In my mid-20s, I came to the awareness that I was a really mean person.
I wasn’t mean to others. In fact, people would have described me as supportive, cheerful, even bubbly. The person I was mean to was… myself.
At the time, I was seeing a counselor weekly, working through the mounting stress in my life, and finding my way toward my true identity. A few months in, she hit on a key issue: my inner dialogue, who I named, The Critic. Speaking out loud the things I had only been saying to myself, I realized that I was in an abusive relationship, as both the abuser and the victim.
I lived with this supercritical version of myself standing beside me at all times, questioning everything I did, from the route I took to work, to the way I washed dishes at night, to my value as a professional. It beat me up for big and small mistakes alike. It kept me in a constant state of defensiveness and negativity because while I was busy defending myself, I was also busy looking for more things to critique. And with all that on my plate, I had no time to look inward, to grow authentically.
Does that sound familiar?
Take a moment and think about the way you speak to yourself, your self-talk. Go back to the last time you made a mistake. What did you say to yourself? Did you lecture yourself, holding up the mistake as proof of your worthlessness, pervasive fallibility, or incompetence? Did you talk to yourself in a way you wouldn’t have dreamed of talking to anyone else?
If thoughts shape reality, what is the reality you want?
Once I realized my pattern, and how constant it was, I vowed to make a change. This was probably my first real step into self-awareness and healing. At that time, I had not yet moved into the world of energy healing, and had no tools to tap for this issue. True to my personality, I decided to do it through grit and determination. For one month, I made it my job to pay attention to my inner voice, and reframe negative thoughts, or dismiss them entirely. With the understanding that our thoughts shape our reality, when a negative thought arose, I began to ask myself, “Is that the reality I want?”
It went something like this.
Voice: You’re cooking the pasta the wrong way. You should be putting oil in the water instead of salt. Me: No, the guy on the cooking show said to use salt because- – waiiit a minute. I’m doing it again. Ok, dismiss. I’ve decided to use salt. Go away, Critic.
Voice: You should have written this report yesterday. You always procrastinate. Me: Hey, that’s negative! Reframe: I am getting better and better at time management. This experience will help remind me how much I prefer to do work ahead of time.
Me: It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Smith. Please come to my office. Voice: He’s going to know you’re unqualified. He’s older and more accomplished than you. He’s going to think you’re stupid. Me: Lies. I am intelligent, innovative, and competent. My accomplishments speak for themselves. Go away.
In the beginning, it was constant
It was an ongoing wrestling match with myself, but I knew it had to change. And the more I applied my vigilance and determination, the less power the voice had over me, and the less power it had, the less it spoke up. Eventually, it stopped altogether.
That was more than fifteen years ago. These days, my negative self-talk is almost nonexistent. When it does pop up, I return to the question: Is that the reality you want? Maybe this awareness has already been planted in your mind, or maybe this is a new concept. What will you do with it?