Life is really tough! Sometimes, it can feel unbearable. During the trying and turbulent times, it’s really easy to be hard on ourselves. Especially when this kind of hurtful self-talk is something we’re used to doing. Beating ourselves up can often feel productive and even helpful as if not accepting the mistakes we make and the problems we get into will guarantee them to stop. Unfortunately, although negative self-talk feels comfortable for most of us because it’s familiar, it doesn’t do us any good. If there’s one thing to take away from all of the coping skills we can learn in a lifetime, talking to ourselves like we would to our best friend is one of the most overlooked and useful tools in the therapy toolshed.
There are important steps to take to start working towards being more compassionate with ourselves. One way to do this is through a journaling exercise. Grab a pen and paper and imagine a recent problem in your life. Jot down all of the negative thoughts that you tell yourself about the situation. Be as brutally honest as possible about what you typically say to yourself. Now visualize someone that you love and care about. This person could be a best friend, significant other, family member, etc. Imagine the loved one going through the same problem(s) that you’re going through at the moment. Read the harmful self-talk that you wrote down out loud as if you were telling this to your loved one’s face.
How do you think your loved one would feel after being spoken to this way? Do you think this self-destructive dialogue would motivate them to solve their problem(s) or make them feel disenfranchised and unmotivated to do so? Would this loved one still want anything to do with you after telling them these hurtful things? Make a mental note to yourself about this. Keep in mind that this is only one conversation. How do you think your loved one would feel hearing these negative comments over and over again day in and day out? Envisioning this journaling activity can help you gain awareness as to what the emotional and behavioral repercussions would cause you by doing this internally on the regular.
The final step is to examine the negative self-talk that you wrote down, and rewrite something honest but still helpful that you would advise this loved one to do in the same situation. After completing this exercise, read these positive thoughts to yourself. Not once, not twice, but as many times as it takes until you start feeling better. Imagine doing this to yourself every day. Think of what you’d accomplish in life, and how you’d feel along the way. If there’s anyone to be nice to you it’s you – everyone else is just extra.