The words your parents said to you defined how you thought about yourself, your world and your place in it. As a small child, we looked up to these wiser and more experienced beings, and we trusted them completely.
In many cases, however, these parents didn’t have positive upbringings themselves, and they were just grown children trying to work through negativity and control placed on them when they were younger.
Even after we grow up and go out into the world on our very own adventures, we often bring those words with us whether we like it or not. Try as hard as we may, the imprinting words of insensitive parents can follow us for decades. The words reverberate inside our own heads as the story we tell ourselves about who we are, about what we deserve, and about what we’re capable of.
In my own journey from a tumultuous childhood, I’ve had to cultivate self worth and positive self talk very much on my own. The one thing that forced me into more therapy than normal humans could ever handle was being an imperfect parent myself.
But I look at these children and I see that, even though I was imperfect, I broke a very damaging cycle and did so very imperfectly. All I could do was what I could at the time. But the one thing I did was approach parenting with presence. Being present as much as I could in the moments that mattered meant that I had to be vulnerable. I had to apologize. I had to be honest and transparent and let them know I didn’t have all of the answers.
It seems to have worked, for the most part. Sure, there are regrets of wishing I spent more time with them. But I at least have a sense of peace that I know I broke cycles of emotional abuse and I did right by them, as much as I could.
And even still, though I’ve worked very hard to change how I talk to myself, I still find times where I compartmentalize others’ behavior and make excuses for it when I probably shouldn’t.
There are so many examples where the words people heard when they were younger left scars, where a parent or teacher or coach said things that left permanent wounds that they continue to unconsciously attempt to resolve in present-day relationships. And while those parents/teachers may no longer be in their lives, the damaging words carry forward in their minds. They don’t mean to hurt the people around them, but their inability to make sense of what happened when they were younger gets acted out as their psyche attempts to resolve unresolved mental trauma.
As such, I use these experiences to learn and to better myself. In the end, the only thing we can control is our reaction to events and situations. So by using all experiences as an impetus for self improvement, at least we can take difficult situations and turn them into self growth.
So, let’s change our words. I’m by no means more than a mere armchair psychologist, so take it all with a grain of salt.
How to Improve Your Mental Chatter
Recognize your triggers. Yeah, they’re out there. Certain personality types and/or events and circumstances might cause you to slide into negative self talk. For me, I know I am there when I start to feel anxiety. When I think I don’t have time to take a break or meditate, that is when I know that I need to sit and quiet myself for 10 minutes and observe the feelings coming up from a distance.
Recognize your emotions. All stress comes from our interpretation of events, not from the event itself. A Course in Miracles teaches that everything either comes from a place of fear or a place of love. When you get that dualistic interpretation down, you can start to recognize how anger, frustration, anxiety, and nearly every negative emotion can be traced back to a likely irrational fear.
Comedy. Nothing has helped me more than a good laugh. Am I having a laugh at a negative situation? You betcha I am. Some of my best humor and favorite moments have come after a trying event. Comedy heals, even raw, insensitive comedy. Find a friend with whom you can laugh about your fears and anxiety.
Force feed positive affirmations. Yeah, say them even if you don’t feel them. I’ve been a bit under the weather in a very odd way this week, and I’ve been telling myself that I feel good in my body. My body’s bs detector is going off, but I know eventually I will get back to feeling good again. And that won’t happen unless I focus on feeling better.
Put yourself in 3rd position. Meaning, put yourself into a role of a friend. Would you say these things to your best friend? What would you say if your best friend said the things you’re thinking about themselves? We’re often very unforgiving of ourselves while we encourage those we love to celebrate themselves. So, pony up. Treat yourself like your BFF<3.
Be selective with those you communicate with. Have that negative Nelly in your life? Maybe it’s time to take a break, or maybe it’s time to tell them you really need them to up their game if they want to be in the inner circle of the magic that is your life. It’s okay. If they love you, they will. And if they don’t, do you really have time for that?
Gratitude. Often we get down because the problems seem insurmountable or we’re comparing our life to someone else. You will never be someone else, and you should really have gratitude for that, honestly a lot of the people I’ve compared myself to over the years didn’t warrant the comparison. Find the smallest thing you can find gratitude for, and feel it. Maybe it’s just that you know what wp-config.php salts are and your mother will never understand that. Hey, it’s something right? It could be just that you have a computer, internet, and that you can write whatever you want. Maybe it’s that you have a great dog, cat, or houseplants. Did I mention I like plants?
Be bold. Whatever you want in life, believe that you can have it. Against all odds, you can do it, you deserve it, and it will happen for you. I remember walking through the forests in Mount Shasta and not really knowing what I wanted or what I could do, and my life eventually answered that question quite loudly. I sort of wish I didn’t have to leave the ever-burning forests of northern California to find it all, but someday I’ll have that back, too. You. Only. Have. One. Life. Well, as you at least, but that is another treatise. This is it for Kathy Zant, I know that much. So I must be bold and do what makes my heart sing. The story you need to tell yourself in your head MUST be bold.
Let go of your need to control. I read recently “You cannot stop what is meant to be, just like you cannot force what is not meant to be into being.” I wish I knew who I could credit with that wisdom, but take it if it works for you knowing I’m not so smart to come up with that. Sure there’s the whole debate about fate vs. freewill, but in my experience, I’ve taken the long way to the place I need to be. But the place I need to be is happening whether I like it or not.
Dump it out. Whether you’re doing insane amounts of therapy or simple writing Morning Pages to get it all out, clearing your mind of the fear-based negative thinking helps put it all in proper perspective and gives you space to think about what could happen that is positive and good. It gives you space to be you, to play, to have fun, and to set effective boundaries of what is acceptable in your world.
I am sure there are more things you can do to help your mindset. What are some of yours? You can write me and let me know.