I could stop right there, couldn't I? Because your mental answer to this question, and the process you're going through to arrive at your answer brings you, and me, immediately to my point. It's pretty astonishing, isn't it? It's also one of the many brutally honest questions I've been asking myself for a year, since way back when I wrote this post and this post in response to my study of Beth Moore's So Long, Insecurity, You've Been A Bad Friend to Us.
The past 12 months have been enormously introspective ones for me (Oh hey, what else is new?) as I've tried to implement some new thinking Beth challenged me test out via the pages of her book. And I've come to the conclusion that probably the biggest hindrance to my being able to understand, embrace and live out my life as the uniquely gifted person God made me to be, is that my ears and my mind remain completely distracted by this constant barrage of negative self-talk.
Y'all know what I mean, right? Negative self-talk is that deflating voice inside your head that criticizes and nags at you about everything from what you fed the kids for breakfast (You are a terrible mother! You're letting them eat THAT?) to the color of your smile as you brush your teeth before bed (You look like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas! Can't you even take decent care of your teeth?)
I'll give you a fresh example of what I mean from my own life. Yesterday was Valentine's Day. As I wote, I had very laid-back expectations of the day, but I did want to have a nice, special dinner, the four of us together, to mark the occasion. So I spent the post-lunch afternoon straightening the main level of the house, browning and dicing and simmering up a pot of my homemade spaghetti sauce and then cleaning the kitchen. I got done with one minute to spare before it was time to pick Bean up at the bus stop.
On Valentine's Day.
You know where this is going, right?
So Bean gets off the bus and we go home, and within 45 seconds, we've got conversation hearts and Dora cards making a sparkly pink and red trail from the back doorstep to her bedroom, and then, fully-sugared up, the kids proceed to get out every toy they own given the criteria that it comes with a minimum of 25 teeny little accoutrements, and scatter them to the four corners of the earth. And it's only then that I realize, as I'm assessing the amazingly, breath-holdingly impressive and expeditious re-clutterification, that Bean has dance class in about an hour, so I've got to feed her dinner before class, and I'll have to feed Peabody as well, so that he won't be starving as we wait in the tiny, over-crowded waiting area in the dance studio for an hour.
Two little kids, spaghetti, salad, milk, garlic toast. Plus Dora and all of her friends, the entire Walgreen's candy aisle, 962 Matchbox cars, about a thousand marbles, My Little Stinkin' Pony and Her Entire Posse plus all of their brushes and bows and flowers and deely-bobbers. Equals?
Well, you do the math.
I fed the kids and got them all ready to go, coats, boots, scarves, ballet bag, shoved 'em in the car. And as I turned around and looked back over the destroyed kitchen and living room one last time before I walked out the door?
The negative self-talk started.
YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET YOUR KID HOME FROM SCHOOL AND FED AND TO HER DANCE CLASS WITHOUT THE WHOLE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE A BOMB EXPLODED IN IT. NOW AL'S GOING TO COME HOME ON VALENTINE'S DAY TO THIS DISASTER. WHY ARE YOU SO DISORGANIZED AND WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS RUNNING 5 MINUTES LATE AND YOU DIDN'T EVEN BRUSH YOUR TEETH AND MATTHEW HAS SPAGHETTI SAUCE ON HIS FACE AND OH LOOK! BEAN'S TIGHTS HAVE A HOLE IN THE KNEE AND HER TWO PINKS CLASH HIDEOUSLY AND YOU? ARE A FAILURE EVERY DAY, BUT TODAY? YOU COMPLETELY, UNERRINGLY, UNAPOLOGETICALLY, SUCK.
YOU NEVER SEEM TO GET ANYTHING RIGHT. YOU'RE JUST NOT CUT OUT FOR THIS WIFE/MOTHERHOOD THING.
Now. Can you imagine EVER saying that to a friend?
Not a chance. Not to a friend, not even to a STRANGER! And if you did? She'd cut you off completely. Never speak to you again. Especially if you did it every chance you got. Am I right?
Here's what you and I would say to ANYONE ELSE: YOU DID YOUR BEST! STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF! YOU'RE A GREAT MOM AND A GREAT WIFE AND YOU REALLY TRIED AND THINGS DIDN'T WORK OUT. AL WILL UNDERSTAND AND YOUR KIDS WILL NEVER HOLD THIS AGAINST YOU. THIS KIND OF STUFF HAPPENS TO EVERYONE! YOU HAD THE BEST INTENTIONS! PLEASE DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP.
Isn't that what you were thinking while I was describing my afternoon? I know it's what my friends would think and say or they wouldn't be my friends.
Yet the tirade of negative self-talk above is just one example of what I do TO MYSELF. I bet you do it to yourself, don't you? Maybe on a different scale, and maybe not all the time, but I'll bet you do it. I almost KNOW you do it.
And my point is, why on earth don't we treat OURSELVES as well as we'd treat any other sweet, precious woman in our lives?
And how must we, by refusing to do so, be perpetuating our own insecurity and bruised, battered self-worth? How could we ever expect to learn to love someone who talks to us that way? And how, most importantly, are we going to shine light out into this world that so desperately needs it, if we are walking around with that kind of garbage going on in our heads?
Can we stop? I will try. Will you?
Stop yourself when you start going down that negative path, and mentally place yourself in the position of a FRIEND, and then choose, instead, to offer yourself empathy and an encouraging word. Look, you know your own true heart better than anyone else. And YOU? You're every bit as good as the best friend you've got.
Start treating yourself that way. You've got light to shine, lady.
(And to be clear here, I'm not against a little honest, constructive self-evaluation. We all have areas we can work on in a positive way. But we need to choose the right times, and the right ways, and the right heart-mood to do that, just as we would do for a friend. Am I right?)