Had a great massage today with Dave, my gifted therapist. I love that man. Unless I’m in extreme pain, I am usually pretty chatty while he’s working on me. We catch up on each other’s lives, solve the problems of the world, and even manage to work some jokes in. (That’s David’s arena — I can’t remember jokes to save my soul. He tells them, I promise to pass them on to Mr. Stuck, and then normally I forget. So there’s that.)
One of the things we talked about today was my last post and the whole topic of self-esteem. Since he hadn’t had the chance to read it yet, I related the details to him and told him that the mental component of this change is probably the toughest part of the whole shebang. The WLS Fairy does not swoop down and grant you confidence and self-esteem with a wave of her bariatric wand. No, you’re still fighting the same demons you did before: fear, self-loathing, and doubt.
Everyone has something about themselves they don’t like. That’s universal. But some folks dwell on it so much that they allow it to paralyze them, or they decide that they are worthless because of it. I mentioned in my previous post that it was easy for me to refer to myself with negativity because that’s how I felt. I didn’t look in the mirror and see a woman with a quirky personality, compassion and sense of humor; I didn’t see someone who has a successful career; I didn’t see the person my friends and family see. I saw something entirely different, something that seemed to negate any good things that were also there. I let the negative outweigh the positive, and that just fed on itself.
They say you have to love yourself. Yeah. Hard to love someone who’s calling you names. The things we tell ourselves — some of them we wouldn’t say to our worst enemy. Dave told me that for most of his life, when he would mess something up or make a mistake, he would chide himself. “That was stupid.” “You dummy, why weren’t you more careful?” “I’m such an idiot!” He realized that this self-talk was not making him do a better job or be more careful; it was confirming to him that he was stupid, incompetent, and foolish. He said, “If I had messed something up, I would yell at myself; but if I fixed it, I never gave myself credit; after all, it was my fault to begin with.”
So he decided that he needed to stop that habit. Each time he’d berate himself, he’d stop and apologize. Out loud. He was amazed at how often he said those things without even realizing it; the awareness was a lesson in itself. After he had curbed that negative talk, he began to compliment himself. Out loud, like his rebukes had been. He’d finish something and sit back and say, “Good job. Nice work.”
He said after a while of doing this, he realized he was feeling better and more confident. Instead of reinforcing the negative, he reinforced the positive. (“Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the positive/E-lim-inate the negative/and latch on to the affirmative/don’t mess with Mr. In-between” as the song goes.) What a great piece of advice!
I told him about my friend Jon, who put it to me another way. One day, we were talking about his work day, which had been horribly stressful. His boss was in a bad mood and seemed determined to make everyone around him as miserable as he was. Jon, however, had an irrepressible good mood; he lived life with a smile and a laugh. I asked him how he managed to stay so upbeat when his boss was so negative, and he said, “When someone insults you or shows disrespect, that’s their problem.” He said, “Imagine if they handed you a nasty, slimy slug and told you to eat it. Would you? Of course not! It’s the same thing — someone trying to bring you down is handing you a slug to eat. Don’t eat the slug.”
He’s right, you know. The great Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Over the years, we give ourselves permission to say the awful, hurtful things about ourselves that we do. We allow the erosion of our spirit and degradation of self. We do it to ourselves — maybe because we really believe it, or maybe because we tell ourselves it’s easier to hear from our own lips than from others’. Maybe we do it because we don’t know any better.
David, who still catches himself mid-scold sometimes, challenged me to do what he did and stop the trash talk. And I accept. I would never talk that way to a friend or family member, nor would I allow anyone else to talk that way to someone I cared about. So why would I allow myself to be so cruel to the one person who is always there, no matter what? Why would I weaken and diminish my strengths and demean the good person I am? It needs to stop.
Don’t eat the slug.
photo credit: wwarby