We can be our own worst enemy.
As a mental health counselor and human being, I have personally witnessed and experienced abusive self-talk. You may wish that I’d pump the breaks there and change the term to negative self-talk. But I won’t. I truly do believe that many of the things we tell ourselves is abusive.
Here are a few things that we may beat ourselves up over:
Okay, that my seem a bit dramatic but it’s true. I have always engaged in abusive self-talk regarding the fact that I didn’t feel like I was good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Some people speak negatively to themselves about their ability to parent, their career, relationships, faith, and so much more.
If you abuse yourself verbally, I have two things that I want you to try. This is actually something that I use with clients at my practice! Lucky you, though, you are getting this lesson for free.
Pretend Your Best Friend is Talking To You
When you start to talk negatively to yourself, pause. Take a moment and imagine that your best friend (boyfriend, girlfriend, whoever) is sitting in front of you. Now, imagine that this person is saying to you what you have just said to yourself.
What would your instant reaction be?
How would you feel?
How would it impact your relationship?
I’m willing to bet that you would not be happy about that. You would be hurt and angry that your friend would say such a cruel thing to you. And it would most likely be very detrimental to your relationship.
But my question is: Why are you allowed to talk so cruelly to yourself when no one else is?
Why do you give yourself the permission to beat yourself up? Why do you think it’s okay to constantly berate yourself?
Guess what? It is not okay.
It’s not okay coming from other people and it is not okay coming from you.
Say it to Someone Else
Okay, this one is a bit more challenging and way more emotional. I did this in class one time, so go ahead and imagine what that looked like! Nearly fifteen women in a class doing this exercise led to some tears for sure.
For this exercise, you need to find a safe person in your life — someone you can trust and who will support you.
The first thing you need to do is write down the three things that you dislike the most about yourself. It can be based on appearance or other traits/characteristics. Dig deep, though and be specific. Instead of writing “I’m not pretty”, write “I have too much acne”.
Next, write down three of the worst coping skills you can use for those dislikes. For example, to cope with “I have too much acne” you may write “So I might as well just eat all the sugar I want and drink soda constantly because it’s never going away”.
Now, here comes the first challenging part. Find a mirror and look at yourself. Read off what you have written down. Read it like this, “I have too much acne, so I might as well just eat all the sugar I want and drink soda constantly because it’s never going away”. In this part, you will be speaking this to yourself.
After you have done that, ask yourself these questions:
- Was it difficult to tell yourself those things?
- How did you feel?
- How do you feel about yourself now?
Next, find your safe friend. Make sure you tell them what you are doing and why you are doing this. Look them in the eye and tell them these things. For example, you would say “You have too much acne, so you might as well just eat all the sugar you want and drink soda constantly because it’s never going away”.
After that is finished, ask yourself these questions:
- Was it difficult to say those things to your friend?
- How did you feel?
- How do you feel about saying those things to yourself now?
What happens during this exercise is that we become extremely emotional saying these phrases to our friend, and sometimes we cannot even finish them. This portion of the exercise produces all sorts of emotion because it is the moment we realize that we could never hurt the people we care about the way that we hurt ourselves.
And once again I will say: It is not okay to be so mean to yourself.
Practice saying kind things to yourself and making warm wishes for yourself. Remember that you are a child of God and His heart breaks hearing the way you speak to yourself. Focus on the positive things about who you are and cut yourself some slack when you mess up.
You are an amazing person and have so much to offer this world. I pray that one day you will see yourself the way that other people do.