Have you ever had the thought, “if I talked to other people the way I talk to myself, I would have no friends?” Sadly, this is true for many of us. We may be focused on our growth, working on our relationships, and generally striving for improvement, but if we overlook the most important step, we never address the foundational issue: how we are treating ourselves.
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Our self-talk is one way we can assess our relationship with ourselves. On our personal growth journey, we may be engaging in more constructive behaviors and living an otherwise healthy lifestyle, we miss an opportunity to look beneath the surface. For instance, I’ve worked with people (and been one of these people) that has a drill sergeant in their brain. Sure, we are checking a lot of self-care boxes, but our internal environment can become unbearable. We are chasing a carrot on a stick – “if I _____ enough, I will feel better about myself.”
We never get to the carrot of contentment if we don’t change the way we talk to ourselves.
I often refer to the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher, when discussing this topic with clients. In an earlier post, I discussed the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem. Self-compassion is loving ourselves unconditionally.
When developing a self-compassionate inner voice, it can be helpful to focus on areas of challenge where you have a hard time being kind to yourself. It may be related to body-image, relationships, performance, anything that feels like an emotional obstacle for you. Notice the way you are talking to yourself around this topic, specifically, what thoughts are you having?
Let’s practice with, “you are never going to have healthy relationships, no one wants to be with you, you’re too sensitive and emotional.” Self-compassion isn’t saying instead, “everything is fine! You are great!” because most likely, that doesn’t feel true. Self-compassion has to be authentic. You need to connect with the statements you are making to yourself.
A kinder way to speak to yourself about this concern might be, “I know things feel really tough right now, you are having a hard time in your relationships. You are worthy of love and affection, and your sensitivity can be a gift. You can take steps to heal, you deserve support and kindness. You will get through this.” This statement gives space for the negative emotion and allows you to acknowledge that growth can occur from this place of pain. There are many ways to speak more compassionately to yourself. If you aren’t sure where to begin, a therapist can help you explore strategies for speaking to yourself in a more loving way.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, provides online counseling in New Jersey and works to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with her clients, which helps to create a secure place where individuals can achieve meaningful change.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, now also provides online counseling in Pennsylvania, contact her to learn more.
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