If I were to sneak inside your head, just for a moment, what would I hear?
At your darkest moment, when you’re all alone with your thoughts and your thoughts are the things of chaos, when you can’t sleep, and you are at your lowest, what words would slip into being?
Is your head full of hate to yourself? Do you chastise and berate your actions of the day? Do you hear anger? Chastisement? Disgust?
If I could magically give you one thing this year, I would give you the gift of self-kindness.
I’ll bet you’re pretty nice to others. I’m fairly certain you would never be as harsh to them as you are to yourself.
When someone makes a mistake or says something that’s wrong, you may smile to yourself, but you don’t jump out of your seat and call them a moron (or worse). You certainly don’t stay up at night thinking about them.
But somehow, you do this to yourself.
Learning to love and accept yourself isn’t something that comes easily for some of us.
When kids are bullied, when teens face pressures they can’t take, when children are taught that their worth is based on what they do or don’t do, say or don’t say, they end up taking on the voices of the people who are cruel to them.
The mean words that are said to them, they say to themselves.
Maybe this is you.
When I work with people who struggle with self-hatred, there are three steps that we work through, often more than once.
STEP ONE: Identify the source of the self-hating thoughts
Can you recognize where each of the self-hating voices comes from? Is it from the hypercritical parent? Or are the words from the bullies from school that made you so sad and scared as a second grader? Maybe it’s the voice of an ex that made you hate your body.
Sometimes the people who are supposed to build us up and help us grow, stomp us down and harm our soul.
It isn’t right; it isn’t fair. But remember that although it may feel true, it isn’t, even if the words come from people you trust.
STEP TWO: Challenge the self-hatred and negative thoughts
When you begin to hear those cruel and harmful criticisms, I challenge you to use that intellectual part of yourself to take a step back and think carefully if they’re true. Parts of the words may be true. You may be overweight, but you’re not disgusting or lazy. You may have failed a test, but you’re not stupid.
It isn’t easy, but you can change that voice in your head. Part of you knows the words it says aren’t true.
STEP THREE: Replace negative thoughts with more honest, kind, and accurate ones.
The next and final step may be the most difficult. You need to replace those untrue, harmful thoughts and words with ones that are truthful and kind.
That voice that tells you people only like you because of what you do for them, and states they’ll reject you the moment you have nothing left to give? You need to remind yourself that it’s simply not true.
Remind yourself of the truth that you know deep inside you, that you are valued as a human, as a person, as a companion, and a friend.
Remind yourself of this every day, every hour if you need to.
Challenge yourself on the lies that flood your head. No one else can do this for you.
A friend or a therapist, a lover, or a child can tell you a million times how wonderful you are, but until you can hear the words in your own voice you will not believe them.
Dear reader, I know this is not easy, because you’ll be challenging years, perhaps decades, of negative voices that have been said to you throughout your lifetime. But it can be done.
Find someone to join you on this journey if you can, someone who believes in the true and good you. Listen to their voice when yours becomes negative.
As I’ve said so many times before, we are not meant to live this life alone.
Wishing you a kind, gentle New Year,