About 10 years ago when I was babysitting a 6-year-old girl, during a game of hangman she began screaming repeatedly, “I can’t guess this word! I hate myself! I hate myself! I hate myself!” I was in shock. I could not imagine how this young girl become so upset over a word in a hangman game. She looked in total distress. As my shock was wearing off, I hugged her and told her, “ You are an intelligent, kind, beautiful girl and not being able to guess a word in a game of hangman is not a reason to hate yourself. It is a game. Please do not ever say those words to yourself or about yourself again.” I am unsure if this was the correct action to take, but I could not leave her there saying these words to herself over and over again. If it was causing me pain hearing it, what was it doing to her? What was her internal world like if she was saying this out loud to me? She was waging a psychological war on herself. It was as if through this horrific mantra, she was casting a spell upon herself, or creating a pattern that would consume her the rest of her life.
The situation was an epiphany for me. It woke me up to pay much more attention than I ever have to how I talk to myself, what I think about myself, how I treat myself, and how I react when I make a mistake, lose at a game, or when things simply do not work out to my expectations. Am I kind to myself? Am I gentle with myself? Do I support myself? How do I talk to myself? Ultimately, do I love myself? What is my inner world like?
I found that I beat myself up and put myself down often. An example of this is a simple trip to the grocery store. If I forgot my list and arrived home without some items needed, I would think to myself, “That was stupid. Why would you do that? You are so unorganized. You can’t do anything right.” Wow! All that for forgetting coconut milk. Taking a step back, I wondered how long I had been doing this to myself without realizing it. There are many other situations that I began to notice my negative self-talk. The negativity loop started when I would make a mistake on a test, if I was not invited out with others, if I was being criticized, and even when I would indulge in a piece of cake.
After hearing the little girl verbally berate herself, I knew this was not healthy for myself either. How much damage was done to myself with this negative talk? I began paying close attention to my inner world, analyzing it, and taking action to change it. For example, if I forgot an item at the grocery store, I told myself that I could stop by the store on my way home from the chiropractor tomorrow, or perhaps I could begin recording my grocery list on my phone so I would not need the paper on the refrigerator. I also began mantra work. Repeating “I love myself” did not work for me. I was desensitized to the phrase, so I began making up other mantras that were unique enough to allow the realization, mantras such as:
- I love myself fully and completely.
- I devour myself with love.
- I saturate myself with so much love it drips off me and onto those around me.
Visualization of these mantras also helped me. Love sinking, saturating every cell and crevice of my body and all my thoughts about myself. Yes, it took this much work for me to turn this negative self-talk around! I did begin noticing a difference however, not only in my self-talk, but my anxiety. I was no longer panicking over little things. My body was also becoming less tense and chronic pain was beginning to dissolve. I was becoming more tolerant of others and treating others with much more love, compassion, and empathy. I was living much more mindfully.
I researched self-love quotes specifically for this blog post. What I found fascinated me.
“Love your neighbor as yourself. Love others as you would love yourself, judge others as you would judge yourself, cherish others as you would cherish yourself. When you wish for others as you wish for yourself and when you protect others as you would protect yourself, that’s when you can say it’s true love.” — Confucius
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” –Jesus
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Buddha
If we are not fully loving ourselves then do we not have a diminished capacity to love others? If I do not fully love myself, am I acting as best I can towards others?
This Valentine’s Day I hope you notice how you treat yourself. How you talk to yourself. I hope you are kind, compassionate, and loving. If you are not, my wish for you is that you act and change your dialogue.