Something I feel that I’m actually quite good at is making fun of myself. Whenever I fail or I do something stupid/ridiculous/weird, I opt to crack a joke at my own expense. Experience has taught me, it is better that I do it myself than leave the opportunity available to someone else. I’m also quite good at ‘seeming’ modest (Yes, I see the irony here as I brag about my modesty and self-deprecating comedy skills). Another way to describe this would be saying that I devalue myself. I’ll say things like “I’ll do my best, but don’t expect too much” and “I’m really not great at doing that, it’s not going to be very good”. When I do complete a task, say cooking some of the best breakfast potatoes of all time, I’m most likely saying to my family, “meh, they’re just alright”.
A couple of weeks ago, I was mid-self-deprecation, something excessively negative about my inability to wake up in the morning without hitting snooze for 2 hours and therefore failing at adult life, when my friend cut me off. He said to me, “Woah. Cut that out. More positive self-talk, less of whatever that was”. His comment got me thinking. I definitely am my own biggest critic and do put myself down, a lot. I hadn’t really seen that as potentially problematic until my friend made that comment. Upon reflection, I am not the only one who does this. Although negative self-talk is not a reality unique to women, I do feel that we seem to really struggle with positively sharing our strengths and qualities with others. Each one of us has some skills and qualities that are worth bragging about. It can be very hard for us to list off reasons why we rock. It’s not because we aren’t awesome, we are. For many of us, it can be really difficult to identify positive qualities about ourselves.
Absolutely there is negativity coming from all sorts of places, some macro examples being the media and our peers. Absolutely these influences have major impacts on our self-esteem. And absolutely it is a huge challenge to modify these major influences (not to say that we shouldn’t be continually trying to change these negative influences). However, I believe a huge contributor to this difficulty in having a positive self-image is all of the negativity we throw at ourselves. So I suggest trying something very micro. Positive self-talk.
You may be saying…”What now? What is this self-talk you speak of? Please, tell me more.” I’m so glad you asked. So positive self-talk is not a new concept. Essentially, it is the idea that instead of all those negative, self-depreciating, garbage thoughts we have towards ourselves, we should make a conscious effort to have positive thoughts and speak positively about ourselves. In theory, more positive self-talk equals higher self-confidence and self-esteem, happiness, the whole bit. Radical idea, right?
To illustrate; when I get into that place of feeling down about my lack of motivation to get moving in the morning, I need to shift to thinking about all of the things that I’ve got a really good handle on in my life, things that I’m doing really well at. An example being how recently I’ve found the motivation to get fit and make it to the gym five days a week on average. “YAY ME!” I’m doing a great job and soon I’ll be able to lift a car off of somebody trapped beneath if I ever come across that situation (I seriously hope this never happens). When I think about how awesome I’m doing in that area of my life, I feel better about myself and more motivated to make it out of bed after hitting snooze only 3 times.
Some great examples of positive self-talk: standing in front of the mirror and focusing on all the things you love about your body, looking back on your day and thinking of all the things you have accomplished (every little thing, you’ll be surprised by the number), thinking of all of the progress you have made with a particular project, remembering your strength and resiliency from loss, trauma and adversity you have overcome, thinking of the many things you never thought you would but have achieved in your life, big and small. Find what works for you! I’m not saying this is easy to do. I am saying it’s worth the effort though. The more you try to think in a self-positive way, the more you start to naturally think that way. I’m not saying I’m great at it yet, I have definitely made good progress. I’m trying to make less jokes at my own expense and instead focus on my awesomeness. I’m trying to not be shy to tell my family how great those breakfast potatoes are. I’m trying to use positive self-talk and so far it’s going well. You should give it a try too!