that we are seeking help with and medicating, without resolution. What we say to ourselves, matters.
I did not get this right away and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Still very critical and judgmental of myself and others. While I could feel myself opening, expanding, feeling more grounded, less anxious and overall happier, something was still awry. Of course, there is always more to learn, to improve and the journey is never finished, but unlocking this key really helped me to disconnect from hurtful self talk, to start to like and even, gasp, love myself. I am a work in progress.
It is good to remember as well, that if we are having trouble getting a handle on this for ourselves, or that this area of thought and these tools are a luxury we just can’t afford to waste time with, it is imperative that we set the right example for the next generation. Children emulate what they see and what is modeled for them. Including how they see us treat ourselves.
There are three main tools in my growing tool shed that have really helped me in this work. The first, is listening to digital media when I am driving, flying or even just sitting in the living room next to hubby watching TV. I listen to all sorts, fun, fiction stories and inspirational writings from Julia Cameron, Oprah, Brene Brown and Gabby Bernstein to name a few. This stops my brain from focusing on negative thoughts or even just random thoughts that lead to negative thoughts, while I listen to something that is uplifting or just more interesting than my self chatter. The second tool is meditation and this one can be a bit more tricky to our chattering monkey minds. I use guided meditation most often, widely available and simple to follow from Deepak Chopra, Oprah, and Gabby Bernstein. As I have gotten more proficient, I’ve learned that meditation can take place almost anywhere and while it is optimal to have about 20 minutes of relaxing quiet, the benefit can be achieved in as little as 5 minutes. Finally and most helpful is writing in my journal. Initially, it is a daily data dump, a way to get everything out of my head and onto the page. I do mean everything. Some of it nice and some of it not. Slowly but surely I turned the page and the corner and now, I say such nice things to myself in my journal. I dream, I imagine, I create and I love. Sure, there are still days when I start off in a bad mood, am judgmental of myself and critical of others, friends, family and strangers alike. I don’t discriminate. Very rarely, maybe never, do I end a writing session, writing negatively. And there is always Yoga. Get to a Yoga class, as often as possible. Negativity and Yoga just can not exist in the same space.