It’s been a busy few days, so I’ll keep it short and salty. This week I want to talk about something I think is essential for good mental health: cutting the crap when it comes to self-talk.
What is self-talk? Any words you say about yourself, essentially. I’ve really noticed recently how frequently people run themselves down. In the workplace, amongst friends—I constantly see people talking negatively about themselves. There’s a sliding scale of this, from rejecting compliments to actively slating themselves.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m British, I know it’s Not The Done Thing to big yourself up. But there’s a difference between comical self-deprecation and constant critique. It’s time we reassessed, for two key reasons:
- It’s damaging to your mental health. You know how it’s hard to rub your belly and pat your head simultaneously? It’s also tricky to have a genuinely positive mind-set when you’re constantly spewing negativity about yourself.
- It’s fundamentally unfair to other people. The example I see most often is fatness; I regularly witness women (myself included, though I try not to, now) talk constantly about their loathing for their bodies. How fat they are, how grotesque. I have real sympathy for this; I know how paralysing body dysmorphia is. But if you talk constantly about how fat you are, I can almost promise you you’re upsetting someone else. I see size eight women calling themselves disgusting, in front of women who are double their size. And what does that reassert? I’m not good enough, and you aren’t either.
Of course it’s not intentional. Again, I am compassionate, but increasingly, I’m incredulous. You’re not just tearing yourself down—you’re tearing down the people around you.
Believe me, I know how it feels to have poor self image. But (revolutionary thought, I know) if you have poor self image… you don’t always have to have it. And you sure as hell don’t have to reinforce it in your own mind by talking about it every twenty minutes.
So, rant over—and on to the positive. What steps can we take to cut the negative crap and talk about ourselves more kindly?
- First, learn to accept compliments instead of rebuffing them. This week, I overheard my yoga teacher compliment somebody’s hair. This girl was rocking a straight Pocahontas do, alongside some pretty flawless downward dogs. No word of a lie, she replied by saying ‘oh no, it’s awful, I need to get it cut!’ Can’t we just… accept it, when someone says something nice? Is it that hard?
- Next, train yourself to cut the crap. Every time you go to speak negatively about yourself, force yourself to stop, crumple up the words and throw them in your mind-bin. Self-love and good mental health are more likely to come when you stop spouting a never-ending ream of shit about yourself.
- Finally (and I appreciate the difficulty of this for all of my fellow Brits)… learn to compliment yourself. Own your brilliance. Last week at work, we were shooting the shit on a Friday afternoon, asking each other deep life questions. ‘What’s your favourite thing about yourself?’ I asked. The appalled silence that followed, and the hesitancy of the answers that followed, speaks volumes about how incapable we are of owning even one really good thing about ourselves. And this is sad, because this was a group of women that I think are truly fantastic humans.
None of this is easy, but it is important. But people will think I’m arrogant! Yes, they might. But do you actually want to be friends with people who think you’re arrogant because you don’t talk shit about yourself constantly?
For your happiness’ sake, I hope not.
Love Nic x
*Note: this doesn’t mean I think nobody should talk about feeling crappy. When my mental health was at its lowest, I needed to talk often and at length about a lot of negative stuff. Your feelings are valid. But there’s a difference between discussing your feelings and slating yourself relentlessly. A good litmus test is this: if you say something negative about yourself, imagine how you would feel if you overheard somebody say that about your mum. ‘My mum is having a really tough mental health day and feels awful about herself’: fine. ‘My mum is a fat, useless waste of space’: not so good.