Listen to yourself

We’d never speak to another person the way we speak to ourselves.

If we did, we’d be pretty unpopular and I’m sure we’d end up living solitary lives.

In listening to people, I’m often saddened to hear the self-deprecating and self-critical remarks they make about themselves. It’s a cultural trend to put ourselves down and dismiss or minimize our positive attributes. It’s not helpful to thriving.

Recently, I was listening to a client speak negatively about herself. It was shocking, but not something new to me.

I repeated what she’d said about herself back to her.  I used the same words and tone of voice as she had, and the same facial expressions.

She looked shocked and hurt as her eyes grew wide.  I’d insulted her greatly, but I’d used her own words, not mine.

Once her shock passed and she saw the patient smile on my face, she got it. I was only repeating to her what she was continually saying to herself. Hearing someone else say it back to her was shocking.

She smiled as she understood.

Although it’s not uncommon for us to speak negatively about ourselves, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for most people. It’s the internal dialogue in our minds, our self-talk, that’s often even more abusive.

It wasn’t surprising that my client revealed her internal dialogue was much worse than what she’d expressed verbally. She had a habit of telling herself she was stupid, not enough, and even an idiot.

Every time something didn’t go well, she’d tell herself it was all to be expected, because she was a loser.

Her bedtime stories to herself were a rehash of the day’s challenges and a review of her own perceived shortcomings. No wonder she couldn’t sleep.

Any of the wins or accomplishments in her life were glossed over or ignored. She didn’t pay much attention to those or take time to revel in her own success.

I asked if she’d ever hang out with a person who spoke to her the same way she was speaking about herself. She paused as she shook her head slowly.

“Never!  I’d avoid them like the plague. That’s abusive.”

Yes, it’s abusive, whether it’s toward another or toward ourselves.

I suggested she imagine what she’d say to a loved one in the same circumstance.

  • Would she remind them all of their perceived faults and failings? 
  • Would she tell them they were an idiot and a failure?

No, not in a million years, she’d encourage them.

Not surprisingly, she’d grown depressed and her health had suffered. She’d been practising the same, abusive habits of mind her whole life and her health was bearing the consequence.

Our bodies don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Repeated mental habits show up in our bodies as they respond to the thought and feeling atmosphere of our minds.

The good news is we can change these negative habits of mind with awareness and choice.

Start to listen to yourself, to the internal and external dialogue. Stand back and ask if it’s really true, and if such rhetoric is helpful in supporting you in living a happy and prosperous life.

Become your own best friend. Imagine what you’d say to a person you love or care about. Begin to give yourself encouragement, even compliments, and celebrate life’s accomplishments.

Self-kindness and self-compassion are much more effective in supporting a happy and healthy life than criticism ever was.

Give it a try.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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