The other day, I was wandering through the grocery store when I was startled by a loud voice saying: “Stop that! You are in so much trouble! What is wrong with you? Why are you always so bad?” I glanced over to check out where the commotion was coming from and saw a frazzled mother, teeth gritted, admonishing her young child in aisle seven. If you are like me, witnessing something like this makes you wince with discomfort and unease. Sure, the kiddo may have done something that wasn’t in line with the grown-up’s wishes; but, when I hear mean-spirited, unproductive scolding my heart breaks for the child. I think about how scared and threatened they must feel and I wonder what kind of words are hurled their direction when they aren’t in public – negative messages that could result in lifelong self-esteem issues.
Most of us probably agree that using shaming and attacking tactics is not the most effective way to get the best out of a child, or anyone else for that matter. So why do we talk to ourselves like this? Our ugly self-talk may not cause a scene at the grocery store, but if we could bug the inside of our minds with a microphone what would we hear? I have a feeling the recording might make us wince a little.
I am fortunate to have many positive, compassionate women in my life. They are encouragers, they work hard, they volunteer, and some are engaged in the amazingly difficult task of raising children. These women dish out love, support and forgiveness in heaping spoonfuls to the ones they love. But, some of them also have a dark side. They can be harsh, critical, and unforgiving – to themselves, that is.
The way we talk to ourselves can get pretty nasty. And, just like that child at the grocery store, we are soaking up the negative messages that we tell ourselves and there is no doubt that they impact every aspect of our lives.
* I’m a mess, so I don’t really deserve a great relationship
* I am not pretty enough to fit in
* I am a failure because I can’t stop overeating
* I am not talented enough to get a job I love
I am going to bet that you would never say these words to another person. You might even go so far as to say that chastising someone with these words would cause them to move in the opposite direction of success. I could quote statistics about how negative self-talk doesn’t help a person succeed, and, in fact, results in unhappiness and failure. But, I think we all know this intuitively. Take a look at the people you respect and admire, the people who are taking risks and accomplishing great things, those who radiate a sense of joy and excitement about simply being alive. Do you think they tell themselves they are a loser behind closed doors? Do they allow mean-spirited, defeating self-talk to run amuck in their minds? I’m going to bet they don’t. So, how in the world do we expect to grow and flourish if we are telling ourselves we aren’t good enough? It simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t result in lasting changes in our health, our relationships or any other aspect of our lives.
The most important conversations we have are with ourselves. We cannot afford to take these conversations lightly. They shape us, they inform our choices – they either catapult us toward living our best lives or they keep us stuck in a cycle of self-doubt.
So, what’s a girl to do? How do we find that voice of love and acceptance for ourselves? Perhaps we play the role of the parent. Not the tired, angry, gritted-teeth grocery store parent, but the warm, encouraging, supportive parent. The parent who loves you unconditionally, but is also there to help you grow.
If we’re doing this thing called life the right way, we never stop growing, learning and evolving. And, even though we may be “grown-ups,” we still need to hear the voice of that loving parent. It’s time to be that voice for ourselves.
If you are struggling with negative self-talk you’ve got a battle on your hands. But, it is one you can win. Explore where it comes from, write it down and challenge it, post positive affirmations on your mirror, talk to a friend or therapist…pull out all the weapons you need.
Girl, you are worth the fight.