I am exceedingly unkind to myself.
I speak to myself in ways I would be ashamed to hear ever coming out of my mouth. I use words I would never use against another person.
And yet, I let myself get away with it. I indulge in beating myself up. I squash myself constantly. Any time I have any sort of impulse or idea that I don’t consider to be right or good enough, this voice – triumphantly evil, malicious, laughing – rises up and fills everything with its poison.
Most of the time, it’s so natural to me to talk to myself this way, I don’t even notice it. Or worse, I do – and I consider it a positive motivational tool.
Sometimes, things go beyond the voice and I find myself exacting self-punishment in a myriad of little ways. I push myself beyond my limits. I deny myself medication because I think I should just learn to cope with the pain. I deny myself food because I think I don’t deserve nourishment, that I am fat, that I need to learn self control.
I only allow myself ‘treats’ – eating, relaxing, watching my favourite shows – if I think I have earned them. I measure myself constantly against my own achievements and find myself wanting. I will never get to the end of the To-Do list. I will never have achieved enough to satisfy myself.
Whose is this internal critical voice, really? Where does it come from? I know that, scientifically, our brains are wired to focus on the negative. The neural pathways towards to the negative open more easily than the ones towards to the positive. That’s why I can get 100 compliments and one mean comment and I will focus on that mean comment for weeks on end until it becomes my own voice.
I think, for me, the voice comes from two main places. It’s social, from both my childhood and from a patriarchal society that tells me I’ll never be good enough no matter what I do, and it’s based in my anxiety and depression.
The Hyperbole and a Half comic on depression has some spot on stuff on this.
I did this test online that’s meant to show your levels of self-compassion. Unsurprisingly, I had pretty close to none.
One of the ways I am learning to combat this is to try and speak to myself as I would speak to a friend. What words would I use? How kind would I be? What advice would I give? What compassion can I offer? This helps me to catch the way that I’m speaking to myself and know that, if it’s not ok to say to someone else, it’s not ok to say to me.
My friend Jem also reminded me of the importance of forgiveness. This is especially huge for me right now, with being so ill and unable to achieve so much of what I feel I should be achieving. I need to be able to just forgive myself – for all sorts of things, like not having a job, and not going out with friends enough, and sometimes needing to just stay in bed and watch movies, and sometimes eating the wrong food because I just get so sick of lettuce, lettuce, lettuce.
Anyway, as you may have seen if you follow me on Twitter, I have decided to try and put my health first for a while. I saw my specialist yesterday and I’m on a new drug for a month to try and get my pain under control. Stress is probably the worst thing for me right now, so if you don’t see me around for a bit – just know that I’m trying to look after myself.
Take care, everyone. Play nice.