If you wanted to buoy the spirits of a dejected kiddo, would you enlist the assistance of a) a bully or b) a cheerleader? It’s likely you’d go with the latter; abuse and torment never improved anyone’s life.
Instinctively, we’re all aware that compassion, encouragement and support are key ingredients when it comes to comforting a friend or loved one. Yet we tend to use the opposite approach when talking to ourselves, and THAT, my friends, is why our neuroses linger.
Through oodles of reading, research and personal experience, I’ve become convinced that much of our unhappiness is a direct result of toxic thoughts. Our thoughts determine how we see the world, how we see ourselves, how we interact with other people and situations and even our physiological reactions.
Our inner voice is the mouthpiece for these thoughts, constantly berating us with opinions and judgments and chatter. That voice is with us always, 24/7, 365—even when we’re meditating, dreaming, showering—it’s our life partner, for better or worse.
So the question is, is your inner voice a cheerleader or a bully?
Here are some situations. You decide.
You’re not getting any matches on Tinder.
Cheerleader’s response: The right person hasn’t found you yet. It’s hard for anyone to tell how amazing you are via an online app. Maybe it’s time to try meeting more people IRL. Let’s ask some of our friends to bring us along to events and group activities.
Bully: You’re an ugly loser. You’ll never meet anyone. Why even bother trying?
You get laid off.
Cheerleader: This is a bummer, but you’re talented and capable and you’ll bounce back. You’ve been wanting to explore other opportunities for awhile now—this is the universe giving you that chance.
Bully: You sucked at this job, and you suck at your chosen career. To be this age and unemployed? You’re never going to get your life together.
You gain 10 pounds.
Cheerleader: You’ve been going through a hard time, and food has been there to comfort you. You’re doing the best you can, and this is the way you’ve learned to cope. The weight will come off once you start nurturing yourself and addressing your real needs. Just remember that you’re worthwhile and lovable no matter how much you weigh.
Bully: You are a big fat pig. No one will ever love you, looking like this. You can’t control your appetite and you gorge yourself on crap food—you’re just disgusting.
Which sounds more like the recording running in your head? And how does each statement make you feel? Y’know that sinking feeling in your stomach you get when you read the toxic, bullying thoughts? Yeah, that’s not good.
While we may have [incorrectly] convinced ourselves that bullying will somehow inspire us to positive action, that’s totally and completely false. The opposite is actually true. Calling yourself fat and ugly, for example, is likely to lead to more overeating and a lack of motivation. Being kind and accepting of yourself, however, will lead to positive change. Acceptance, compassion and kindness are always the answer. Don’t you deserve those things as much as anyone else?
It’s clear how we SHOULD be talking to ourselves: rah, rah, rah! Now it’s time to actually do it. Next time you catch your bully rearing its foul-mouthed head, bring the cheerleader in off the bench. And remember, compassionate self-talk gets easier over time, so keep at it. Gooooooooooooooo team!