The other day I had quite a long talk with myself. Before you decide how crazy I am, it’s fair to say everyone talks to themselves. The real question is do you talk aloud or just in your head. I do a little of both. Lately, I’ve become more aware of where my conversations with myself are going. Some of them deal with memory such as “what’s today, Tuesday or Friday. Last week, I know I had at least two Saturdays; this is one of the curses of the pandemic. My routines used to help me keep track of the days. Other conversation are of a more personal nature such as: “When are you going to start exercising, you know you’ve gained twenty pounds,” and “You are complacent; you should be writing.”
Lately, more of my conversation has been negative – deriding myself for not being more productive, more upbeat, more social to the levels that I know I could be, more principled, more proactive. Needless to say all this negative self-talk leaves me depressed and even more lethargic than I was before I started prodding and probing myself. Like so many others, I am tired of physical distancing, nil travel opportunities, and social activities limited to my immediate family. More than that the pandemic necessities have stymied my creativity. My blog and my other projects have slowed tremendously because my favorite writing places are off limits.
Yet, I can not allow myself to continue down this road of negative self talk. It leads to depression. It leads to anger. It leads to overwhelming grief. It leads to hopelessness. The emotions that grow out of this negativity are intolerable. It has the opposite effect of it’s intent. Why do we think deriding ourselves (or others) is a motivational tool. You really can’t encourage positive behavior through ridicule and mockery (not in yourself or others). Making myself feel bad did not trigger me to feel better or to do better in the areas that troubled me.
Truth is, everyone is trying to establish workable routines and some sense of normalcy for our lives during this pandemic. We shouldn’t blame ourselves for the time it takes us to adjust to the “new normal.” All of us should be congratulated for learning to work from home or work in a nearly empty building. We could use some praise for the way we have maintained contact and social closeness while physically distancing. We should dispense some compliments for the ingenuity and creativity that has come out of the necessity to help and train others to make the best of their resources.
I’m not just talking about what we say to others; I’m also talking about what we say to ourselves. We are survivors. We are contributors. We are essential, not only as workers but as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, extended family members, neighbors, and friends. We can be proud of ourselves and tell ourselves: “I am amazing. I can do so many things. I am prepared to take the next step. I can change my circumstances. I have the resources to make a difference. Today is a new day, I can start over. Under the circumstances, I’m doing well. Its time to make some new goals. This is an opportunity to try something new.” Our self talk can be positive and motivational.
My oldest son fell through a garage window when he was in elementary school. We had just moved to Georgia during the holiday season. He received a bike for Christmas. As he was riding down the hill the brakes locked and he went airborne through the neighbors garage window. After surgery to reattach his nose and stitch up his face, he had a big Y-shaped scare on his face right beneath his eye. He was going to go to a new elementary school in our new city in January. I knew it would difficult and I knew the scare would be the object of questions and ridicule. The only thing I could thing of was to try to prepare him for both. Every morning and every night, I stood behind him as we looked in the bathroom mirror and repeated positive affirmations. These included the meaning of his name. How talented he was. How there was no shame in explaining how he got the scare. There were so many things besides his scare that defined him and it was those things that would cause him to make friends and succeed in his new school. Today he is forty-one and the big Y-shaped scare is barely visible, but learning positive self-talk has never gone away.
I had a long talk with myself the other day. I told myself: “No more negative self talk! If you want to change something, change it. If you are unhappy about something, do something about it. Give yourself a break if it doesn’t work the first time. Never be afraid to try again.” The little saying below is something I got off the internet last year to encourage my fourteen year old granddaughter. I have added it to my positive self talk as an affirmation. Maybe you can use it too.
Stay Positive. Stay Sane. Stay Safe!