Although this is from one of my favorite comedy sketches, I wish it was an accurate portrayal of how I truly felt about myself!
Instead, my head is filled with Daily De-affirmations. In my teens to single adulthood I told myself things like, "I'm not smart; I'm stupid. My teacher is going to hate this project I just spent 16 hours doing. No one wants to be my friend. Even if that guy DID take me on a date, he'd regret it. I'm no fun; I'm boring. I don't have any unique talents. And, doggone it, I'm not pretty".
Since beginning motherhood I've told myself things like, "I'm a terrible mother. I can't ask for help because people will feel put out. No one has the time anyway. I'm annoying. I must be surrounded by a force field that pushes people away. No one wants to be my friend. Why blog? I'm not a good writer. And, doggone it, I'm not pretty."
Why the worry about being pretty? I dunno. I wish I never thought about it.
A constant voice inside by head screams, "YOU ARE UNWORTHY OF BEING LOVED!"
No amount of nice remarks, loving gestures, encouragement, etc. helps change the way I feel. I somehow find a way to make anything that goes wrong my fault, or explain that they happen because of my shortcomings or flaws.
I realize this is a ME problem. No one else can change this self-damaging thought process for me. It's something I've got to fix.
Over the past few years I've become increasingly aware of how much these harmful thoughts have shaped me. How much this voice has been my constant companion. How much it makes me NOT LIKE ME.
In order to change this, I needed to comprehend the severity of my negative self-talk. Truthfully, I wasn't really aware of it being there since it's been my constant companion for most of my life. By the time I started to see a therapist, for the first time in February of last year, I was vaguely aware of my problem, but became more open to seeing it's reality.
I had a rude, yet necessary, awakening while in New York in the summer of last year for Nami's brain surgeries. One night I was in my hotel room with my sister and we were having a really great talk about life. During this talk my sister painted a different, yet more accurate picture of how a guy I really liked in my dating days had treated me. While I thought he was so great, she explained that he actually hadn't been very nice to me at all.
I countered her assessment, "He was nice. He did a lot of cute things."
My sister explained, "Annaka, he would tell you that he liked you but wouldn't tell anyone else. He wouldn't invite you to do things with his friends. He kept the relationship hidden. It's just interesting to me that you liked someone so much that didn't treat you very well. I knew you deserved better but you couldn't see it."
I was stunned. I sat there thinking, "Could this be...that I actually convinced myself that it was cute that this guy secretly did all his 'nice' things for me? How was I able to twist that so far in my head? How could I have been so naive to think he had actually liked me?"
This conversation propelled my intense journey of becoming more self-aware forward. It helped me see...
...how much I actually did put myself down,
...how much I had settled for not-so-nice treatment from people and fully not be aware that I was doing it,
...how I would take that treatment because I believed that's all I deserved,
...how I deceived myself into thinking that I was actually in control of my friendships; that, although some mistreated me, I told myself I allowed it because I was a loyal friend and I wouldn't let their actions break a friendship (I'm sure this was partially because I felt desperate for friends),
...how I convinced myself that I was an introvert and wanted to be alone,
...how I had been successful in tricking my conscious mind that I didn't have a problem,
...how I constantly put myself down to others (like a lady who told a leader in my church when he asked her why she was so hard on herself) "So no one can beat me to it",
...how I tried to overcompensate, always doing more than my "fair share", so that I could keep people thinking or saying negative things about me,
...how I had difficulty accepting compliments,
...how I feared people thinking that I thought I was good at anything,
...how I felt unworthy to think I was good at anything,
...how I had difficulty standing up for myself,
...how I put myself down as a form of self-protection.
I saw these patterns in multiple experiences, relationships, and situations throughout my life. I began questioning all my relationships up to this point. I became painfully aware of my trust issues (another blog for another day ;). On the other hand, I also recognized I was blessed with some very loyal and loving friends.
Becoming more self-aware is not a comfortable process for me. As I try to make these necessary changes, I wonder how long it will take to train my brain to have consistently healthy thoughts. How I will be able to recognize that I actually do have talents. And how I can change my actions so that I am able stand up for myself when needed, all the while trying to maintain the pieces of who I feel I really am.
I started my blog a couple years ago and of course belittled my writing in my profile. (Maybe I should go change that.) I have put a lot of effort into my writing over the past few years, and even though I discount that it may be quality writing, I have hoped to eventually publish some of it. My constant negative self-talk has kept me from putting myself out there.
I recently had an experience that stretched me in uncomfortable ways. Last month, I saw a fellow blogger post something that was very similar to a blog I posted (and had been read by this blogger) many months prior. I read it, was annoyed, but talked myself out of doing anything about it. Within a couple days, that blogger's post was published on a reputable site. I felt sad that someone would take my idea and pose it as their own. Especially because I feel so vulnerable blogging and it's still scary for me. I wanted to give up blogging altogether. I didn't want to be a part of something that left me susceptible to being hurt and taken advantage of.
As I pondered over the situation, I decided that instead of falling into my typical self-doubt, I should be flattered. It should make me feel good about my writing because it may mean that some of my work might actually be worthy of publication despite all the reasons I come up with to talk myself out of it. (I'm still not okay with anyone using any part of my copyrighted posts without my permission).
I am slowly starting to see evidence of improvement in the things I tell myself. Although it's still difficult for me to think and say good things about myself, I can finally admit to finding one good thing I'm good at; my job. There, I said it out loud!
One day I hope to be able to proclaim, "I'm smart enough, I'm good enough, and doggone it, people like me."
***Update: I found this fascinating news story after I published this post. It's an interesting read having to do with the issues I just wrote about. Why Saying Is Believing - The Science of Self-Talk