OK, it’s not just you. Most people are really mean to themselves. If you take the time to examine how you speak to yourself, you might notice this.
In your head, do you talk to yourself like you do your closest friends? Or your dog?
Probably not. I’m guessing that you generally give your friends the benefit of the doubt. Most likely you are kind, tactful, and supportive. When they are feeling down you try to build them up, and you try to help them see themselves more compassionately.
Everything we try to do in life is harder when we are mean to ourselves. It’s like being stuck in third gear on a flat road. Life gets easier when we have more support, and that includes support from ourselves.
Noticing this automatic habit of self-talk is step one in personal growth. Once you get to know this voice–I call it the “Inner Critic”–then you have a chance to change its words and tone.
I recommend that you talk to yourself the way you currently speak to your five-year-old nieces or nephews. I bet you talk to them with a gentle, reassuring tone. You are probably firm, clear, but non-sarcastic with them when they get out of line.
Some of you might be getting a little nauseous by now. You’re thinking, “This psychotherapist wants me to speak to myself like a five-year-old? Gross!” Or perhaps even worse, maybe you are getting visions of horrid “baby talk”? (which Lesley Ann Warren perfected in the movie Victor Victoria in the role of James Gardner’s girlfriend.)
So, take a breath and now let’s explore what is so “wrong” about mind-talk that has child-like tones.
Why do you use sweet, loving tones with young children or pets? Perhaps it is because your unconditional love for them just flows out of you and your tone instinctively expresses that. You respond to their innocence and vulnerability, and you want to protect them. You find them cute, and it softens your sometimes jaded heart.
If you don’t have kids you can watch parents at the local playground using this soft tone with their children. Consciously or unconsciously, they know that this kind of reassuring warmth and gentleness builds their child’s confidence and self-esteem. One reason the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was so popular was due to Fred Rogers’ calming tones.
Can you imagine how healing it would be to hold yourself with that kind of readily available love? How much easier it would be to get through a stressful day? I wonder if you are hungry for it without even knowing it.
Developing a sweet tone in self-talk makes good logical sense because your Inner Critic is young. You did not develop it as the proud adult homosexual you are today. You picked up these defeating inner voices when you were young and much more vulnerable. In some ways, the Critic is a five-year-old, and so that’s how it should be spoken to.
Men, in particular, may scoff at the idea that they should talk to themselves with a gentle tone. It’s not what we were taught to believe is a desired manly trait. It may be good to remind yourself that no one has to know that you secretly are trying to be kind to yourself.
Is it better to talk to yourself like someone you love or like the kids from school who called you a fag or dyke? Which do you think would help you better achieve your goals in life?