Shhhhh. Listen. Do you hear the way you talk to yourself? Years ago, before marriage and kids, I was in a place where I struggled with my self-esteem. I recall the deflating words I used to tell myself. Phrases like “You’re so stupid!”, or “You don’t know anything”, or “No one likes you”. Eventually, the negative self-talk led me to a dark place where I wasn’t sure how to find my way out.
At the time I was a brand new ‘Ensign’ (the most junior officer rank in the Navy) in a brand new city, blue and sunny skies San Diego. I should have been celebrating this freedom! To live on my own in ‘America’s Finest City’ in a role I’ve work towards since I earned an NROTC scholarship in college. Yet it was a different story. I was 3000 miles away from my friends and my family. While the idea of starting a new life was exciting (after all I chose to be distanced from my family), being alone for the first time of my life revealed my anxiety and fears. And the harsh words started to take over my mind.
Worse it made feel as if my life was no longer worth living.
Learning to Love Myself
I believe God works in mysterious ways. This time of my life, my faith was in limbo. But He showed me the way back. Sending me a rescuer in the form of a man I didn’t know well who answered my call at my lowest point. He was the one who checked me in at the hospital to ensure I received the right treatment. It is where I awakened and learned to start loving myself.
It took me several years to truly appreciate who I am. However as soon as I opened my heart, infusing love into my self-talk, my confidence blossomed. With this newfound self-love, I was finally able to receive love from another person. And not long after, I met the man I would marry.
Be Kind To Yourself
I learned about Dr. Kristin Neff’s work focused on self-compassion from a Wellcoaches Coaching Psychology course. Dr. Neff breaks down Self Compassion into three elements – Self-kindness, Common Humanity and Mindfulness. She phrased it perfectly in the quoted image below:
It’s inevitable in life to experience “failure”, particularly when we’ve chosen to follow an unfamiliar path. I love the part when Kristin mentioned that it’s honorable because at the least, we gave it a try. And through trials, we can reframe the failure as a learning experience.
Two Simple Steps to Infuse Love to your Self-Talk
1. Always start with awareness. Be aware when your self-talk turns ugly. Do you label yourself as ‘being awful’ or ‘being bad’ for not following through with your goals?
2. Instead of spiraling down to harsh judgmental thoughts, be curious. Question if there’s any truth behind your words. Pretend you are talking to your best friend showing support, empathy and compassion.
I understand these steps sounds simple but in practice we are challenged. We are our biggest critics so I still have moments when the harsh judgments pop up. As long as I catch myself doing it, then all is well.
How do you talk to yourself when you’re struggling with a specific goal? What strategies would you like to share to help us with being kind to ourselves?