Negative self-talk. It’s such a weird phenomenon. We all do it, though. Seriously. You’ve done it probably more than you know.
I’ll never forget Kevin (my counselor of 10 years — you’ll get to know him on a first-name basis, trust) interrupting me in the middle of one of our sessions and asking me if I knew how I had just repeatedly referred to myself. I had no clue. Then he told me I had called myself an “idiot” several times in just a few minutes. I was shocked. From that moment on, I started paying attention and was so surprised by my propensity to call myself an idiot over the dumbest things. But you guys, that’s how I truly felt inside. I just didn’t like myself. I was so embarrassed about how my life had spiraled and where I was emotionally, physically (I had gained so much weight), mentally and spiritually. This was not the straight A, role model, “it girl” I had always been. I was falling apart at the seams. And so even the simplest mishaps were self-fulfilling prophecies. As the Scriptures say, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
What about you? What names do you call yourself? When do you most often berate yourself? You may not be “Mean Girls” mean; it may just be little slights you make here and there. But it’s dangerous! And you know what? It’s even more high stakes when we have little ears walking around hearing how we are talking to ourselves (I’m referring to our children).
So how do we stop this negative self-talk? Two things: We need to reflect and to reframe. How very Christian of me to alliterate, #amiright? I wrote what I wrote: Reflect and reframe.
First, you need to figure out why you are speaking so poorly to yourself. Why are you beating yourself up? Why do you not love yourself?
The Church (as a whole) has always put such negative connotations around the idea of loving ourselves. But I’m here to tell you, it’s so Biblical. In Matthew 22:37 and 39, Jesus gives us the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…. The second is like it…” and before I give it to you, make sure you are ready to read it nice and slowww: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV). Did you catch that? “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF”. If you aren’t loving yourself, how will you love your neighbor? If you aren’t forgiving yourself, if you are angry with yourself, you won’t have the emotional margin you need to love others well. You can’t spend energy hating yourself and think you’re going to have energy left over to love someone the way Jesus is calling you to love. Nope. Won’t happen.
So you have to determine why you don’t love yourself. Did someone make you feel worthless? Like a screwup? Did someone take something from you? I don’t mean literally (although that may be the case). What I mean is did someone take a season, first marriage, your innocence, your dad, your mom, your career…from you? Are you left feeling unlovable, unworthy and insecure? When we are living out of our hurt (whether self-inflicted or not), we are unable to see past the hurt. And this leads us to the next point…reframe.
We see our entire lives through the lens of our greatest pain. Some of you view every situation and circumstance and relationship through the lens of the affair, the breakup, the divorce, the addiction, the move, the financial crisis, the firing, the betrayal, the abandonment and the trauma. You aren’t able to separate yourself from the pain because you haven’t done the hard work of owning your pain.
This is crucial: You have to own the fact that something did happen to you that was extremely painful. Harder still, you can’t reverse what happened. That trauma is now in the past. So you have to make a choice to see the pain, to get help to heal the pain, and then to own the pain. That wound, that scar, it’s yours. It’s not anyone else’s. And you get the chance to allow Jesus to heal it and to use it and therefore to redeem it. I mean, do you have the chills right now?
Remember that one time you broke your arm doing something epic but stupid? You had to have surgery and get pins and the whole nine yards. You were in a cast for weeks and weeks. But then the cast came off, and you saw your scar for the first time and you realize now that you have the BEST story ever!
This is what happens with our emotional and mental scars if we let God do His work of healing through the process of forgiveness. It’s so hard, fam. I promise you, though, it’s worth it.
So reflect and reframe.
One last thing: Negative self-talk is an indicator that there is some crap in our lives we haven’t yet dealt with. Healthy people don’t speak hurtfully to themselves. They are secure in love, acceptance and worth. So the next time you and I hear ourselves being mean to ourselves, we need to take a minute and be excited…yes, I said excited…because we get the chance to reflect and to reframe and to take one more step toward whole, healthy lives! Let’s get after it!
“Do the work and show up for your life, because you are the only one who can live, and the rest of us need you.” — Jen Hatmaker