I mentioned last week about how my therapist chastised me recently a little for making an “old lady” joke in reference to myself. I got defensive in the moment but later thought, shit…she’s right. Well, this week we were talking about things that keep us present and she offhandedly mentioned reading to which I said, “Uggg. I was so good in 2018 but I’ve been terrible in 2019.”
CAN YOU GUESS WHAT SHE SAID?
She asked me to stop and think about what I said. “You’ve been terrible? Is that really what you’ve been? So you haven’t read as much…does that make you terrible?”
And of course my initial reaction was, “It’s just hyperbolic language! It’s the way I speak!” But here’s the thing…someone like me can’t get away with that type of language and not have it hit deep to the core of my self-perception. This week…the week of the bra run…I know that more than anything. What was the most important part of learning love of my body? SHUTTING DOWN THE NEGATIVE VOICES AND REPEATEDLY CHANGING THEM TO POSITIVE. I have seen concrete proof of the power of adjusting language and I need to quit arguing with my therapist about this.
I fall into a category of people in the mental health treatment world that I don’t refer to on here because it gives away details of my family outside of my dad/brother/ unit – that aren’t mine alone to give. But…as my therapist has constantly reminded me of this important “group” where I exist…one of the key traits is: “We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.”
Maybe for someone who doesn’t exhibit this chronically and measurably low self-esteem…words don’t matter. But for me…someone with a distorted sense of self…they 100% do, and I do not even hear those words. When she called me out on that I honestly was like, “What did I say?” I didn’t even catch myself categorically shame myself for lack of reading in 2019 under the word “terrible” – it just rolled out of my mouth like it was nothing. And yet…it’s negative reinforcement that builds this terrible perception of self that pushes me to seek stress, to thrive on worry, and to perpetually punish myself.
NEGATIVE SELF-TALK MATTERS.
The trick is though – I don’t hear it. She does, she says she can’t turn that off. She hears it in people CONSTANTLY and that she’ll say to her friends, “Don’t talk about my friend Kim like that.” Which I find BEAUTIFUL. That’s what I need to say to myself, “Don’t talk to my friend, Kim like that. She’s not terrible in any way and definitely not for something as benign as a reading list.”
So I’m going to try to be more in tune with my language choices when I talk about and to myself. It will start with the words I say out loud and then maybe I’ll be able to hear the negative self-talk in my head too. I DO NOT WANT TO TALK BADLY ABOUT MY FRIEND, KIM. She’s lovely and funny and kind and strong and empathetic and fierce and…well…too wonderful to be casually dissed in every day speak.