We’re grown. We all know the frustration of not living up to our own expectations. Of falling short. But, why do we have to be so damn mean about it?
When I miss the mark, I am the first one to talk down to myself, “Oh for fuck’s sake . . . seriously [insert offense here]?!?!?” Do I do this because I want to beat everyone else to the punch? Because, if I berate myself, others won’t have to? Or, do I do this because I hold myself to an impossible standard?
A man I know does this to himself on the court. When he misses a shot he says, audibly, “Dammit Stephen.” (Sometimes with a whack of the fence or ground.) Afterwards, he goes home and ruminates about the error(s) until it costs him sleep.
Do you do something similar? Whether you feel like you’re failing in sports or you didn’t make it to Bible study or you ate the ice cream . . . again – how do you speak to yourself when you let yourself down?
What I know from personal experience is that we are so much uglier speaking to ourselves than we would be to a friend or colleague.
When I talked to Stephen about his challenges, I asked a question that might help you reframe your situation.
Is your frustration performance or perception based? Meaning, are you frustrated with a skill that you’re not executing as you’d like or are you hung up on generalities like, “I suck”?
He said he was “frustrated by a lack of consistency in his performance.”
So, I asked him to pretend he was coaching one of his employees. What would you have them do if they weren’t executing satisfactorily in this area?
He said, “Practice and lessons.”
These are actionable items that are easy to break down into schedule-able parts. And, moving forward with them should help him stop berating himself for inconsistencies.
But, what about when the offense is a generality? Then what?
Then we must learn a softer approach.
It begins with noticing when you’re being nasty. Honestly, we often speak so harshly to ourselves that we don’t even notice. “Get it together, girl.” “Good Lord, there’s no helping you.” “And just who the hell is it that you think you are?!?!?” “You don’t deserve that.” And worse . . . and worse . . . and worse still.
It begins with a willingness to notice and stop in the moment.
Here’s a hint though – you can’t talk down to yourself for talking down to yourself.
When I catch myself starting with the “Oh hells bells . . . “ I just stop and say, “Okay – I screwed up. What now?” Or, “This didn’t go as planned, how can I fix it?” Or, “Fuck it. I’m going to sit down and try this again tomorrow.”
The point is that words have power. Especially when they’re spoken by you, to you. Words form our beliefs and our beliefs influence our actions. And, our actions are what we carry out into the world to share with others.
And if this is the case, why not talk yourself up instead of talking yourself down? And if you can’t talk yourself up, just stop talking at all – because silence is an improvement over slams.
Then, one day, you might go out on a limb and try talking to yourself like you would a dear friend . . .
“Hey – it’s okay. You’ll get it next time.”
“One mistake doesn’t have to ruin the whole plan, let’s redirect and brainstorm.”
“You’re beautiful, no matter what magazines tell you about the numbers on your tags.”
“You deserve happiness and love.”
“You are worthy of respect and have the right to form strong boundaries and back them up.”
Just reading those things feels so much better, doesn’t it?
Now, try saying it and meaning it.
Starting today, stop talking shit . . . about yourself, to yourself. Then, see how life improves. And, maybe – just maybe – that love will carry over and you’ll practice that kind of kindness on someone else. And they will start loving themselves and others a little more.
Do you see how important you are? You are the center of a concentric circle of love, kindness, compassion and happiness!
Life is better when you stop talking shit.