I talk to myself all the time. For example, this morning on my walk to work (an adventure in itself navigating the crumbling who-needs-infrastructure streets of Kathmandu) I stepped in what looked and smelled distinctly like – ok, was – a human poo (no point judging – when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, and open defecation is just one of those things in Nepal, slowly improving as water and sanitation practices improve). Anyway although my initial reaction was wanting to scream in fury at the sheer inconvenience of the world, instead I found myself talking…aloud:
“Well, that sucks. Stepped in a poo. Cool. Stinks a fair bit and looks like that person liked corn. Ah well. Buck up Matilda, onwards and upwards! The day is definitely – can only be – all uphill from here.”
This is a pretty flippant example, but talking to myself – both aloud and internally, consciously and unconsciously – influences my days, and their general outcomes and my impression of them, completely, and I think a lot of this boils down to how I talk to myself. (However, if you are one of Life’s people who can look in the mirror, pull down your cool sunglasses and with a beaming twinkle of a smile go with the “Hey hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’ today? Growr!” 100% of the time, there is no need for you to read on).
Sometimes we can be super harsh on ourselves. Sometimes if I catch myself in the mirror after a big night out, or when an enormous bowl of pasta consumed during a 10 p.m. indulgent dinner is still chilling in my tum at 8 a.m. the next morning, my immediate thoughts will inevitably centre around, “Why hello Madame Wobbly Jobbly, how are we today?” usually joined by a detailed examination of cellulite on the upper legs.
Obviously, such self-talk really leaves you feeling positive about your body and self (insert Australian sarcasm here), and it’s amazing how quickly this can turn to “what am I doing with my life/what is it all about/what is the point of it all?” thoughts – particularly if hungover. Even slightly banal self-talk can be unconsciously negative, and have an impact on our thoughts and actions, and not for the better. When was the last time you thought about how you talk to yourself? How does it influence your day to day functioning, your relationships, your general self-perception?
Another common one: being super busy – at work, socially, with family, chores, washing, picking up things, getting to the bank, appointments – and having that “Oh, I have to do this/I should do that…” and feeling a bit frazzled, stressy and stretched a bit thin. A handy technique can be to switch such thoughts from “I have to” and “I should” to, “I choose to…” Suddenly, it’s not the world controlling your life and making you tired – it’s you realising you choose to do these things (ok, to be fair, at the far end of such a spectrum is the “I choose to wash my clothes so as not to be socially excluded because of my stench.”) But you see what I mean.
If you suddenly start to realise you choose to do a lot of the things in your life, and you’re finding it too hectic – maybe you can choose not to do all of them, or not all at once, or maybe just a bit less, and you can then choose to take up that course/job hunt/brilliant-but-scary opportunity you’ve convinced yourself you don’t have time for because you have to do all those other things.
Sometimes you can feel like crap. And that’s fine too, particularly when something really, really cruddy has happened, like a traumatic incident. Sometimes there’s nothing worse than someone saying, “It’s okay” when it’s really not, or “These things happen”, when you really wish they plurry well wouldn’t, and actually, they really shouldn’t happen. Then it’s ok to say, “Well, yeah, life is just dang cruddy right now, and it sucks.” That’s ok too, as long as when the time comes, you can see the positives again.
Have a go at first listening to how you speak to yourself – and then actually talking to yourself positively. Sometimes it can be surprising how harsh you can be on yourself at times. So be gentle. Practice thinking (at the risk of sounding like My Little Pony-meets-Enthusiastic-Life-Coach-meets-Peter-Pan) happy thoughts, focusing on the enjoyable, nice parts of life, and how awesome you, and your place in it, is.
All I can recommend is: don’t let an innocent little poo ruin your whole day. Make sure you spend a bit of time every day thinking about how cool, awesome and amazing you really are.
(image CC-licensed by Jean.julius via Wikimedia Commons)