Make it stop: The painful truth about negative self-talk
Last week, we sat in circle in my living room, my BodyLove Affair coaching group, our reason for gathering, the shared desire to experience more loving relationships with our bodies.
Having each spent our lives judging, loathing, struggling, battling, at odds with these bodies, we come together weekly to heal, to work, to change the story.
We sat in circle, these three brave clients and me, and I asked them to create a list of the cruel things they say to themselves, about themselves, about their bodies.
They wrote for a few minutes, scribbling furiously.
I went on to share what would happen next. It went along these lines…
You want to change this relationship? It doesn’t change until we do things differently.
We must become police, master protectors, diligent security guards, docents in our museum, stopping ourselves in our tracks when we are endangering ourselves.
Then, I threw them for a loop. “We’re going to play BodyLove Affair Theatre.”
We’d been talking for the last couple weeks about tools and tricks for stopping these thoughts in their tracks, and now we were going to practice.
I invited them to pass their lists to the woman next to them, who would play the part of her partner’s negative self-talk-voice. While armed with another list, the partner would rebut, interrupt and argue, snapping back with kinder, more loving alternate thoughts. Various snappy truths and come-backs.
Knowing that these negative thoughts we’d written were highly personal, I made this surrendering of our lists completely optional. If they so desired, they could pass their list to the woman next to them for some role-play.
This is where it got interesting… this is where the cringing began.
Of course, as one might expect, it felt uncomfortable to have another read and know the way we talk to ourselves. That shit is private. And ugly.
But even more interesting to me was the reaction of the role players, when handed the lists to read.
When R. bravely handed her list to S., S. took a moment to read quietly, and the look on her face was pure discomfort. She scanned down the list for one that she could say out loud to R., so that R., could practice her new thoughts. Tension seemed to be growing in the air. She became visibly uncomfortable.
“I can’t.” she finally shook her head.
The room hushed in a holy reverence, a shared knowing.
“I can’t say these things to her. They’re too mean.”
“Can you pick just a couple?” I urged. And she did, face cringing, body tightening, shoulders rising in discomfort.
It was awful to speak these things to anyone, out loud. We could feel this. We heard it with our own ears, and saw with our own eyes.
After S. bravely read some awful things out loud, R. bravely responded with new thoughts, arguments, rebuttals.
We applauded both women’s courage, and switched partners.
Again, and again, each of us, myself included, found it painfully difficult to say the things out loud that our Theatre partner had written. It was torturous. Miserable. Why?
Because we don’t talk to people this way.
Because words are powerful. And certain words hurt.
Because we are kind and loving people.
Yet, this is the way we talk to ourselves, with language so unkind, it can barely be uttered by another. “I can’t do it.” S. had said. Eventually she did, but not without a pained expression and hating every moment of it.
I’ve heard it said a million times, and so have you, in so many different ways.
We would never talk to others the way we talk to ourselves.
Yet, that night, I saw it. I witnessed it in action, and it wasn’t just painful.
It was nearly impossible.
And so I urge you, my friend, start by watching, witnessing the way you speak to yourself.
Catch yourself. Notice. It must start with noticing.
This is not how you would speak to anyone else, ever.
It would hurt you to utter those words to another. It would hurt them. And yet, to the one who is closest in the world to you, your Self, this vicious criticism comes so naturally.
Make it stop.
For the love of the goddess you are, the holiness, the divinity that is you, for the love of the sweet friend within, make it stop.
Interrupt. Resist. Counter. Argue. Talk back. Mouth off. Change the subject. You are worth this diligence.
You don’t deserve to be spoken to that way. No one does.