I’m a ninth-degree black belt in negative self-talk. I have three gold medals in negative self-talk. I’m the President of the United States of Negative Self-talk. I own negative self-talk’s ass. If negative self-talk were a puny fourth-grader, I’d be the bully who eats his lunch.
Dear reader, my inner-dialogue would make you cry for your mother.
I’m not alone in my hateful internal rhetoric. Lotsa people I know—people who are my very closest of friends—have PhDs and teaching fellowships in Negative Self-talk.
So when someone says that you should treat others as you treat yourself I want to scream, “No you effing moron! That is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. Do you hear yourself? You are defective. You are deficient. You’ll never get anywhere in this world. Work harder. Do better. Pull yourself together and be someone already you stupid, lazy piece of shit!” But I don’t scream that—I don’t even say it—‘cause I talk to absolutely everyone more kindly than I talk to myself.
In my case, the negative self-talk isn’t something inherited from my parents or pushed onto me when I was a kid. In fact, the rhetoric I heard during my childhood was wholly opposite to the stuff I throw at myself. I was told constantly that I’m smart. I was told constantly that I’m cute. I was told constantly that I have a great sense of humor. If I’d bought into all the encouraging words that were thrown at me I’d be a real arrogant sonofabitch. (Hey, wait a second . . . )
No, my mean words didn’t come from Ma n’ Pa. They’re all me. Dunno how I got here really, all’s I know is that the shrink is telling me it’s time to edit the inner dialogue. Treating Inside Megan like garbage isn’t working. Shrink Nancy’s been working with me on that for months. And finally, a couple weeks ago, we had ourselves a breakthrough. Finally I actually listened to the words that I’d been hearing for months, and they made sense.
It sounds super duper therapy-y and cheesy, but here’s what I learned I need to do: I need to parent my inner child.
If I caught a child nibbling their nails I wouldn’t say, “Fail! Why can’t you just quit it? You’re weak. If you can’t stop chewing at your nails you’ll never be able to master yourself. This was the gateway to success and you’re nowhere near being able to get in, dumbass!” I wouldn't say that ‘cause it’s mean and incorrect. I wouldn’t even think that and keep it to myself.
If I saw a kid fall out of a yoga pose I wouldn’t think, “Hey fatty, you weren’t trying hard enough! You didn’t just lose your balance—you never had it to begin with.” More bullshit no one needs to think or say.
If a child didn’t make their bed I wouldn’t think they were a loser incapable of making any headway in the world. If once in a while a child let a dish sit in the sink overnight I wouldn’t see that as a sign that they’re falling apart and have forgotten how to be tidy. If a child forgot to buy Tylenol at the drugstore, I wouldn't berate the hell out of 'em.
If I were to parent this inner child that screws up from time to time—like people do—I would be patient and encouraging. I'm learning that the other way might be counterproductive. Being nasty to myself hasn't magicked me into some incredible thing. Perhaps positive self-talk is the ticket. I suppose it’s worth a shot. Especially since I'm paying Shrink Nancy to sell me on this stuff.