How You Talk to Yourself

I have a confession to make.


I'm extremely hard on myself and have been for most of my life. At various points, I've even been a bit of a bully to myself.


I'm sure that most, if not all, can relate on some level. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic.


Through conversations with my therapist and friends, I'm reminded that I need to be kinder to myself. The way that I talk to myself has a considerable influence on the way I feel. When I'm constantly picking myself apart and fixating on my imperfections, my strengths become distant. It's easy to forget the long list of incredible things I have going for me.


Fairly recently, I found myself at a particularly low point. On top of some big life challenges, I beat myself up about every last bit. It wasn't until I caught up with a friend that I recognized how hard I was on myself. As I discussed my challenges, she said, "Wow, that's a lot." It was a very simple sentence. But it was enough for me to start to ease up on myself. It had been a lot. Having someone acknowledge that I was trying to navigate a lot all at once was validating for me. Suddenly, I didn't feel so bad for having such a hard time.


After that conversation, I started to replay everything in my mind. Only this time, I thought about it as though I were hearing about it from a friend. Rather than being in the center of everything, I met myself as a friend and listened to my friend's experiences. I found it much easier to be kinder and more forgiving to myself if I reminded myself that I am my own best friend. If a friend of mine had come to me and told me the exact stories that I shared, I would have so much sympathy, warmth, and kindness to share. So when I talked to myself as a friend, I softened. I had warmth, sympathy, kindness, love, and many other supportive reactions.


While the change of approach helped for a while, my insecurities continued to bubble up. Hard as I tried, I was still being antagonistic toward myself. I reached out to another friend and vented to her about the negative thoughts that were ruminating in my mind. Before I could dive too deeply down the rabbit hole of self-loathing, she grabbed hold of me and yanked me out. She challenged every negative thing I had to say about myself. And then, she challenged me to think about how I talk about myself.

I am only supporting the negative narrative by saying negative and horrible things to myself. And who wants that? As long as I beat myself up, I am making myself small and setting myself up for failure. I am self-sabotaging. I am allowing myself to become a punching bag to myself and others. But by believing in and having confidence in myself, I am stronger and more prepared to take on doubts and negativity coming my way.


After that talk, I started to make it a habit of saying kind and loving things to myself every day. Especially when I'm feeling low. During those moments, I will say these things repeatedly to myself. Some examples are, "I am beautiful. I am smart. I am funny. I am strong. I deserve respect. I deserve good and beautiful things." On days I feel stressed about school, I will repeat phrases about being intelligent and worthy of this path. And on days when I feel disrespected, I'll remind myself that I deserve kindness and respect.


Since I started doing this, I've noticed much more happiness and confidence in myself. It's not a cure-all and certainly doesn't prevent the bad days. But it makes the challenging moments more bearable. It helps me to overcome significant obstacles.


I will challenge you to reflect on how you talk to yourself. Are you kind, loving, and supportive? Or are you being an enemy to yourself? Try saying kind things to yourself. Phrase it positively. For example, "I am smart," is a positive and productive way to talk to yourself. Saying things like, "I'm not dumb," leaves room for negativity. It is not nearly as strong and meaningful as saying, "I am smart."


Be kind to yourself. It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

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