Tuesday, January 24, 2012

“You’re So F'ing Pathetic”

Evil Things We Say to Ourselves

“You’re So F'ing Pathetic”

Never, ever say such an evil thing to yourself. I did—just days ago. My usual critique plays far too often in my consciousness, but my most recent evil self-talk unfolded in circumstances different from the usual litany of life’s errors, omissions, and disappointments. Here’s how that self-denigrating, self-flagellating experience unfolded:
I wrote something. Not a big deal; I write something most days. Few days go by without at least a journal entry. Too many days go by without a blog entry it seems, but I wrote one, and published it. In my self-congratulatory frame of mind, I thought it was good, more than good. I pondered just how good I thought it was while I was preparing for the day: brushing my hair and applying my daily smidgen of make-up. Because of those activities, I was looking into the mirror. I thought about what would happen if my blog entry got lots of readers, maybe hundreds, maybe even thousands. Sensing how implausible that was, I laughed aloud, certain that would never happen, because I’m not good enough as a writer, not popular, not talented, blah, blah, blah. How could I even think of such success? As I looked into the mirror, the next words came to mind: “You’re so f _ _ _ ing pathetic.” Ouch!
Negative self-talk is something most people engage in, much to the dismay of our tender psyches. On too many days, my negative self-talk is a running commentary in the back of my mind, difficult to turn off. Nonetheless, I set the volume to low, do my best to ignore it like it’s an annoying mosquito buzzing about my ears, turn the other cheek, and go about my day. Until a few days ago, never has my self-destructive chatter happened while I was looking in a mirror. As soon as I said those words, I saw the shape of my face change. I saw my eyes go from smiling to downcast. I saw the pain. I felt the pain, more intensely than usual, because I was viewing it, as if I had taken a sharp object and sliced into my own heart and watched the blood flow over me.
Visible evidence of the effect of destructive things I said—say—has changed my perspective about that self-talk. Glib pop psychology says to put the focus on the positive, to not engage in negative self-talk, to think happy thoughts, to build ourselves up. Easy to write in a how-to book, article, or blog on happiness or the power of being positive, but when it comes down to the daily commentary, it’s more difficult. I am certain I am not alone in this.
I would never speak to others the way I talk to myself. “You’re so f_ _ _ _ing pathetic” would never enter the realm of words I would say aloud to someone. Yet, I said those very words to myself. Mirror self-talk is recommended for people trying to focus on positive change. Mirror notes are encouraged. I’m not one for putting “You go, girl!” on my mirror, even though such efforts are purported to be of great benefit.
The destructive power of negative mirror talk is something I never considered because it’s not something in which I (or probably most people) engage. I know I haven’t read a self-help tip that says: “Do not say evil things to yourself while looking in the mirror.” People probably don’t need to be warned away from such mirror talk, but without the mirror, the talk does go on, too often unabated. The harsh effects of my negative mirror talk have stayed with me. Seeing that pain etched on my face changed me, deep inside. This is not to say that right away I stopped negative self-talk. The mosquito still buzzes in my ear, but when that mosquito buzzes, I have the memory of my face in the mirror and the image of that self-damage, so it’s becoming easier to swat the mosquito and to silence it.
I believe most people are on a quest for self-fulfillment, and take whatever paths feel right. Each of us has a deep desire for a feeling of being worthy, of being honored, of being loved. After seeing my face in the mirror, I know now, more than I ever even dreamed, that the quest, the desire, begins with each of us, within us. To have that worthiness, that feeling of honor, that feeling of being loved, we must start within ourselves. It’s not easy to combat the negative voices within us, especially if those voices reflect and enlarge upon words we’ve heard from those we thought loved us or cared for us. I believe that I, that we, can nurture our gentle psyches, can heal them, can enhance them, beginning with silencing the voices in our heads that say the worst possible things.
It’s time to look into our hearts and find the best possible things to feel, to think, to express, throughout our days, throughout our lives, so that any mirror reflects what is most beneficial to us and to others.

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