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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NHBPM 21: Self-talk and "The Mean Lady"

7:40 PM Posted by Stephanie Horgan ,

"Be kind. Be really kind and gentle with yourself."

This is a quote I keep on my nightstand so that I can be reminded of it when I go to bed and when I wake up. Its pretty simple, yet something I so easily forget. I consider myself a pro at being kind and considerate to others, but when it comes to be compassionate with myself, I've got a lot of room for improvement! So where is the disconnect? 

I've noticed its all in the way I talk to myself internally, in other words, my self-talk. And you know how Tiffany and I are always talking about cognitive distortions and cognitive-behavioral therapy? Welp, we fall into mental traps as well, even though we teach others about avoiding them! One of the biggest sources of negative self-talk, is who I have termed "The Mean Lady."  

The ironic thing is, there wasn't a real "mean lady" in my life that the messages seem to be based on. It just seems that sometimes my internal dialogue happens to sound like a bully, and in order to better identify this, I have personified this into "the mean lady". So where does she come from? Well, it seems to be a combination of any negative feedback from others that I've received, influenced by all the deafening messages from the media, and mixed in with harsh self-criticism from always wanting to improve myself. Whew- what a rough combo! 

The thing about the mean lady, is that she is really, really sneaky, and also very tenacious. When health issues flare up, and chronic illness takes a toll on my body, she rears her ugly head (but quietly).  Here are some of the things I find her frequently sneaking into my internal dialogue:

1) If only you didn't have a chronic illness...
2) Life is unfair and depressing
3) You should be more ______ or less _____, you are not enough right now

Basically, the mean lady is a big bully! Very depressing, right?! The good news is that exposing the mean lady is the first step to freedom. Negative self-talk is a habit that is extremely hard to break for some people. Tiffany and I use mindfulness to help people tackle this issue, which means that we start by learning to tune into the self-talk that plays in our head. Not for the purpose of changing it right away, but just to acknowledge what we are saying to ourselves and see what we would like to change. Some people do this by wearing a rubber band and snapping it every time they catch themselves with negative self-talk. Some people use a piece of jewelry and touch it throughout the day to remind themselves to be more aware of their internal dialogue. Some people literally say out loud "Stop" or another key word when they catch themselves with this issue. 

So what about you? When you take a loot at your self-talk, what are negative thoughts that you find yourself thinking? You may not resonate with the idea of a "mean lady", but are there thoughts that hold you back or keep you stuck? When you feel depressed, take a step back and write down what you were just thinking before you felt your mood change. A lot of this can happen subconsciously, and it can change your life to bring it into the light. We'd love to hear what you discover!