Researchers estimate that it’s necessary for the ratio of positive-to-negative comments be at least five to one for a relationship to be healthy and survive long-term.
And I figure this ratio might well apply to my relationship with myself.
So, not only am I noticing what I am saying to myself, I am noticing how often I have negative (or non-self-caring) self talk. I notice my stats are not too pretty.
Who’d have thought my ratio, me against me, would be so…well…not so kind.
“I shouldn’t feel sad, scared, angry, disappointed, depressed, shocked, tired, stressed, upset, happy, bored, lonely . . .etc.”
“It’s not okay for me to need affection, understanding, friendship, trust, comfort, safety, rest, family, community, intimacy, love, . . . etc.”
“I should be more independent, less reactive, more patient, more aware, more focused, more energetic, more healthy, . . . etc.”
“What’s wrong with me? I should be over this by now. This should not be an issue. I should know better.”
“I have got to stay in control of my emotions. If I let myself feel what’s coming up I won’t be able to handle it. “
“Emotions are dangerous and unpredictable and will take over if I don’t keep them in check.”
“I don’t deserve to take up space with my own needs and feelings. I deserve to be punished.”
“I am being selfish.”
“You should have said that!”
“Oh God, can’t you just get it right!”
“If only they would do that differently then I would feel ok.”
Three types of self-talk seem especially corrosive:
1) Victim Self-Talk – Here we tell ourselves that others have created our problems and are responsible for our setbacks and losses. Even when people legitimately have been victimized, it is not helpful to wallow in victimization. Such talk robs us of a sense of control over our destinies. How do we feel energized and optimistic about life if we’re telling ourselves that positive outcomes are out of our control? How does this influence our choices, our decision-making and our sense of self?
2) Hopeless Self-Talk – Sometimes those losses and setbacks become so frequent or seem so overwhelming that we doubt whether we’ll ever find success and happiness. Hopeless self-talk is an important component of depression. Many times, it is accompanied by self-blaming talk, where we direct our anger and frustration at ourselves over disappointing outcomes. The result is a gradual leaking of optimism and energy, where the dominant mood can be expressed by, “What’s the use?” Where do we go with our thinking and actions when we start with the premise of “there’s no point anyway?”
3) Perfectionistic Self-Talk- When we acknowledge our successes, we reinforce self-efficacy and confidence. Our victories are psychological confirmations that we can, indeed, achieve our desired ends. Perfectionism robs us of victories by setting standards of success so high that they cannot be met. It’s not enough to have completed the tasks we set for the week; we should have done them better, faster or with a new, fresh angle. In a dangerous way, perfectionism snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. Do perfectionists experience satisfaction, lightness, joy? Or are drained of life giving energy and a broader sense of perspective on their overall life?
Or maybe you can see a couple of kinds of self talk here that fit for you or can name a few others? Or maybe you notice a pattern of one kind of self-talk leading to another?
Here are some more that I can think of:
- comparing myself with others and coming up short
- blaming myself for things that happen around me
- shaming myself when I don’t get things right
- making unrealistic vows
- ruminating over something that’s in the past (as if the past will miraculously change)
What to do about this?
Well, just noticing is a great start, for me. I am learning to say STOP! AND I am learning to have fun doing so. I have decided to give my non-caring self talk the image of a gremlin. It’s not a scary gremlin. More like a cartoon. Wearing a tutu. Then I notice where in body I feel/hear these voices. In my head. From there I move the voices to my shoulder, then my elbow, then my wrist, then my little finger. I have them sound like they’ve inhaled helium.
Yes I do.
Then, I notice how I feel now that I have minimised and externalised these voices. I take time to notice the calm in my chest. The ease in my belly. The settled clarity in my head. I stay with these feelings and sensations. And anchor them. I anchor them with a word or a gesture that can take me back to these feelings quickly and easily. A gesture I like is gently holding my wrist. It’s natural. I can do it in a meeting, on a bus – anywhere.
Now…this is what I ask myself when these gremlins appear…
Where’s the love? Where’s my love for me?