Disclaimer: I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist or anyone who knows anything in particular about psychology. This blog is based on my own experience and things I’ve learned from own my counselling. I hope it helps.
I mess everything up!
Feels good doesn’t it?
Try it. Stand up, look in the mirror and say to yourself, with as much conviction as you can muster: “I’m so stupid. I’m no good. I’m a total loser!”. Don’t you feel better? Isn’t the world a brighter place? Can’t you hear the birds chirping?
Ok, ok, pardon my sarcasm. Please don’t do that little experiment. If you did, I apologize. Hopefully you recognize that the above was a ludicrous request. We know that negative self-talk doesn’t do us any good. It’s not productive and doesn’t help us move in a positive direction. We don’t need a scientific study to prove it to us, we know it from experience.
I say this confidently, even without knowing you, because most people I know have been in this position at one point or another. Like many things, we know this is bad for us, but we fall into this trap easily, almost effortlessly.
Words matter and words have power. There is so much focus these days on bullying and the damage it causes our children. Who needs external bullies thoug h, when we can beat ourselves up? We worry about the bully who can call us, mail us, email us, Facebook us, tweet at us and post photos of us on Instagram (though, as that point I suppose it might be called criminal harassment or threatening). But, what about the bully we can’t get away from? The one who lives so close, we can feel them breathing, all the time. Who needs the internet when we can be our own bully? We can beat ourselves up 24/7. We can mess up our relationships, careers, health, and spiritual lives all on our own.
You know the drill: Things are going along fine – maybe we’re managing to stick to our new diet plan, then we have a MAJOR mess up. Like eating a candy bar. One candy bar. BOOM! EXPLOSION in our HEADS!
I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! I KNEW I’D MESS UP.
I’M NOT WORTH IT. WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER!?
But, I mean, you ate a chocolate bar. You totally messed up your perfect record. And, you have to be perfect, right? ALL. THE. TIME. Or, it isn’t worth it.
That was sarcasm again.
Sarcasm, but true. Right. I know, I read your mail. It’s okay though, I’m not judging. It’s my mail to. Thankfully, the junk mail that is self-bullying is being delivered with much less regularity. I guess the “no junk mail” sign is finally getting noticed. It might have something to do with junk yard dog attached to it.
When it comes down to it, the only person who can put up the “no junk mail” sign, is you. You have to tell it, not only to stay away, but that it’s not wanted in the first place. You need to put it on the “do not call” registry (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors. I’m okay with that). If it comes calling, you need to see it for what it is: an intruder trying to attack from the outside. I have two main tools that have helped me along the way.
Be your own best-friend
The first is simple: Think about what you say to yourself and then consider what you would say to a friend who said those things about themselves. Would you tell them to stop? Would you tell them what you see when you look at them, which is vastly different than the negative statements they make about themselves? I hope so. So, be your own best friend. Give yourself a break.
A second tool, related to the first, is what I call the Anti-Self-Bullying Tool
1) When a negative self-thought presents itself, you need to notice it. Don’t let it just come and go, as if you haven no control. Notice it and name it.
2) Then, ask yourself: What evidence do you have for this emotion/feeling/name?
Really look at it and see what evidence there is? Are you calling yourself an “eternal screwup?”. Fine. What proof is there of this? This does two things: 1) It forces you to slow down and really examine the thought, rather than letting the thought just do a drive-by < BANG BANG > to your soul. 2) Ideally, it brings you to realize that the thought simply isn’t supported by the evidence.
Also, in addition to looking for evidence to support the claim, you can also look for evidence to counter the claim. It’s ok to list the negatives. Maybe there really are some things you need to address. It’s better to list the positives. List all the things you’ve done right (and yes, there are some, if not many).
3) Write down wha the more empowering thought should be. So, instead of saying: “I’m a total loser!”. Perhaps, you can say: “I am a child of God, created in His image. I made a mistake, but I am not a mistake. I will learn and do my best to not repeat the mistake again”.
The more you do this, the more you will train your brain to not be as quick to accept the negative programming, but rather consider the positive.
Note: This isn’t about ignoring negatives and living a pollyanna life. If you make mistakes, it’s important to learn from them. You just need to learn to put mistakes in their proper perspective. Maybe the mistake isn’t even your fault. In addition to making small mistakes into seemingly larger ones, we also tend to enhance our own culpability in mistakes when they really aren’t (the reverse can also be true, but it takes really hard objective thinking to really know the difference. This is where a trusted friend, family member, or mentor can come in handy).
Here’s a real life, almost real time example. Just after I wrote the previous paragraph, I took a break and got up. Somehow I managed to kick over my water bottle and it rolled under the couch. The lid isn’t particularly secure, so I know the water was going to be everywhere. So, I got up, moved the couch out of the way, but in the process I managed to knock the CO detector, which caused it to beep. Our couch isn’t too far from the babies room, so I was worried it would wake out son up. Thankfully, it didn’t.
Now, I could have, from the point of realizing I had a mess to clean up and sounded the alarm, told myself something very negative about myself. Probably something including a few swear words. The old me would have done that. Over time however, I have learned to simply move on; to tell myself that stuff happens. It’s no big deal, just get the mop, clean it up, put the couch back in place, pick the laptop back up and get back to writing.
It’s essential that you realize you are not and will not be perfect. If you struggle with perfectionism, you may need to get some counselling to help you with that. Seriously, there’s no shame in that. I’ve had tons of counselling for different issues. I’m not screwed up, I just needed some help figuring out some things.
I’ve made a “Anti-Self-Bullying Worksheet” to help lead you through the above tool. I hope it can help you. Blessings.