Take a moment to think back over the last day. If you can, write down a few things that you have repeatedly told yourself about yourself. Is what you are saying to yourself something you would say to a loved one? If it isn’t, let’s talk a little bit more, shall we?
Often as children we were raised by caregivers who tried to motivate us to be better people by “talking down to us.” Harsh judgments were probably doled out more than kisses on tear-stained cheeks.
In our tender youth, we believed what these caregivers told us about ourselves. We believed them. We accepted what they said, and we internalized it. While our caregivers may have passed on or are no longer saying such harsh things to us, we play their voices back in our heads – sometimes we can recall the incidents and the person, sometimes we’ve just carried on the words. So now I ask, how is this serving you to continue this ritual of punishment?
Habits take focus and commitment to change. When we replace one habit with another, it can be easier to change. What words would you use to comfort a friend who has made a mistake? who has had a bad day? who is having difficulty with motivation? who feels sad over a heartbreak? who feels fat?
Negative self-talk creates within our minds and our bodies a war zone. When we attack ourselves we are both the predator and the prey. Our bodies release hormones to help us to survive through “fight, flight or freezing” Blood sugar levels are elevated to supply our bodies’ muscles with fuel to fight or flee. Blood pressure levels increase to supply muscles with oxygen, as such our breathing pace quickens. Our minds become reactive instead of responsive. We most likely become more sensitive to what others say or do.
We are changing our bodies’ chemistry just by the way that we talk to ourselves. The challenge is that in this scenario, where do we go? We cannot escape nor physically battle ourselves. Meanwhile we’re “stewing” in a cocktail of hormones that are ready for war. To change this scenario, we start by recognizing the things we say to ourselves that are harmful. Then we replace those words with new ones that support us and keep us calm. This helps us to think more clearly and also to receive the words of others more openly.
If someone in your present day life is perpetuating this negative self-talk, then you may begin to ask yourself some different questions. Do I stay or do I go? If I cannot go, then how can I shield myself against their negativity? How can I treat myself better, so as to not be as vulnerable?
I urge you to stop repeating history. Stop telling yourself the damaging things that others have said to you about you. Put no more energy into their negativity. Change the tides. Starting now. You cannot control what was said to you so long ago, yet you can control and change what you do with it now.
Recognize the negative self-talk.
Replace these words with new, supportive ones.
Show yourself the love & compassion you show to others when in pain.
Put down the mental whip. Pick yourself up and try again.
Rinse & repeat.
Come as you are Emily Nagoski, PhD
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Image: Pintrest Ophelia Drowning