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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Question

If you had a friend who talked to you the way YOU talk to you, how long would you keep her around?

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.

(Blink.)

Now. Can you imagine EVER saying that to a friend?

(OMG.)

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?

Why?

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?)







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16 comments:

  1. Nobody could express this better than you have done right here. I have gone through this exact scenario, with slight variations, nearly every day for the past 10 years.

    You are absolutely bang on and you have totally inspired me to change my thinking. Thank you a million times over.

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  2. whoa
    i think like that all day, everyday
    (and I hate it)

    except doing a prject like that book only makes me feel like a failure because I know I would never finish it.

    but, boy howdy, would i love to stop the negative self-talk. (I don't want to pass it on to my kids)

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  3. Oh wow, Cassandra I'm so happy to hear that.

    CE - for me, it's as simple as doing just this -- putting myself in the place of a friend and addressing myself as I would anyone else. The link to "self-talk" above offers some techniques, though, for re-training self-talk as well. And there are tons of resources online. When I googled "negative self talk" I was boggled at the number of resources right there at my fingertips.

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  4. I know women have been prone to negative self-talk for generations, but after I read this I got to thinking. I wonder how much worse it is nowadays with the Internet? Before, there were, maybe 20 or 30 women in our sphere of influence that we inadvertently compared ourselves to, and allowed the negative self-talk because of that comparing. Now? We've got 150 (or more) in our feed reader. Women whose lives are deposited into our computer every day. Women who blog about what an awesome dinner they made last night, and how great their kids are about cleaning their rooms, and how easy it is to home-school their 5 kids, and how their husband just got a $100,000 bonus check, and how their "hobby" of photography has turned into a book deal, and how great their sex-life is, and how they make all their kids' clothes, and how they blog every day, but also write for this other website twice a week, and their local newspaper wants them to write a weekly article, too, and how they sing in the church choir, and how their husband never hurts their feelings, or never leaves his socks on the floor,...on and on...

    You know? Like, if I'm not bombarded with how wonderful everyone else is, would I realize how much I fail, and how I fall short of everyone else's standards every day? Prolly not.

    I think it's pretty easy to not compare myself and my life to, say, Jennifer Anniston because I know she's got a team of people to make her life fabulous. But what about Susie over at www.iAMperfect.com? :o)

    Don't get me wrong, I love it when people share their successes on the web, and I've been known to do that a time or two, but I've started removing blogs from my feeder if I feel even REMOTELY inferior to them. Or if I feel like they don't need me in their blog-life. :o)

    I believe we need to fill our lives with encouragement and inspiration and creativity and love...and so I fill my feed reader with that, instead.

    And FriedOkra is one of the first blogs I read on any given day because, Megan, you encourage and inspire me every day. :o)

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  5. I sure can relate to this!
    With me it is wanting everything to be perfect (the kids, the house, the meal) and of course it never is, and never will be.
    Sometimes I wish I could just turn my thoughts off, take a break from myself!
    I have always been insecure, too sensitive, easily offended, trying too hard to make people like me (they might not like me if my cake is too dry)...you get the picture!!

    Just found your blog recently, and I LOVE IT!!! You are kind, funny, and you have a beautiful family (so don't be too hard on yourself).
    Your words have made me laugh (big time), cry and think. Thank you.

    I have never left a comment on a blog before, guess this is pretty long for a "comment". Sorry :)

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  6. YES! You are so right! I don't refuse to read people who make me feel inferior, MADAM CRAFT AND QUILTING QUEEN OF THE CYBERNET, (otherwise my reader would be empty and I'd be forced to leave my computer and go clean my house) but I do find that too much time online leaves me feeling underwhelmed by my own ability to get it all done and get it all done well compared to everyone else.

    You do know though, that nobody's getting it all done every day, and everyone's husband leaves his socks, or something else, where they don't belong, right? Because real life is real life, even if Susie doesn't tell quite the whole story at iamperfect.com.

    I have to go warm up some soup now because I was too busy writing a blog post about negative self talk and then hurrying through cleaning the bathrooms to remember to thaw out the pot roast I was planning on for dinner. (Who? Meeeeee?)

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  7. Sherry, your comment was perfect and guess what? I like you. (Although I would have liked you even if it wasn't perfect. Or even if your cake was dry.) I'm a recovering perfectionist, so I know exactly where you're coming from. So glad you are reading! Welcome to you, I'm happy you spoke up and hope you will do it more often from now on.

    M

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  8. Wow, I needed this today. Thank you. Seriously.

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  9. Honestly, I was just thinking about this today. The way the internet/blog land feeds this. When my mom was mothering at home all day, I'm sure she compared herself to, you know, let's say 10 or less of her closest friends. Now there are dozens and DOZENS of lives we get to peek into and hold ourselves in fiery crucible over not being as good as . . .

    Great insights, mama.

    My Little Stinking Pony and Her Plastic Posse have completely overrun our house, too. God Bless America.

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  10. You are amazing! You couldn't have posted this at a better time (for me, at least). Thank you for pointing this out and putting it all into perspective.

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  11. What an inspiring and beautiful post.Needed this actually,as I'm going through the same.

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  12. Oh my graciousness!! I am experiencing a revelation about the internet's influence over me! And just since I got up this morning, I have listened to the way I "speak" to myself and it's not pretty! I speak much more kindly to my dog, to be honest.

    I read Beth's book, and thought it didn't much apply to me. No abusive relationships, addiction, etc. I need to go back and do some more reading.

    Wow.

    Nate's Mom

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  13. I love your description of what dinner was ACTUALLY like. That's what it's like here at Chez Wheedleton on most any given day, and though I used to chastise myself for the mess and the chaos, now I embrace it. It's fun! It's definitely not what that oh-so-elusive "they" expect of a "good mom," and I think that's why I like it so much. It makes me laugh, that daily chaos - most of the time. But it took me a long time to get to this point.

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  14. This made me want to come over and kick your inner voice badonkadonk, Megan. (Can I say that on the blog?) Because HOLY COW, if my inner voice said those things to me, it would be dying a painful death.

    Friend, you are NONE of those things. You should absolutely refuse to believe a single iota of a portion of a syllable. We ALL have bad days. NO ONE is on time all the time. We are all HUMAN. And you are BEAUTIFUL. And your kids are SWEET. And Al loves you EXACTLY as you are.

    (Is it OK to yell on the blog? My Daddy was a Baptist preacher; I feel a bit of an anointing coming on.)

    Seriously friend. Refuse to listen to the voice. Replace it with a tape of common sense and God-wisdom. (Beth Moore has a bunch of stuff on that too. Fight mental power with mental power.)

    And if that doesn't work, you call me, girlfriend, and I'll go all monkey-ninja on that "inner voice."

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  15. Thank you so much for this. I really needed to hear it.

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  16. Oh my word . . . I needed to read this today. exactly what I'm feeling most of the day - everyday. Why can't I get it all done and make it look easy?? Thank you for being honest!!

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Thoughts?