You might be the one individual who has never had a doubt about themselves, has said never said to themselves that they can’t do something, aren’t good enough, are too fat, round, slow, lazy, etc. If so then stop reading. You are one perfectly adjusted human being. This article isn’t for you. This is for the rest of the human race that at one time or another has said some pretty nasty things to themselves and needs to learn how to chill out and be much, much, much kinder.. And here is the clincher. In the beginning you don’t have to believe the kinder words you say towards yourself, you just have to say them and let the power of the words affect you. In other words, as my father was fond of saying to me, “fake it till you make it”.
- The Effect that words have on us. The way your coffee barista delivers your coffee to you in the morning effects how you feel. If they offer your coffee up with a smile, and say, ‘Hey Joe, how are you today?” That feels really different then if they offer your coffee without any facial expression or worse if they barely even acknowledge you. Or my personal favorite, when they treat you as if you are bothering them, at which point you have to question why you go there at all…is the coffee that good? My point being that words have power and it is very hard to take the power away from them. On the positive tip the power of words can offer forgiveness, support and love. That is one of the reasons we pray, meditate, say the rosary, say thank you, because words affect us and others.
- Why the words we say to ourselves are so important. If the words we say to others have such an effect then so do the words we say to ourselves. People come to see me for therapy for many different reasons but the common theme is that they treat themselves badly. However, it is never the primary reason they come to see me. People in general do not value the way they speak to or about themselves. They think that saying horrible, mean things to themselves is secondary to their depression, anxiety, relationships, loss. It is not secondary and often I find it to be one of the main problems contributing to why they are feeling so badly.
- Words as Punches. If you put it into physical terms, if every nasty word you say to yourself is actually a punch that blackens your eye or bloodies your mouth or your nose then the way in which this cripples you becomes more apparent. If you have ever been unfortunate enough to have had any of these injuries then you know that it puts your body into a state of shock , you can’t think clearly and it certainly does not motivate you to go out do amazing things for yourself or others. Beating yourself up emotionally has the same effect on you. It stops you from trying new things, feeling good about your accomplishments, accepting love or treating yourself well. It immobilizes you. And eventually can send you into a deep depression, riddle you with anxiety , completely immobilize you or make you feel thoroughly dissatisfied with life.
- Why do we do this ? We learn to be hard on ourselves at a very young age because that is when we first hear these negative words. Most people are repeating things that they have heard from parents, sisters ,brothers, grandparents, coaches, teachers, all the important people that really leave a mark on us . For some of us the damage is localized. You might have many doubts about your physical ability to be healthy, active, sexy, but when it comes to business you are confident and assured. For others it is pervasive effecting every aspect of life. We hear things about ourselves at a young age that we repeat to ourselves over the term of our lives. “You are lazy”. “You are fat”. “You can always do better”. Sometimes these words have been said to us to hurt us and belittle us. Sometimes they have been said to encourage us but we do not interpret them in this way. Whatever the case is they only hurt us at this point.
- So what do you do? You fight like hell is what you do. These tapes (or i-tune downloads I guess you would say at this point) have been playing in our ears for years. So often these words have absolutely nothing to do with who we are or what we actually accomplish. I have had neurosurgeon tell me they are not good enough, beautiful women tell me how ugly they are, and accomplished, motivated people tell me how lazy they are. These were probably not your words originally but now they are your problem. So you have to really commit to working on this.
- First, Awareness. Catch yourself when you are being hard on yourself. Remember these nasty words can be as mild as, ‘I don’t think I can do this’, and as severe as ‘I am such a loser, nothing I do is good enough”. Keep a written documentation of the words you say to yourself. The number of times a day you say them. Under which circumstances are you most likely to say them. This will give you an idea of who said these words to you first. How hard you are on yourself and in which situations this is most likely to occur. This will make you aware of the problem. Many people have been doing this so long that they do not even know when they are doing it.
- Second, Talking Back. Decide what you are going to say back to yourself when you are hard on yourself. If you have written down the words you use to be hard on yourself then you can begin by writing a positive counter to those words proving them wrong. If you are giving a presentation at work and you are saying to yourself, ‘I am going to blow this, I can’t do this”. Instead say “I am doing the best that I can and that is good enough”, or “I am going to kick ass at this”.
I tell you that this will not come easily but that you can do this. You don’t have to believe the words you say to yourself just commit to saying them. Once you start you will gradually feel the difference. Perhaps you will feel lighter, more positive or more confident, but you will feel a change in some way. If the commitment is difficult for you then commit to doing it for a week. Call it an experiment.
Let me know how it goes.
Keith Olbermann said it best,
“The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you’re not good enough…do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don’t take it personally when they say “no” — they may not be smart enough to say “yes”.”
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Psychobabble4u signing off….
(c) Cori Grachek,: January, 2010
If you have any questions about therapy, are interested in therapy or just have a more private thought or question that you would like to share with me I can also be reached at email@example.com .
**This is not and can never be a replacement for therapy