You know those times in life when you’re going about your day, living life happily, and you get a phone call that changes your entire mood? Now, I’m not talking about the Earth shattering types of phone calls, but the ones that just remind you of a past due bill or an unpleasant meeting you need to attend, or something of that nature? Well, I had one of those phone calls the other day. My dear friend Sallie Mae made that dreaded call and afterwards I began doing a downward spiral into self-hate. That spiral is familiar territory for me, and one that I have worked for years to avoid and find productive outlets for. Thankfully, with age and experience I am more attuned to my own habits, triggers, and potential pitfalls. This knowledge has allowed me to reduce the amount of time I spend being angry or mad at myself, and change my train of thinking to be more productive.
Now that I am older, I wish someone had told me that being mean to myself is not only self-abuse, it’s counterproductive. For years, I have struggled with my weight and no amount of calling myself names, has helped me to lose weight, just as no amount of calling myself a failure the other day was helping me make money to repay Sallie Mae. In fact, my little pity party was distracting me from work I had to do to actually earn an income. After a few moments of my own self-pity, I used a few strategies that helped me get back on track, so I could refocus my energy on what it is I needed to get done that day, and back on the road to earning an income, so I could repay my loan.
Here are a few strategies that help me stop being mean to myself:
- Yell STOP! OK no, I don’t say this out loud, but I do say it in my head at a high level. When I start saying things like, “I’m a failure” or I start lamenting on my “shoulda, woulda, couldas” a firm STOP! Often helps the thoughts to scatter. It’s sort of like a mind trick. The thoughts seem to be on repeat, where they just keep going and going, and yelling something simple like stop, helps to break up the momentum, and send those thoughts on their merry way.
- Tell yourself something you either did well or appreciate about yourself. For example, when I get down about owing student loans, I tell myself how much I paid last month, or the credit card bill I recently paid off. Sometimes, it can seem overwhelming when we are only thinking about how much we still have to pay, or how much weight we still need to lose, or any other task that seems so far away. However, when we are able to think back and look at how far we have come, it helps the burden seem a little lighter.
- Make a plan. Big overwhelming tasks, goals, or challenges are discouraging when we look at the entirety of what needs to get done. If we are able to break these down into smaller, more attainable objectives, we tend to feel less paralyzed. When we are constantly berating ourselves, we end up paralyzing ourselves. Making a plan, no matter how small the individual goals are, is the first step in the chipping away process.
- Do something nice for yourself. I will go into more detail about where I first learned this phrase and who taught it to me, in a later post. For now, I will say that we all deserve to put ourselves on our own ‘to do’ lists and do something nice for ourselves, on a daily basis. This can be something small and minute or all the way up to treating yourself to a once in a lifetime vacation. Simple, nice things you can do for yourself include: painting your nails, taking yourself out do dinner or a movie, putting a small amount of money in savings to save up for a vacation, wearing a cute outfit, or even taking a nap when you’re run down. These things are small, but they remind us to treat ourselves with the love and respect we deserve.
These are just some of the things I have used over the years that have helped me, when I really want to get down on myself. While, at times, it is a challenge to quit being so mean to myself, I find having some quick “go-tos” help me to get out of my negative mindset, and help me to refocus on what it is I need to do, and who I need to take care of most—myself.
With all that said, have you ever berated yourself inwardly? What do you do to stop being so mean to yourself?