Change the Conversation | By: Susie Trigg Tucker
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Ugh. As a person who loves and values words very much, I have always absolutely despised this saying. It’s simply just not true. We have all been on both sides of hurtful words. Can you recall something hurtful someone has said to you? Of course you can. Can you recall something hurtful you’ve said to a loved one? Of course you can. Words may not break our bones, but they certainly can pack a hard and sometimes long-lasting punch.
Now think about a time your best friend/sister/daughter/son, etc. came to you because they felt down about something. Maybe they bombed a test, flubbed up a presentation at work, or felt insecure in their bathing suit at the pool party. What did you say? I’m willing to bet that you spoke to them kindly, affirmed them, assured them it’s not the end of the world, and asked them not to beat themselves up about it. Sound about right? When our loved ones turn to us with their troubles, we usually choose our words carefully and handle them with care.
We are quick to shower words of encouragement, love and grace to others, but when it comes to the way we speak to ourselves, why are we so quick to spew negativity?
Remember Homer Simpson, with the angel Homer perched on one shoulder and the devil Homer on the other? Depicting our good/bad conscience as an angel and devil talking in each ear is pretty accurate, but I think there’s a third character that looms around, and she’s queen bee over both of them. She’s a real bitch mean girl. She perches on a chaise lounge and looks down her nose at us while she pops bon bons and files her nails. She’s ice cold and I imagine personified, she looks something like Cruella Deville or maybe Anna Wintour. She excels at shame and self-doubt and she pushes our buttons with her pointy toe heels. You know the one I’m talking about. She’s the one who says our life isn’t good enough, we don’t have enough, we’re not enough. She’s the one who tells us we’re too old, too different, too fat, too dumb, too inexperienced… She’s the one who says we don’t deserve happiness and that we’re not worthy of love. She compares us to the highlight reel of our friends’ lives on Facebook and Instagram and laughs at us because ours is not as seemingly fabulous. She’s obnoxious and she talks nonstop and yet for some reason, she seems to be the loudest voice we hear.
If we heard someone speaking to our loved one that way, we wouldn’t stand for it. But yet we allow ourselves to speak, listen to, and accept these hurtful and damaging words that we play over and over in our heads. Those words hurt us. It’s time we change the conversation. If we’re allowing the inner voice that puts us down and tells us we’re not enough and not worthy of happiness to play on repeat, we are depriving ourselves of authenticity and true happiness. Whatever or whoever put those thoughts in your head, you have the power to change them.
Just as you have come to believe negative things about yourself, you can begin to believe positive things about yourself. You are strong. You are worthy. You have the control and power over your thoughts. Claim it and own it! One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past nine months of therapy is how to change my inner conversation to positive self-talk and it has really changed my lens on life.
Here are a few tips to help you put this into practice.
Learn to Listen.
I believe the first step toward change is acknowledgement. Sometimes you don’t hear that snarky voice outright. Often we run on negativity autopilot and don’t even realize we’re self-depreciating. Begin to really pay attention and connect the dots to your behaviors, and the thoughts and feelings that are attached to them. When you pause and acknowledge what is happening, you’re breaking up the negativity cycle already.
I found myself being really short and snappy with my family for no reason. Or at least I thought there was no reason. When I learned to listen, then I had to be still with what I heard. When I saw that behavior of irritability with my family starting to emerge, I had to stop to take a minute and dig deep to think about why I was acting that way. What I found was it was an autopilot response to me feeling bad about something I had been beating myself up about. It was important for me to then apologize to my family for my behavior toward them. Then I would say a silent affirmation, like “I have a family that loves me at my best and worst. I am a good mother and wife. I am proud of myself for saying I’m sorry.”
When I first started practicing intentional self-talk through affirmations and positive words to myself, I’ll admit that I heard the bitch mean girl voice pretty loudly. She would say things like “You’re lying to yourself.” or “This is so fn cheesy.” Positive thoughts made her really uncomfortable. It helped me to have a script of some sort in response to different thoughts. If I was beating myself up about something that happened with the kids or husband, I would say “They love you no matter what. You are a great mother and wife and you love them more than anything.” If it was body issues I was beating myself up over, I would say “Your body is strong and healthy. It has shown up for you every day of your life. It’s time to start respecting and loving it.”
If you feel super awkward, pick one script for one thing you tend to beat yourself up about a lot. Ask yourself…If my best friend told me she hated her body (or whatever the issue is), what would I tell her? Whatever your response is, tailor it to your situation and say it to yourself. Every time you have a negative thought about that, repeat your script.
Don’t Give Up.
Changing your inner voice doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re like me and have spent most of your life entertaining negative thoughts about yourself, it will likely be a lifelong progression, but we can do it. Like with every new habit, practice makes perfect progress. Slowly but surely, the shrill voice from my wicked queen of shame is visiting less often and sounding further away. I still have bad moments, days, or sometimes even whole weeks, but I know what to do to turn it around. The important thing is, do your best, don’t give up, and when those bad days/weeks come along, pick yourself up and turn it around.
I’ve come so far, but still have so far to go. One thing I know is I don’t have time to go back.
By: Susie Trigg Tucker
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