Eliminating Negative Self-Talk
Last Sunday as church was dismissed, I saw a sister making her way through the crowd attempting to find someone to talk to. She reached out to passers by and no one saw her subtle attempts through the hustle and bustle of setting up for refreshments. She was clearly overwhelmed (distraught even) and I could see the tears building in her eyes. I watched as she sat seemingly defeated by her invisibility. All of this transpired in a matter of the moments as I approached her seat. I reached out to grab her hand and greeted her with the usual "Hello, how are you?" and of course she responded with the usual "I'm fine, thank you." Without letting go of her hand I looked at her... really looked at her. I wanted her to know that she was seen. I continued to look at her, asking again "Seriously, how are you?". Although I do not know her well, she gave me the hard truth of her current reality. She ran down a laundry list of hardships that tackled her over the course of about a week.
Honestly, I wasn't prepared for what the weight of what she shared. When you ask someone how they are doing you do not expect to hear anything beyond "I'm ok". I thank God for my training in mental health that reinforced not to counsel but simply to listen. And among all that things that she shared I was not disturbed by any of the difficulties she faced, but rather, the way she reflected upon them. She repeatedly spoke terribly of herself "It's my fault", "I'm not trying hard enough", "How stupid am I?", "Things just keep getting worse, maybe I'm just not worth better". My heart broke for her. Not because I felt bad for her. It broke because I saw a part of myself in her. I connected to that part of her that internalized the trials of life. I identified with the part of her that felt that if she could just be better or do better that things would become better. She did not feel worthy of better, and somehow felt that life was giving her what she deserved.
Haven't we all been there? Just feeling downright undeserving, not good enough... like you don't measure up. It's natural to have low days, tough times, and to hit rock bottom every now and again. Because, well, life happens. But there is a great need to acknowledge the power of your words. Please pay attention to what you say. Do you realize that you hear and bring to fruition the words you speak about yourself? Negative self-talk only makes bad circumstances more traumatic. When you release self-destructive abusive words, you bring more harm to yourself than you could ever imagine. Not only do you make yourself victim to the situation but now you are perpetually victimized by your own brutal self-reflection. On that Sunday, I asked my sister "Would you speak to anyone else like that? Your daughter? A friend? A stranger?" She had never even given it any thought. We often esteem others above ourselves. We pride ourselves in encouraging others and wouldn't dream of attacking them in a way that we have accepted as normative language toward ourselves.
Eliminate negative self-talk. It will not alleviate the stress of your circumstances, but those conflicts will pass and you will remain. Preserve and fight for a most positive relationship with self. It is the only relationship that you must endure from birth 'til death.