“Have you got a mirror?”
“You’re too stupid to be here.”
“You don’t deserve him.”
“You disgust me.”
“You are worthless.”
“You’re fat and hideous.”
Would you ever say any of the above to your friend? I can only hope not. It’s outrageous, it’s rude. It hurts to merely read these lines. And yet day after day, most of us say these things to ourselves. If we make a mistake, we call ourselves stupid. We compare our lives, bodies and jobs to those of friends, or worse yet, celebrities. And somehow we always end up as losers. Why is it that so many people are unkind to themselves, and say things they would never consider uttering to anyone else?
Let’s make an experiment. For one day only, try to listen to what you tell yourself. Pay particular attention to the moments when something doesn’t go the way you wanted. Are you irritated? Angry? Do you use swear words? Try to write your thoughts down. Now imagine that day after day, month after month, you continue to scold yourself, you get more frustrated and dissatisfied. They say a lie repeated often enough becomes truth, so even if you know that you are not all that awful, you will subconsciously undermine your confidence, your sense of worth, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms.
Remember that even if there is absolutely no one around you, if you haven’t found a loving partner (yet!), if you are far away from your friends and family, you are never alone because you always have yourself, for as long as you exist. And it is a helluvalot easier to be alone if you treat yourself with respect, love, care and patience that you would give to someone you actually like. The more you like and accept yourself the way you are now, with all those imperfections and annoying little habits, the more people will enjoy your presence.
So the exercise for this week is: each time you notice you’re being rude to yourself in your thoughts, grab that thought and replace it with something you’d say to a child. Be patient, be understanding. Sure, maybe you could have left the house earlier and now you wouldn’t be stuck in traffic and late for a meeting. But it will not help your situation if you keep calling yourself names that a sailor would be too shy to use. Instead, try saying:
“I feel stressed now and I may be late. It’s not the worst thing in the world. I will know for future that I should leave early if I don’t want to feel frustrated again. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll try to be on time next time. Or not.”
If you’re cynical, like myself, it may be difficult to be THAT nice in your tone. Grit your teeth for a week and just do it. You are not changing the circumstances, you are just trying to be a bit less of an asshole towards yourself. Who knows, maybe you’re actually pretty cool and want to be your own best friend? Hang out some time, have a nice dinner…
Be careful what you say to yourself. You might be listening.