I’ve had this post rattling around in my head for the past week. I’ve hesitated to write it — not wanting to put something out there that might not be a benefit. I think we need to be really careful when we start making proclamations in grand sweeps. So, I finally decided to put this disclaimer up first:
This is my list of hurtful words. They might not be your list of words. It’s OK if you don’t see the harm in these words. The words themselves aren’t necessarily bad words–they are just words that have caused me harm. The real point I want to get across, is that whatever your words are–if you’re talking smack to yourself, stop. You’re worth so much more than the tapes, the critics, the know-it-all voices in your head that tell you otherwise. Believe me. You are worthy, you are beautiful.
Words I’ve Stopped Using: Difficult, Poor, Ugly
Truth is, if you’re anything like me, the most harm you do with your words is to your self. I’m careful (usually) with what I say to my son and husband. Sure, I’ve made mistakes and I’ve had to repent and ask forgiveness. But, in general, I’m pretty careful. It doesn’t make me sainted–it makes me wounded. I know what it means to hear constant criticism and the wounds that a person carries from being exposed to such negativity. And I know the voice I’ve fought so hard to gain still competes with the voices in my head–pointing out my deficiencies, my unworthiness, my “difficult-ness”. So, as a parent especially, I’ve been careful: with others. I wish I could say the same about how I talk to myself.
The thing is, the voices in my head no longer belong to critical parents or disapproving family members. I long ago internalized those voices and the critic who stares me down each morning in the mirror shares my reflection. Damage done, right? Time to take responsibility for the nasty things I say to myself–their origin is irrelevant! I’m the voice behind the words now and as I’ve meditated on what it means to use words to uplift and empower others, I’ve realized that my greatest sin is against myself.
So, as I’ve sat with this–I’ve begun to examine the words I speak to myself. I’ve come up with 3, I’m sure there are more, but baby steps right?
You are so difficult
I’ve never known a time in my life when this wasn’t true. I have no memory of it being otherwise. Difficult to know. Difficult to parent. Difficult to love. I wasn’t a “cuddly baby” and I didn’t give the emotional feedback new mothers need for bonding, I guess. So, 2 years later when my “easy” sibling came along, the contrast was stark. He was an easy baby. He had an easy personality. Charming, in fact! He was outgoing and lovable. So, so easy to love. This is where is began . . . and never stopped.
There is some truth that I’m difficult. Exacting. Perfectionistic. Slow to trust. Quick to question your sincerity. I don’t suffer fools. I never did. But it’s that “to love” part that slices me wide open and leaves me raw and wondering what worth could I possibly have. See how that works? Somehow, that word “difficult” gets morphed into “unworthy” and that’s the bedrock of the problem.
If I take a step back and really look at it, I realize it’s a lie. Just because I didn’t meet someone else’s expectations doesn’t mean I don’t have worth. And if you aren’t meeting someone’s expectations of being “perfect marriage material” or being the “perfect friend” or the “perfect_____________”… that’s on them. ON. THEM. You have worth beyond the lists and demands of others.
Why? Because you are loved beyond belief by the one who created you. And, I’m willing to bet, by many many more people. People who make you feel unlovable might not be worth letting in. And if that person is YOU… then, time to have a good talk with yourself.
At least, that’s what I’m doing. So, instead of Difficult to Love, I’m attempting to tell myself that I am loved… and counting those blessings every chance I get. It’s not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. But, I have faith that, eventually, I will believe it so deeply I can breathe those good words to others and have them believe it too!
I’m not POOR. . . I’m blessed.
Oh, oh, oh! This one is so darn hard. And this is ALL on me. It’s just the reality of our situation. Life has been hard, financially. For 24 years we have struggled and the lean years so far out number the good, I have the hardest time remembering when we weren’t trying to make “lemonade” from this endless bowl of lemons life is content to keep handing me.
Let me be really clear here–the kind of poor I’m talking about not having health care right now. Wondering if we can cover the mortgage or when we’ll get paid. The list of things that need to be done (dentist trips, eye-glasses replaced, car repairs, the entire backside of my house that needs to be resided…) is overwhelming. The reality that it will all have to wait and we’re just so close to being undone sets in and despite my resolve to weather another financial storm I find myself in tears more than I want.
The other day, when the enormity of what we were facing hit me–unexpectedly in the middle of the day– I sat on the couch and wept. My child, who is nearly 18 and cannot be shielded from these realities any longer, came and sat next to me. He just leaned. And I cried harder.
This scary, often unbearable feeling of being so close to everything falling down, everything you’ve worked so hard to keep upright is horrible. And I’ll admit that I’m often quick to jump to “I hate being poor.”
But, I’m attempting to do two things. The first is to get a real grip on what that word means. The second is to live into the reality that despite our financial hardships, we are amazingly blessed.
We do have a roof over our head. Yes, the car needs fixing, but it is paid for. While we are eating more Peanut butter and jelly than anyone would like, we’re eating. And we are not wondering when our next meal will be. There are still areas in our budget that can be reduced and so we have and will continue to be creative. We’re CREATIVE! That’s a bonus. We see the potential. We have each other. We are not alone in this: God is near.
And so are friends.
So, while it’s easy–especially in the dark of night when the doubt crawls up my skin and makes a home in my heart– to see our circumstances in a negative light, I’m choosing to muster my last bit of courage and abandon the word POOR. There are those who can, and rightly do, claim it. But for me, focusing on what is missing, what isn’t going right, what is left undone is soul crushing.
Ugly. Which is a placeholder for all the other words I’m ashamed I say to myself.
This is perhaps the most damaging self talk I do. And it’s so much more than just what I look like. It’s all the self doubt I’ve accrued in a lifetime of feeling “less than.”
There are so many reasons for this kind of talk. I think it’s a woman thing. It’s a creative thing. These days, it’s a HORMONAL thing. It’s… everything.
I was a thin girl and a runner until my thyroid boycotted and I ended up with an autoimmune disorder. And I could write a book on all the self hate I shovel my direction in the mirror each morning. I don’t think I have to detail it–I suspect most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Those rare few of you, blessed with fabulous bodies and self esteem to match, be thankful. The rest of us must learn to look at ourselves with grace and compassion.
Let’s be truthful here, it’s HARD to be both gentle with ourselves while remaining committed to being healthy. Especially when the results are so slow.
And that’s just the self talk I do on my physical appearance. I won’t subject you to the stream of negativity that spins through my head daily regarding my career, my writing, my creativity.
Here’s the thing–though… I’d never say these things to anyone else. I don’t even think them about most people. So, why, is it so hard to be this gracious toward myself?
I don’t have answers. Other than to tell you I’m a work in progress… and beating myself up about my terrible self talk is probably counter-productive.
SO! All these words, too many words to say this:
Nobody is perfect. I’m attempting, daily, to look myself in the mirror and remind myself that I am worthy. That I am blessed. And that I am beautiful.
Which seems like a better list than its alternative. I can ONLY hope that my sharing all these words that you will find the courage to look at your list and re-evaluate it. Because as I opened this post, I truly believe you are beautiful, too. Maybe, if we tell this to ourselves, to each other, to the women in the mirror we will begin to see what the Universe has known all along.
I get it. We’re the same person, you know. You’re just a little taller and I’m just a little older. I probably swear more.
Every time I read your words I am able to erase a word on my list, at least for a time. That word is: alone. Maybe we could trade lists for a day?
Thank you. Thank you for the trust you put in us each time you open your soul on this page.
The scary thing of being this vulnerable is that you won’t be met in that pain. Thank you for reading (so. many. words.) and for meeting in this space. You are NOT alone and I love you, very much!
Marvelously stated, challenging words. I completely agree we perform great harm to ourselves by negative self talk… and you aren’t alone as I definitely have a personal list of words I need to work on as well.
For me this is pretty hard because the words are like muscle memory… so easy to say to myself. It’s probably time to really take this in and make it a mantra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1spkhp41ig4
Thank you. This challenge to concentrate one’s inner dialogue on positive self talk is precisely what I needed to hear in this moment.
I love you because you are willing to share such insights. Let’s work on clearing out these broken records together, shall we?
Gosh, that song. It really has become our anthem! Thank you for reminding me. I need to write that up somewhere we’ll see it often.
When I met you, my first impressions were of beauty, kindness, empathy, caring. It’s sad how much harsher we are with ourselves than many others would be. (however, there are still those who would tear us down if we let them) Great post–I’m so sorry about the stresses of the financial situation! Wonderful to count your blessing, but still scary. xoxo
Margaret…you’ve always read this experiment of mine and been so present. Thank you for the kind words.
HHHMMMM!! While I understand self doubt and inner voices. Let me remind you of the kid I remember growing up with. That “difficult” person never let herself get into any trouble. She always stood tall (no pun intended) and strong to her decisions. Wende, I just want you to know that you are loved!! Please Please don’t let the self doubt and (lets call it) childhood….(yes I remember….) influence the Strong Woman that I know!! Difficult….Strong Willed and Decisive. Knew who she was/is and where she is going. Poor….maybe for the moment, but richly blessed with a strong husband and strong son who love you deeply. Rich indeed. Ugly, Oh I think not. I have always wished I could have your tall, thin body and strong face. (Besides, only person that matters is that adorable husband…. and I know he loves your body and face….and a few other parts too!!! 🙂
I understand that the scars of lifetime can get in the middle of emotions, especially when life is handing us a hardship.
So – YOU ARE LOVED!! A STRONG, DECISIVE, BEAUTIFULLY TALL, AWESOME SKIN, RICH WOMAN.
PS for the extra ego kick, I often wished I had your ability to be so crafty and smart. School was defiantly not a strong suite for me. 🙂
Monica… thank you for the words. It means so much to have someone else bear witness to what happened. I love you for your enthusiasm and your willingness to love so completely! I wish we lived closer!! xoxo