Life got more than a little hectic. And when things go wrong in my life, I tend to pull in, and put on a mask. You see, the person who loves to help everyone (and shoulder the problems of others like they were her own) has a little secret. The compassion I show you is something I never show myself.
For years, my best friend Diane has been commenting on this facet of my personality. You see, when someone really loves you (like she loves me) it hurts them to hear it. The negative self-narrative. How you flay yourself with a commentary that you *think* is mildly humorous. And harmless.
It’s not though. And while I had the benefit of having someone who loved me enough to keep relentlessly pointing it out (while I deflected skillfully), some of it did sink in. But not the way you may think. I simply added that to the list of my deficiencies and beat myself with another stick. For being abnormal, and worth less than those around me.
What Is Negative Self Talk?
We all have the capacity to self-criticize when something f*cks up. No one likes to go through a negative life experience. And for some reason, many of us expect that life works for everyone else. That those around us have this flat, even road to drive. While our own life road looks more like offroading somewhere cold, harsh, and mountainous.
What does negative self-talk sound like? It can start off like statements of self-flagellation. Things that remind you that you can (and should) do better. After all, you are a smart capable person, that bad sh*t should simply never happen to.
It can sound something like this:
- You are ugly and fat.
- You aren’t smart.
- People don’t like you (because you aren’t good enough or like them).
- You aren’t where you are supposed to be in life.
- Your finances are f*cked up (guilty).
- You aren’t attractive to the opposite sex.
- You aren’t good enough at your job.
- You deserve the bad sh*t that happens to you.
- Bad sh*t happens only to you (because you suck at life).
- You don’t deserve to be happy.
- No one will love you.
Would you ever say that sh*t to someone you cared about? A friend or a family member going through a hard time? Never, right? Yet many of us will play that tune in our heads over and over again. Like a favorite song, our brain learns because the narrative is on repeat. In perpetuity.
Self-Criticism vs. Persistent Negative Self-Narratives
Being critical of yourself can be a good thing. Actually, it’s very human of us. You see, in our primal brains, we are wired to learn from our mistakes. And so, if every single time we f*cked up, we were totally cool with it, we’d never learn anything at all.
The ability to feel remorse or regret is a sign of good character. And intelligence, actually. Something that has surprised me as I have started this journey to understand my own wiring. Prompted by a new someone who loves me very much. Who has gently (but persistently) put it in a way that for some reason, I heard.
“Lori, you are brutal to yourself. It hurts me to hear you talk about yourself that way”.
Perhaps the way he worded it, went through my wall. I was hurting him, by hurting myself? That can’t be right! I don’t want to hurt anyone, especially the few close people I love on this planet. And he, is now, definitely one of them.
Self-criticism is situational and brief. You speed, and you get a ticket? Darn right you should be pissed off. You made a choice, and there was a consequence (like all things in life). No dodging it. You did that sh*t to yourself. And it could have entirely been avoided.
Negative self-narratives go far beyond that. They are stories we create in our heads that make us the bad guy. No matter what. Hyper accountable for the random things in life that happen, that create obstacles or burdens. As though we had the power to control every aspect of the world, to prevent the sometimes unpreventable from happening.
Hearing the Negative Self-Narrative By Stepping Back from Myself
Whatever I read or write about, becomes part of my behavior. Lately, I have been reading this book called “Green Lights” by Matthew McConaughey. A successful, good-looking man who from the outside, always seemed to me to have his sh*t completely together.
In his book, he shares a red light and green light methodology for looking back at his life. Red lights were when he made choices that had difficult consequences. Green lights were good things. But also, sometimes, Green Lights were bad things that happened, that fortified his resilience, and character. Taught him about his strength, and developed into new opportunities.
When God shuts a door, he opens a window. But sometimes, we’re so focused on the slamming of the door that we don’t even see the window. The potential that lies outside of it. A new direction. A new perspective. And a deeper understanding of how both good, and bad things, shape us. In positive ways. With the right mindset.
I highly recommend this book. I’m almost done, and won’t spoil it further. But if you are looking for a good place to start looking at your life with a new perspective, I suggest this book. It breached the hull of my understanding of myself. Enough to let some new perspectives (and self-compassion) in. A little. It was a start.
Why You Are F*cking Up Your Mind and Body With Negative Self-Talk
In the Universe of things, there is a consequence to everything. I accept that. Choices (good or bad) lead to good or bad things happening. But we don’t always know that a choice is good or bad. Sometimes, we make what we are dead sure is a great choice, and it blows up in our faces anyhow.
Like marrying the wrong person. Like staying with the wrong person too long. Like allowing someone (or many someone’s) to treat you like you are less than you are worth. Standing up against life in situations where we are taking hits from emotional shrapnel, which we failed to protect ourselves from.
There is a cost to negative self-talk that I hadn’t considered. But as I started to listen to some podcasts over the weekend, something started to shift in me. It made sense. Because if you are persistently beating the sh*t out of yourself emotionally on the down low, your mind and mental health isn’t the only thing that suffers.
Side-effects from negative self-talk (or bullying yourself daily) include:
- Bad food choices (unhealthy diet)
- Neglectful self-care (hygiene, healthy sleep, etc.)
- Bad social choices
- Substance abuse
- Harmful behaviors (financial and emotional)
- Chronic stress
Chronic stress is the big one. Hello, cortisol! An ugly fight or flight hormone that was really engineered to help us get away from saber tooth tigers, and dodge stampeding wooly mammoths. The body was never designed to live daily, with elevated levels of cortisol.
That filthy f*cking hormone increases your risk of severe … (wait for it) depression (situational or clinical), anxiety (DING!). Elevates your risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. How we talk to ourselves, will f*ck up our health! Who knew? Clearly not me. The girl who religiously takes vitamins every day. And then, yanno, eats chocolate-covered almonds for breakfast.
Taking On The Task of Rewiring My Behavior
One of the last things my Aunt said to me (before cancer took away her ability to talk around this time last year) echoes in my head. I pushed it back in my grief. I miss her every day of my life. She was an angel to my soul and my OG best friend.
“Please take care of yourself Lori. You are so hard on yourself. The same way that you are loving to others, you love yourself. So that you can live a long life, and be happy. Because my dear, you deserve that and so much more”.
And now I’m crying again… I miss her like an amputation. It hurts all over. But I try not to talk about it. I’m still grieving her. And she speaks inside my head to me, every day. Echoes of one of the wisest, loving, and selfless people I have met on this planet. And I am also, very much so, her daughter. And a small part of her legacy because she made the parts of me I love the most. The good stuff is because of her.
I don’t know how long it’s going to take. No clue. But I know that I have traversed the kind of adversities that many never experience. And also, I have had blessings that some people may never realize in life also. For all the bad, there have also been pockets of good and joy. I embrace that recollection, as I set to rewire my brain, to love myself more.
Many of the bad things that happened to me, were not in my control. The medical debt (didn’t die though!) and 100% loving and trusting the man I moved to be with in the United States. I didn’t do anything wrong. He did. I was awesome. He sucked.
I don’t feel the need to hate my ex-husband. I’m pretty sure deep down, he hates himself. And that’s his cross to bear. But as I dig deeper into the pandora’s box of that trauma and pain, I am considering just maybe, that life happens. We make choices with good intentions. And sometimes, sh*t doesn’t work out, no matter how hard we work at it. And how much we believe we can “save” something. Or someone.
I’ve worked hard to save many people in the forty-nine years I’ve been on the planet. And loved many people with my entire being. Some of them did not deserve that love and loyalty. That compassion, and forgiveness. But I know one person who does.