How hard are you on yourself? If you’re like me, berating yourself comes naturally. Thinking you’re making a dog’s dinner of your career/raising the kids/your relationships etc comes naturally. Kicking yourself while you’re down comes naturally. Always assuming the worst comes naturally.
Over the last 12 months, though, I realised I needed to become my own best friend. Part of the process of doing this meant that I had to take a hard look at my self-talk, especially when something had gone wrong. “You idiot.” “What the hell did you do that for?!” “Why the hell are you feeling like that you fool?” “Typical you, Andrea.” These are just some of the things that regularly came up.
I was a chronic negative thinker. My natural reaction was to always assume the worst about a given situation. To think that if someone acted a bit weirdly with me, it meant they hated me. To think that if I made a small mistake at work, I was an idiot and I was bound to get fired. To think that if George Clooney ever met me, he wouldn’t fall so madly in love with me that he’d immediately leave Amal and come begging for my hand in marriage (there may be a slight shred of truth in that last one…).
It takes time to reprogram the way you think; these are habits of a lifetime, after all. You have to first observe this self-talk and ask yourself: “Would I ever say something like this to a good friend?” The answer is, of course, no. So why say these things to yourself? When I started thinking like this, slowly but surely, my thought patterns started to shift.
You have to first observe this self-talk and ask yourself – “Would I ever say something like this to a good friend?”
A couple of weeks ago I started a two-week freelance gig at a well-known international magazine, where I was managing their website. I may run two blogs, but I didn’t have experience in something of this kind of magnitude. I was stressed and I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to do a good job. It was a busy role; not only did I have to get used to a different style of writing (I’m mostly a features writer and the majority of the stuff they post is newsy), but I also had to get to grips with their backend systems – the CRM etc. All in the space of two weeks and with only a day of handover.
When I felt myself getting overwhelmed, I realised that this was the time to really put everything that I had learnt over the last year into practice. I refused to berate myself for being slower than normal. I refused to berate myself for having to check things more than I usually need to. I refused to berate myself for feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Instead, it was kind of like being a team coach – I told myself no one gets it perfect from day one. I told myself that I could do this. I told myself that I have plenty of proof from past experiences that I’m good at what I do and that I could also handle this.
By the second week, I relaxed into the role and ended up loving it. Sure, I was still stressed at times, but the positive self-talk was helping. I kept reminding myself that as long as I was trying my darn best, then it was good enough. That ultimately, this wasn’t life or death – even if I made a mistake, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
A few days back I got an email from the lovely lady whom I was substituting while she was on leave. It turns out, she was really pleased with my performance and the website’s stats had been good in her absence. I had done a really good job! The sense of relief I felt was immeasurable. Not to mention the sense of pride – I had done it and no one had been harmed in the process (and by no one, I mean me).
This experience will now go in the ‘memory bank’ of moments in which I was dealt a difficult hand and I managed to do a darn good job in the end. That way, the next time I find myself in a situation like this I can remind myself that if I managed to handle it once I can definitely handle it again.
My point is, the things you tell yourself are so important. More important than anything anyone else will tell you.
My point is, the things you tell yourself are so important. More important than anything anyone else will tell you. Of course it’s important to have trusted family members and friends whom we can talk to when things are a bit rough and difficult. But at the end of the day, when you’re in bed at night, you’re left with your own thoughts. When you’re handling a difficult situation in real time, you’re left with your own thoughts. When close friends are out of town and you have no one to talk to, you’re left with your own thoughts.
And this is where being your own best friend comes into play. If you’re not sure of how this works or what kind of things you need to be reprogramming yourself to think, simply consider the things you’d say to a close friend when they’re going a tough time. “You can do this.” “Remember when xyz happened and you handled it in xyz way. You proved that xyz.” “Take it easy on yourself, you’re only human.” “We all make mistakes at time, it’s normal.” “I think you should read a good book/take yourself for dinner/treat yourself to xyz to make yourself feel a bit better.”
I invite you all to consider your own self-talk over the next few days, bearing what I’ve written in mind. And, without judgment, think of how you can change this self-talk in order for it to be more in line with what your best friend would say to you. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this small exercise has changed my quality of life dramatically; thanks to becoming my own best friend, not only has my self-talk become a lot more positive, but I’ve also found myself being less likely to tolerate other people treating me badly. Just like I’d advise a good friend to not tolerate poor behaviour from someone, I now also no longer tolerate it (instead of self-questioning and wondering what *I* had perhaps done for the other person to treat me this way).
As a result, my life is also more peaceful. So try it – it could really change your life.