How To Talk to Yourself: A Guide That is More Useful Than You Think

Even if we don’t want to admit it, self-deprecating comments play a massive role in the conversations we have with ourselves throughout our daily lives. I cannot go one day without calling myself a stupid idiot for making classic, harmless mistakes like forgetting to switch my laundry, sleeping past my alarm, or letting my leftovers sit in the fridge a day longer than they should have. In class, I tell myself I’m the worst student because I bombed a test or didn’t quite pay enough attention to answer the professor’s question perfectly. They even come up in social life – I hear my friends and I constantly tell ourselves that we “suck” because we got busy and forgot to text the other back as soon as we should have.

            Although we might not think about how this language affects our well-being, it’s important to understand that the saying “treat others how you want to be treated” goes both ways. I would never tell someone that they’re a failure because they turned an assignment in late. I cannot imagine myself telling my best friend that she’s disgusting because she has one (or maybe several) empty fast food bags on the floor of her car. If it truly is so rude and insulting to talk to other people like this, why are we so comfortable doing it to ourselves? The truth is that for some reason, people tend to develop this way of thinking that other people deserve respect, but if we disrespect our own self, it’s not so bad. Since we’re not saying these things to another person with their own separate emotions and feelings, we can play it off as if we’re just joking and we don’t really think of ourselves that way; we are quick to “forgive” ourselves to move on with our days. It’s time to realize that this way of thinking is toxic to our self-esteem and does not pass as a “joke” anymore when we actually start to believe what we’re saying to ourselves.

            Just to clarify: it is okay to want to better yourself. If you are aware that you’re not the most organized person in the world, and your room looks like a tornado blew through it, it is perfectly normal to want to change that. But changing small parts of your lifestyle with the intent of being more productive is possible without verbally abusing yourself in the process. I personally really enjoy taking breaks while doing homework. Often times, I catch myself taking hour long breaks instead of the 10-minute one I originally intended. It makes me feel like crap. Normally, my thoughts on the situation would be something like: “I’m not smart enough to focus for more than 15 minutes, I am a moron, I shouldn’t even be in school.” but I’ve been trying to reroute and change my way of thinking to: “Woops. I made a mistake. I can’t get that time back now, but I can move forward and be better for the rest of my study time.” Practicing simple redirecting of the conversation (yes, the conversation with yourself) is one small thing that we can do to try to help our overall well-being.

            Not talking down to yourself is much easier said than done, but it’s so necessary to start trying. It’s going to take a lot of stepping back, reflecting, rerouting, and learning how to treat yourself with kindness the same way you would other people. Let’s stop thinking of ourselves as people with disposable feelings that we can worry about healing later. Let’s stop telling ourselves that since we’re only being mean to us, it doesn’t hurt as much. Let’s start empowering ourselves the same way we try to empower other people.

Go easy on yourself for once.