“Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself.” This was a piece of advice I received from a mentor, David Singleton, years ago and it is something I have to remind myself of daily. Put another way, don’t believe everything you think! We know cognitively that as humans we have the tendency to be our own biggest critics but we also forget that emotions don’t always reflect reality. Life is tough enough without throwing yourself under the bus.
For example, I don’t take compliments well. I don’t mean I don’t believe them. I mean I have literally argued someone over the merits they were praising me for and offered counter points on why they were wrong. This behavior was something I did subconsciously because I felt people were only saying nice things to be…well nice and I want to assure them that I knew the truth.
“You look so nice today.” “Not really. My hair is frizzy and this dress makes me look fat.”
“I love how you decorated this event.” “It didn’t turn out the way I wanted but I just dealt with it.”
“You were always smart in school.” “Not like so and so. They scored way higher on their ACT than I did.”
I did not feel pretty or talented or smart and I didn’t want someone to think that I was foolish enough to believe what they were saying was true. Also, I secretly feared agreeing with someone and them saying “Just kidding! You’re a joke!”. (Side note: This has actually happened to me so… better safe, than sorry, right?) Here’s the thing, though, not only is this behavior incredibly rude to the giver of the compliment, it reinforced the fears that these comments came from in the first place.
I spent years in a vicious cycle of cringing every time someone appreciated something I did. Something I may have worked very hard for but didn’t feel I necessarily deserved. Finally, my sweet and very observant mother sat me down and pointed out how negative this behavior was and asked me to make a conscientious effort to accept all compliments which would require me to recognize the moment, think before I spoke and basically keep my mouth shut. It didn’t take me long to realize my safest bet was to say thank you regardless of my feelings about someone else’s opinion. I’m going to be honest, a lot of those thank yous were said through gritted teeth with an ugly heart but it was a step to shutting down the inner monologue of doubt and negativity.
In the end, on top of fixing my outward reaction, I learned to “talk to myself” after these moments. “Bailey, they didn’t have to compliment your hair. They obviously like it today. Stop being so critical of yourself. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). If God says you are beautiful, who are you to disagree?” And you know what? It has helped.
Am I always positive and kind to myself? Definitely, not! This is something I struggle with daily but I think as women, we are so quick to offer compassion and mercy to everyone but ourselves and we need to be aware of that issue. I love encouraging and building people up. I love writing cards and giving happys. I love making people feel special and it makes me so joyful but I often steal that joy from someone who is trying to be that for me. I think we view ourselves under a microscope and assume the world does the same but that’s just not true and those that do view us that way are to be pitied but not taken to heart.
So, sister, the next time those doubts and negative feelings creep into your heart, tell yourself to shut up and remind yourself of WHO and WHOSE you are!