This morning, I was reading a magazine that I bought a few days ago. Weirdly, it accidentally turned into a little bit of research for this week’s question.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an increasingly popular treatment for mental health conditions such as depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and eating disorders, among others. The basic premise of the therapy is exactly this question. It’s about identifying the negative ways in which you think, react, and talk to yourself.
One particular aspect of thinking that can engender negativity, is the habit of forming black and white opinions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative, with little grey area. The downside to this one-or-t’other categorising of behaviours, experiences, or people is that if something is not ‘good‘ then it naturally follows that it is ‘bad‘.
“When things aren’t ‘good’ – they automatically have to become ‘bad’ in your mind” – Ali Binns (2018)
This definitely applies to the way in which I talk to myself. I focus on the things that I haven’t done, instead of the things that I achieve. I assign value to activities (usually the more I enjoy an activity, the less I value the result). I berate myself often for not being ‘good enough’ or ‘smart enough’ – or ‘brave enough’, or ‘kind enough’ or ‘pretty enough’, or… well you get the point. By attaching the word ‘enough’ I’m actually removing it: telling myself instead that I am not good, smart, brave, kind, or pretty.
When I stop and think about the things I tell myself, I’m forced to recognise that the only person to whom I am genuinely unkind, is me. If I spoke to my friends in such a way I would consider myself the worst friend ever. The anti-friend. No enemy of mine has ever been so cuttingly cruel to me as I am. Mostly because none of them knew my weak spots: those facets of my life and personality that I doubt the most. Only I can so unnerringly target the sorest spots of my psyche.
“Treat yourself with some love and compassion and approve of your own life.” Lisa Phillips (2018)
There’s nothing like a cliché for eliciting rolled eyes and cynical smirks. That said, they’re often clichés for a reason. Possibly none more so than the assertion that others cannot love you if you do not love yourself. I can think of at least one definitive example of a time when someone seemed to want to love me and couldn’t – not because I’m innately unlovable – because I wouldn’t allow him to do so. I called him weird for finding me attractive. I mocked him for wanting to spend time with me. I held back from being genuinely intimate with him because I didn’t want to get over-involved with someone whom I believed I didn’t deserve.
“When people start to love themselves more each day, it’s amazing how their lives get better.” Louise Hay
Loving myself is not easy. I fall back into negative thinking patterns at the slightest provocation. Trying to love myself is something that I’m willing to work on, to put effort into, because the answer to today’s question is: no, I would emphatically not be proud to make the comments I have made to myself (and continue to make) to anyone else, ever.
Idiot, loser, fat, ugly, stupid, lazy, pathetic, useless – these are only some of the epithets that I’ve fearlessly flung in my own face.
So I’ll say it, right here and right now, I’m awesome! I am courageous, clever, polite, considerate, loving, patient, and kind. I love me…