I was having coffee with a friend and she was telling me about how she totally forgot to see if her kid’s soccer stuff fit the day of their new season evaluations. It didn’t fit so she frantically had to scramble to buy stuff while they were at school on the way into work and she has no idea if it will fit or even if they would like it. So, of course I to her, “Well – that’s shitty. You know your kid’s friend does soccer AND gymnastics AND music AND dance lessons and her Mom has a full time job and I’ve never seen them without the right gear. AND she always looks flawless. You can’t even handle this one thing. You’re the worst. Your kids are going to remember the shame of this night forever.”
I talk a lot about the value of language and how you will never hear me complain about “political correctness” because I want to know if my language could offend someone. I’m certain to be ashamed and embarrassed at first, but since I believe everyone has the power to teach me something, I would hate to build a wall from learning from entire groups of people just because my language was unwelcoming. (FYI – GLAAD has a great resource page explaining why certain words are “problematic” which speaking of anyone in the transgender community. I send this link out a lot lately with discussion of transgender rights.) Word choice is incredibly important because in some communities certain words incite extreme negative feelings. My kids knew the word “faggot” was a terrible slang word long before they heard it on the playground (which they have already heard quite often), so there is no part of them that ever hears that word and doesn’t bristle in defense of their brother. WORDS MATTER. And knowing what words trigger what negative feelings to people you would rather not alienate – that is KEY to building a diverse community.
But SHIT, yo. I alienate the crap out of myself with the language I use when talking to myself or describing myself to other people. I don’t take time to really think about word choice like I do when I’m talking about marginalized minority groups. I just grab the first (and often negative) phrasing or words that pop into my head without ever taking time to think about the messages I’m giving myself.
(BTW – I’ve discovered a new podcast and the hosts use terms like, “Shit, yo” and now it’s my vernacular which works for a 41-year old white woman, don’t you think?)
If I have to point out an error to someone I take the time to do it gently while reinforcing positive messages too. I consider respectful language when talking ABOUT or TO people prone to bigotry. I play my words in my head first before advising someone who is hurt or down on themselves. I think before I speak.
But do I take ANY time to consider language I use referring to myself? Nope. Not at all. I evidently want to choose words that welcomes diversity as long as the group is diverse with people not me.
Sometimes I’ll casually use a overly negative word or phrase to describe myself or my behavior and I’ll get called out on it in therapy. And it’s not just that ONE word or that ONE phrase that is problematic. But it’s all part of a bigger picture of me trying to look at my life and myself in a more positive way. Specifically with how I interact with the people around me. I carry a lot of anxiety about relationships and social interactions and by framing myself in a negative way constantly, that reinforces those anxieties. I constantly feel like I’m a terrible and inadequate Mom. (Hell, I wrote a whole blog post about it recently.) I often “jokingly” describe myself as a terrible wife and hard to live with and I build my husband up as this superhuman man who puts up with me.
And no matter how I play off my “Mom of the Year” jokes and sarcasm or my “Why he stays married to me” humor as all lighthearted – it’s not. I have moments or days or weeks or months when I feel very unworthy of anything of value and those “jokes” and self-deprecating language are not helping me build the foundation of self love I so VERY much need.
Donnie dropped the ball on something recently and his first instinct was to feel terrible and my first instinct was to ease his mind and give him reassurance and love.
But I dropped the ball yesterday morning and I beat myself up about it all day. That conversation from the beginning of this blog post? That was a conversation I had with MYSELF. And that is DAILY. When I write it out like I was saying that stuff to a friend? It sounds TERRIBLE and CRUEL. I mean, what a shitty person to talk to a friend like that! If I heard someone talking to a friend like that in a cafe, I would be OUTRAGED. Hell, I probably would have gone over there and been like, “Dude. You need new friends. This woman is an asshat. Come finish your coffee with me.”
I need to be as in-tune with my own feelings of self-worth as I am with everyone else’s. I need to take the time to consider my language towards myself like I do towards anyone else. I was careful in how I addressed the mistake Donnie made because I wanted him to remember that he’s been working 60 hour workweeks and so he shouldn’t stress out about this one error. But when I’m looking at mistakes I made? I’m thinking about all of my friends who do it so much better than I do and I just allow myself to continue talking terrible to myself.
Here’s another one:
My friend was talking about how her husband is always talking about how sexy she is. I just straight up told her, “Really? That’s crazy. You’ve put on so much weight. You never wear makeup. Your boobs are so saggy and you’ve got that CRAZY distorted muffin top and since you’ve put on weight none of your clothes fit so that belly just hangs out over everything and I CAN’T BELIEVE HE FINDS YOU ATTRACTIVE. That’s insane.”
I mean, COME ON. Don’t we all want to punch that woman in the face? BUT THAT IS HOW I TALK TO MYSELF. And it sounds fine and acceptable in my head until I type it out here like it’s a conversation with a friend. Then I’m like, “Yo, BITCH. STEP OFF. SHE’S SEXY AS SHIT AND HER MAN IS LUCKY SHE EVEN GIVES HIM THE TIME OF DAY.”
(I’m totally pulling off that language, don’t you think?)
So I’m trying to really think about how I talk to myself. How I describe myself. I’m trying to look at it from the outside and hear my words like I’m eavesdropping on two friends in a restaurant. If the words I’m hearing makes me want to stand up and gut-punch the girl saying them? I might want to reconsider my message. No one deserves to be talked to like that. NO ONE.