Recently I was running around in the morning, trying to do paperwork before leaving for work, unable to find my keys and my mood deteriorated. I noticed that I was berating myself.. “oh for gods sake”, “you are stupid”, “you are useless”. These angry and frustrated words were going round my head. When I opened the washing machine to find a dark wash covered in tiny bits of tissue, once again I caught myself “oh you idiot, why didn’t you check the pockets?”. Why was I talking to myself like this? As soon as I noticed what I was doing, it reminded me of many sessions with clients where it is clear that they have an unkind voice in their heads. I often notice with clients how they speak to themselves. They are often unaware that they are even doing it. Clients sometimes say things like “it’s pathetic but….” or “I know it’s stupid but…”.
We talk to ourselves (in our heads and sometimes aloud) probably more than we speak to anyone else. Often we are unaware of it and we may not notice that the words we use are frequently unkind. “I am fat”, “I am ugly”, “I look awful today”, “I am useless”, “I can’t do anything right”. If we say these things often enough, we may start to believe them. They can become our reality. Thoughts affect our moods and our behaviours. It is perhaps not surprising that if we repeatedly hear unkind things, this can start to affect our confidence, our self image, our relationships with others and how we view our lives. If we tell ourselves “I can’t do this” is it surprising that we may find it difficult to do something? Imagine if someone else said these things to us. We would be hurt. We would most likely feel wounded, confused, shocked or angry. Would you talk to someone else like this? Probably not. So why is it ok to talk to yourself like this? I often refer to this as the monkey chatter in our heads. I even picture mine now as that sinister monkey that lives in the wardrobe in Family Guy.
It may be that you have never noticed the way that you talk to yourself. It might be helpful to start paying attention to this. Once you start to notice, listen for how often you are kind to yourself. How often to do you praise yourself or acknowledge your achievements? Are you more critical and unkind to yourself than loving and supportive? How different could you feel if you acknowledged “I did I good job”, “I’m happy with how I handled that situation” or even “I look great today”?
Sometimes the words we use when speaking to ourselves are ones which we will have taken from others, things that others have said about or to us. We take these words and make them our reality. If we are frequently told “don’t be silly”, we might believe that we are in fact “silly” or “stupid”. It doesn’t however need to only be the unkind or negative words which we take in and make or own. Hear the compliments… accept them.
There are enough people in the world who will say unkind and negative things to us and sadly we cannot really control that. We can however learn to use a kinder voice when speaking to ourselves.