Picture this. Your best friend in the whole world comes to you and pours out her heart. She’s made a terrible mistake, and her heart is wounded; she needs healing. So you say to her, “Well, that’s no surprise. You’ve always been stupid. You never do anything right. What did you expect? Don’t you remember thirty-four years ago, you made the same mistake? Why don’t you learn? You’re so dense.”
Okay. So you would never say those mean and hurtful things to your best friend, would you? Of course not; she wouldn’t be a friend for long if you did. And yet, we talk to ourselves that way all the time.
That cruel, awful voice that reminds us every time we think we’ve messed up, the one that’s been with us since we were little bitty poots, that tells us we’re incompetent or stupid or thoughtless or whatever word will hurt the most, and that we can never ever change.
It took me decades to learn, but I have pretty much turned off that voice. I found a cassette tape back in the late eighties by Shad Helmstetter called “What To Say When You Talk to Yourself.” It was just after my first divorce, and I was at a really low place in my life. As I told my pastor, I had to force myself to go for walks, because I didn’t feel like I had a right to walk on the same sidewalks as the good people. That’s pretty low.
But I started listening to that cassette a couple of times a day, and it made a huge difference. It helped me learn to speak gently to myself, the way I would speak to my best friend. Slowly, my wounded psyche started to heal.
There have been many teachers since then, but Shad started it all for me. I try to be as kind to myself as I would be to my friend. I give myself the benefit of the doubt, and I try not to say mean things to me, because I know that I’m doing the best I can.
That doesn’t mean I don’t hold myself to a high standard. I’m not a brat who can’t be corrected. That’s not what I mean at all. I still chastise myself when I need it, but instead of name-calling and demeaning, I try to reflect on the situation and figure out why and how I blew it and how not to blow it next time.
I would encourage you to listen to what you say to yourself. If it’s unkind or downright mean, you might want to work on that. There’s only one person you’re going to be with every minute for the rest of your life, and that’s yourself. You might as well be friends with you.