A friend of mine said something mildly self-deprecating one day. I said, “Don’t talk that way about my friend!”
She stopped, looked at me in surprise, and then laughed. She’d heard that line before.
The ways we talk to ourselves can be small expressions of irritation, and sometimes they can be downright abusive. We wouldn’t allow others to talk to us that way, so why do we do it? This has been a struggle for me in the past. I thought I beat it, but with the limitations imposed on me by long-covid, it came back. I’ve caught myself saying things like, “I’m just stupid,” or “I’ve gotten so lazy.” That’s just what I say out loud. Internally, it’s much worse.
I’m reaching back into the the toolbox for the skills that got me to a point where I didn’t do this to myself, and sharing how it works with you so hopefully it’ll help you on your journey.
Giving yourself compassion is more than just a mental pat on the shoulder and saying, “There, there, it’ll be fine.”
Because of how brains work, you have to speak the words out loud, and it can’t be a simple platitude.
My brain: You’re stupid
Me: I’m not stupid. I’m actually quite smart. I’ve just been through a serious illness though, and need to give myself time to get used to using my brain this way again.
My brain: You’re so lazy. What’s wrong with you? You know better than to lay around like this.
Me: I’m not lazy, I’m having a fatigue attack. If I rest now, I’ll be able to handle things soon. If I don’t, I’ll end up losing days. This rest is what I need to stay functional.
My brain: Your house is a mess. Look at all these dishes you’ve left sitting.
Me: Get over it. I left my coffee mugs and tea cups. I’m not here to eat the rest of the day. I’ll do the dishes in the morning. They’re not worth losing sleep over, tonight.
In addition, speak kind and loving words to yourself when your brain isn’t trying to convince you that your entire life is somehow wrong.
My personal favorite, because I enjoy singing, is to sing love songs to myself. I’ve done this for years, even when living with others, and nobody knows. Well, not unless I tell them, which I haven’t done until I no longer lived with them. They all just assumed I was singing just to be singing. How perfect, right? Stealth self-love!
But, it can be just words. If it helps, say them to your face. Get in front of a mirror and speak to yourself.
“Today is going to be demanding. Be sure to drink lots of water and take breaks where you can. You deserve it for everything you do.”
“It’s okay to sit down and have a cup of coffee. You need time to just enjoy being alive, too.”
“That piece of work is extra amazing! You should be proud of that!”
Challenge yourself today to cut off the negative self-talk with compassion. Remember, you don’t deserve to have anyone talk about you like that, not even yourself.