Many of us have a script that runs in our heads. It is so much part of us that we are barely aware of it and yet it is hugely influential. Here are the kinds of things we say to ourselves:
“I’m rubbish at this…”
“Nothing ever works out well for me”
“I can’t change”
“I will always screw up”
“there is nothing I can do”
“I let other people down”
“I’m no good to anyone else”
“no one really understands me”
And so on… and on…and on.
We speak to ourselves privately in a way that is incredibly harsh; we give our ‘inner bully’ free rein. If someone else were to speak to us in the way that we speak to ourselves or about ourselves, we would be shocked. Or we would wince if we heard such things said to someone else out loud.
Usually when we speak out loud, particularly about others and to others, we are very careful in our choice of words and much more gentle.
So why do we speak so negatively to ourselves? It’s bad enough that we do it to ourselves internally but when I see people articulating thoughts such as those above in their social media status, it sets off a massive alarm bell of concern about them.
(Yes I am aware I am beating you up for beating yourself up in public!)
But what you are doing is reinforcing, giving strength to that negative tickertape of self-destructive half beliefs that you are allowing to guide your decisions and influence how you feel about yourself. Don’t do it! What’s more, put in some work to sift through all those rubbish thoughts, to challenge them, to recognise where they’ve come from and to throw out the ones that are untrue.
This is not an easy or speedy task – in fact it is the work of a lifetime but you can make progress if you consciously attend to it and recognise that this is an issue in your life. After a particular incident at the age of 19 I was left feeling very worthless and rubbish about myself. I wrote the words “you are loved” on a Post-it note and I stuck it to the inside of my bedside table, where only I could see it (usually when I opened my eyes first thing every morning). No one told me at the time that this was a good idea but all these years later I can still see that Post-it note in my mind’s eye. The effect was powerful.
Many years down the line the other tools that I have found very helpful have been to memorise and believe the truths revealed in the Bible about who God says I am and who God says he/she is.
I am accepted: I am God’s child, I am adopted, I am forgiven, I am complete, I am accepted for who I am not what I do.
I am secure: God does not condemn me, I cannot be separated from God’s love, God is working in my life and will never give up on me, I do not need to give way to fear.
I am significant: I have a role, a part to play, my life matters, I have a purpose, I have been given gifts, God works in me and will work through me.
Even more important, perhaps, than all of these truths about me, are the truths about God. God is close to us, is involved, is kind and compassionate, is accepting and filled with joy and love, is warm and affectionate, desires my highest good, is protective, is trustworthy, is committed to my flourishing and delights in my growing.
There is no space in this blog to give you chapter and verse for all those truths but a course such as “Steps to Freedom in Christ” by Neil T Anderson (which has recently been rewritten as a course called Disciple) can help you uncover them. Embedding them into your heart and mind is the work of the Holy Spirit but we have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit by not giving space to all the negative rubbish and untruths.
Another very helpful tool which I have recently researched is CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You can of course pay to be taken through CBT with a therapist or you can access it through the National Health Service. It is an extremely powerful and helpful therapy tool especially for people with persistent low-grade depression or anxiety.
However if you can’t afford to pay and you can’t wait, you can access a very simple program through a FREE website called Moodgym. This is the resource that I have researched as I wanted to recommend it to others and wanted to be sure that it was helpful. I think primarily the website is aimed at teenagers but over the course of five modules it takes you through the basics of CBT. All you have to do is register. It will take you about 20 minutes to work through each module. I confess I did not expect to get as much from it as I did but it was very powerful in exposing the residual negative self talk, and it gave me some tools to challenge these thoughts.
Perhaps this is what the Bible means when it says we should “take captive every thought”. Maybe no one else does see our thoughts, but everyone does see the effect of our thoughts in our lives. The Bible also says that we are going to be asked to give account for every idle word we say. That’s why expressing such self-destructive thoughts out loud on social media is so harmful.
Yes I know the opposite extreme is equally offensive- the person who goes around blowing their own trumpet and saying how marvellous they are. But when you are negative about yourself on social media it is as if you are asking other people to give you affirmation, your friends will feel an obligation to offer positive reinforcements to challenge your way of thinking and they do that because they love you. And of course they simply may not see THAT post which leaves you without the affirmation or encouragement you needed. It’s for this reason that you need to find an alternative source of encouragement and affirmation one that is not dependent on other people’s views of you, whether they click like, or ignore you.