As long as I can remember I’ve had critical, shame-filled thoughts about myself. I thought everyone did.
It went beyond correcting myself when I did something wrong.
An example of a correcting thought might be, “I knocked off the cup. I need to be more careful next time.”
An example of a shameful, berating thought might be, “I always knock off things off. I’m so clumsy and awkward. I have no coordination and I take up too much room. Other people aren’t like this. What is wrong with me? I’m the worst.”
After a retreat leader brought up my negative self-talk at a ministry retreat we attended last fall, I asked my husband about his thoughts toward himself.
“Don’t you have these types of thoughts?”
The retreat leader had me list out all the negative thoughts I had about myself. I was on my third page, and I wasn’t done yet.
“No,” he said emphatically. “I don’t think that way about myself at all. It worries me that you do.”
I tore myself down in my thinking, and I was shocked to find out that everyone didn’t do the same.
I’ll be sharing some of those negative things I thought about myself this month because all of the things I allowed my brain to repeat to myself in my head were lies. I reinforced those lies by repeating them and believing them in that invisible space no one can see and hear.
The effect of berating myself and believing those lies was not invisible though. It spilled out into my life in so many ways. It affected the speed in which I could slip into anxiety or depression. It affected my ability to be objective about my relationships with friends and family. It pushed me into perfectionism. It enabled my people-pleasing to continue because I if I could get approval from others then maybe I could prove the voices in my head wrong. It made me wear shame-colored glasses that changed how I viewed everything in my life. I was constantly on the warpath of striving to prove my worth.
It was daunting to think about changing the way I thought. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think that way about myself.
Realizing that not everyone had pages and pages of negative self-talk gave me hope.
Not everyone rakes themselves over the coals in their thinking, and I didn’t have to either.
If you need to hear this because you believed this lie too: Not everyone lives with negative self-talk. You don’t have to think that way. You can change the way you think. You can stop berating yourself in your head.
Here’s a song for you today. John Ortberg says that the soul is needy like Bob from What about Bob. That’s accurate.