We often think about how we talk to others. We watch our language and re-play our words. We care.
We jump to defend if someone speaks cruelly to someone we love. If we were to witness the bullying of a friend, our heart would leap with a desire to protect and argue against words viciously spoken.
So, why is it okay to bully yourself?
Why is it okay to criticise yourself? Why is it permitted to speak harshly and for cruel words to trip off your tongue in the dialogue hidden within your mind?
We have a constant, internal dialogue with ourselves and that’s what I want to encourage you to think about. It’s something you may not even notice or think to change, but I believe it’s the single, most powerful, ongoing conversation of our lives. In the eight years I’ve worked with clients in my Psychotherapy practice, this has had a part to play in every single one. It’s vitally important. It feeds directly into self-esteem, value and worth. It dictates how we love ourselves (or not), and how much we allow ourselves to be loved (or whether we sabotage it). For how can we allow ourselves to be loved, and to revel in affection from those who love us when we believe at our core we are unloveable? And when we speak to ourselves as if we lack such worth?
This secret, ongoing, internal voice dictates so much. Arguably, everything.
What tone does yours take? Is it forgiving, compassionate and patient? Or is it critical, bullying and quick to anger? Does it remind you of someone in your life who’s had impact and authority perhaps? A parent or a teacher? We start to develop this internal dialogue as a child, approximately between the ages of three and five. I could go into the physiology and science of it, but I don’t want to lose you (here’s a scientifically grounded article). We build this internal voice out of our experience of the way people speak to us. If your parents or caregivers were kind and loving, patient and reassuring, that’s a great start! But if there has been verbal abuse or bullying, then the work is a little harder.
Think of someone you love. Like, really love. Now imagine that you heard someone speaking to them in the manner you speak with yourself. Is it okay? How does it feel to consider that? If they heard that dialogue day on day, year on year, would it benefit or damage their sense of self-worth and esteem?
So, what does it do to your sense of worth and self-esteem to hear your dialogue and to have certain messages reinforced?
What can you do?
I will talk about this in more detail in other posts, but I believe the first stage is to start becoming aware of this dialogue, and asking yourselves these questions. The second step is the most valuable but hardest undertaking you can make, but can be one of the most life giving and affirming efforts you can invest in.
- Start talking back to the negative voice. Start introducing a kinder, more patient, more loving dialogue. If you have to think of the most loving person in your life, and how they would respond to you speaking out these harsh words, then imagine what they would say, and repeat itto yourself!
- Do this over and over until it the compassionate dialogue becomes more intentional and more familiar. Do it when you can and when you remember, even if you don’t believe it for a long long time, even if it feels stupid. Trust me, it will gradually chip away at your low-self worth and low sense of value, and you’ll start to believe it, feel it, live it.
- Imagine a tractor ploughing the same field daily – etching great furrows into the soil, deeper and deeper as the days go by. Its wheels slide comfortably into these self-made trenches. Then imagine that one day, you turn to the farmer and ask him to direct the wheels only to turn over the apex of these ditches. What a challenge! The huge, muddy wheels slip and slide into the familiar depths. BUT – over time, as the farmer perseveres, he forms new furrows bit by bit. That’s what you’re asking your mind to do when you address and desire to change the way that you talk with yourself. It takes time and perseverance. It’s uncomfortable and awkward. But…one day the balance will tip and the grind won’t be quite so hard. And then, you’ll start living in more of a belief that you’re so so worth (oh, EVER so worth, the good things in your life, the love that people give, the time that people give), and life will become less of a dialogue about how ‘if they only KNEW me’…)
So, a little something to think about, and a taste perhaps of what’s to come.