Feelings are like messages that one part of you is communicating to another part. They are neither good nor bad. They are just messages hoping to be received and acknowledged.
We had a little vacation one weekend in a hotel in our own city, 24 hours to wander around unscheduled, and unhurried.
Before we left, I consciously told myself that I was leaving my to-do-list and worries at home. I was giving myself a little break. I wanted to fully focus on enjoying the city with my family.
And it really worked. While I was there I didn’t think of my list that never ends. I also didn’t check email once and left my phone alone. I really gave all my energy to this little break. I came back feeling very calm and centered. All it took was 24 hours.
I use to pride myself on my ability to multi-task. You should have seen us juggling away in our PR agency. But it’s a bad habit with me now. And I think it actually harms me to dilute my focus like that. Studies show it actually is detrimental to my brain.
I’m thinking also that I can leave my phone alone first thing in the morning. I want to give my whole focus to me, to my family, to breakfast and getting ready, and not spread myself thin with multi-tasking.
Just do one thing after the other as needed. If I give myself a chance to start my day off calmly and filled with as much serenity as possible, then the rest of the day stands a better chance of being like that too.
Just focus on what you are doing now.
I do one thing at a time.
It’s ok to put down my load.
It’s ok to take a holiday from my worries and to-do-list.
It’s ok to just enjoy this moment.
I give myself permission to just be right now.
My worth is not attached to what I do. My worth is in who I am.
My daughter and I made vision boards today together. A photo of an Aboriginal woman bare breasted and bare footed in the desert performing an ancient ritual called out to me. It felt like she’s my inner wise woman guiding me to the next stage of my life. She was so beautiful.
I was a little surprised by how beautiful she looked to me. I sat with it for some moments and realized my image of beauty is changed. This woman is it. She’s authentic, strong, luminous, grounded, courageous. She accentuates her beauty with awesome paintings on her body and a colourful skirt. And she’s a desert-dancer, for heaven’s sake!
I’m excited to let my inner “her” shine. I want to do my own version of dancing in the desert – symbolically or maybe even literally. I’m excited to nurture beauty inside and out.
Not the magazine version of beauty, but my vision of it. What does it mean to love myself unconditionally now? How do I rock my age without ideas that are imposed on me from a culture that values youth above everything else in women? How do I talk to myself in a way that reveres who I am?
“Accept yourself absolutely and unconditionally. It’s one of the most radical acts you can do in an insane culture that actually profits from your self-loathing,” declares Tosha Silver.
I’m careful of what I say to myself when I look in the mirror now.
I use to greet myself in the mirror with self-talk like this:
- You look tired. There are big bags under your eyes.
- Your hair looks terrible.
- Your skin looks bad.
- You are getting wrinkles around your eyes.
- You look like shit.
- You look fat in that dress.
Imagine if I met my friend for tea and she greeted me like that. How deflating! How life-denying!
As I speak to myself like a best friend would, I greet myself this way in the mirror now:
- You are beautiful.
- Look at that smile!
- Your eyes are shining.
- I love you.
- Let’s put on something that makes you feel filled with energy and beautiful.
My daughter also put images on her vision board that illustrate who she is and her own beauty. She came up with blue birds, pastel flowers, a mama tiger playing with her cub, music notes, and in big bold letters: SING.
We say "I hate myself "without thinking much about it, but part of you takes it very seriously. That part of you wilts under the power of those mean words.
I was at the post office today mailing copies of my book Speaking to Yourself with Love to a bookstore.
The woman working at the counter got all excited when she saw them. “I would like to read it, but I don’t read anymore.”
She talked about how much she loves reading, and all the lovely books she has including a collection of spiritual books her mother left her. But... she no longer takes the time to read.
“I’m always on my tablet now.”
And then she finished with “I hate myself.”
Ouch, I thought. How painful for that part of her that just heard that.
Research shows that every cell in your body hears all that you say.
Your body actually listens to what you are saying inside.
Your cells hear all your self-talk through sound waves and sensory transmissions.
They react according to what they hear.
Dr Judith Orloff writes that when we criticize ourselves, it is like an inner war goes on inside us. We turn against ourselves. It is like an attack on our system.
Now think about how your cells rejoice when they hear words of love, acceptance and compassion.
So just keep putting love into your inner words as much as you can. Step by step, day by day.
We are all just doing our best.
There is no one to hate. There is just one person to love.
All my best,
I tell myself it’s possible all the time, about all kinds of things. Other people have managed, why not me!
I have always wanted to travel, but our family didn’t travel. I didn’t even know anyone who travelled. I remember tracking down a school mate that I heard had gone to Europe. I stopped by his locker to hear all about it. He was the first person I knew who had gone overseas.
When I was 15, I found out about exchange programs. I conducted research, brought home brochures. I came really close to applying for one. Then my father said he just couldn’t bear the idea of my leaving home for so long. You will be gone quickly enough he said. These are our last years together.
Let me tell you what happened next. Within a few months, my father was promoted and seemingly out of the blue he was offered a position based in Athens, Greece. We were gone within weeks and my life of travel began. I went from living in a boring (to a teenager at least) suburb of Montreal to living in an exciting capital. From our home we had a view of the acropolis. I have never stopped travelling since and have lived in two other foreign countries.
This showed me that in life, everything is possible. It may not come like you expected, or look like your dreams, but the essence of it may come to you.
I tell myself it is possible all the time, no matter what the odds are, no matter if I have no idea how something can come to be.
You don’t have to do anything special to deserve your own words of kindness and love.
You don’t have to be 10, 20 or 50 pounds lighter to deserve self-talk love right now.
You don’t have to be more successful or more beautiful to deserve inner words that are compassionate.
You don’t have to be so-called perfect to be worthy of a voice inside that is gentle with you and treats you as the precious person you are.
You don’t have to be anyone other than who you are right now at this moment to speak kindly to yourself.
At any moment – like this one right now -- you can choose to speak to yourself with kindness, love and compassion. No matter what you have said to yourself before – you can choose right now to elevate yourself with your self-talk.
You have the power to reset your self-talk at any time.
It can start now!
A few days ago, I broke down crying after a voice that I have inside told me I was a piece of shit. I know. Ouch.
This came about after I had not spent much time alone with myself lately. I had been very busy for weeks and did not do my meditation and spiritual practices that keep me peaceful and grounded. I felt frazzled, fragile and disconnected going into the day.
Then I criticized my husband over something trivial and he got understandably angry. That’s when the cruel voice inside let me have it.
I listened as the inner bully told me I was bad. I was unworthy. I was mean to my husband. My house was a mess. It said I was unworthy of love, that I didn’t deserve my life, that I couldn’t do anything right. And over and over again it said that I was a piece of shit.
I was shocked by the viciousness of the attack. It had been a long time since I had spoken to myself with such venom. I started crying.
I listened in shock but also in agreement. It was true what the voice was saying.
Then I caught myself.
And just like I would rise up to the defense of someone I love, I rose up to protect myself. I told the voice to stop.
Then I took some distance from it. I told myself that I am not the voice who says I am a piece of shit. It may be a voice that I have inside me, but it is not me. I am the one who listens to this voice.
So I choose at that moment to stop listening to it. I choose to stop listening to the ugly words, and to speak words of compassion and love to myself instead.
I did an Inner Voice Switcheroo.
I replaced what it had been saying with words of compassion. I spoke to myself in a different voice – one that felt tenderness and kindness towards a woman who is suffering and who has just listened so such ugly words thrown at her.
I am often asked how I am able to catch myself when my self-talk is negative or life-denying. This is how I do it. I wait for a signal.
A signal is a negative feeling or a sensation of discomfort in my body. When I get one, I pay attention to what I am saying inside at that moment. I take stock.
Getting a signal means that my self-talk is negative, or life-denying. I tell that voice to stop. Then I do an Inner Voice Switcheroo. I tell myself the opposite of what the negative voice was saying to me.
If it said that I am ugly, I say that I am beautiful in and out and worthy of love. If I said that I am incapable, I say that I can do it and that I am guided. I replace the ugly words with words that are loving, kind and supportive. I make that choice over and over again, day after day.
This holiday season, spend some moments with yourself just like you are planning to do with your other loved ones. Take the time to listen to what your inner voice has to say.
This is how I learned to listen to myself. When I was 15 years old , my father got transferred to Greece for his work. Our family packed up the house where we had always lived. Within weeks we were in Athens. I had never even travelled overseas before. This experience changed my life forever.
The Greeks do many things very well and one of them is they take the time to connect with their friends and family every day. No day would be too busy not to take the time to share a coffee, and stories with your people. It is never complicated: something to drink, a little table and chairs. And voila: you connect.
At the international high school that I attended, I met my friend Mary, a beautiful, smart, humorous and vibrant Greek from New York. Mary taught me the art of sharing stories and listening. Our friendship was built brick by brick, one story at a time, first in Greece, then in the many countries and cities where we visited each other over the years. We listened to each other’s stories: the good ones, the sad ones, the humiliating ones, the super funny ones. We built trust and our stories became deeper, more personal. Some stories I kept safely tucked away until I could sit with Mary somewhere in the world. I knew she would really listen to me.
She earned my trust because she listened and honored what I said. She didn’t use my stories against me.
This is how I learned to really listen to someone. I applied what my friend Mary taught me to my self-talk. I began spending quiet time with myself – just me and me, no distractions. Asking myself questions and listening for answers. I also started keeping a journal where I could tell myself everything.
This was a huge turning point for me. I had lived most of my life before that time disembodied, not really living within myself. I could go long periods of time without paying any attention to myself. I gave myself attention only if I was sick. I didn’t know who I was, how I felt, why I made decisions or acted in certain ways. I could not have told you what my self-talk was. I didn’t listen to myself. I didn’t ask questions.
I was a complete stranger to myself. I treated myself like someone you avoid at all costs. Imagine if you came to spend the evening with someone and all they did was watch TV and ignore you. That’s what I did everyday. I did everything I could to blot my self-talk out: outings, wine, music, books, movies.
I didn’t know that it was an option to have a good relationship with myself where I lived inside, talked to myself and listened as a good friend would. I certainly didn’t know that I could speak to myself in a way that would make me feel loved, connected, wanted, and good.
This season, I invite you to sit down quietly with yourself in a space where you will not be interrupted. Show yourself that it is important to you to get together with yourself. Pick a spot that you like. Bring a cup of tea. Take a deep breath, and center yourself. Now ask yourself some questions, one at a time and listen for an answer. You can do it in writing or in your heart.
I ask myself all the time if I am facing the right way, heading in the direction of what I want to create, and who I want to become.
When I lived in a skyscraper downtown, there was a large building behind mine. I could see into dozens of apartments in that building. While my view was south, they faced north. Their apartments were gloomy and dim, while mine bathed in sunlight. As I enjoyed incredible brightness, they lived in the dark. They lived so close to the sunlight but just couldn’t see it. They weren’t facing the right way.
Tony Robbins says that you can try very hard to see a sunset – give it all you’ve got – but if you are facing east, that’s never going to happen.
So life isn’t just about putting in the old elbow grease, it’s also about facing in the correct direction.
My meditation teacher Hoben says that all is created little by little, step by step. Just keep going in the right direction, and do your best.
Keep going, step by step.
Keep putting love in everyday.
Keep up your practices that do you good.
Keep doing this work that you love.
What you are doing now, is it helping you get where you want to go?
What you are saying now, is it helping you get where you want to go?
What do I want to create? Am I heading in the direction that will take me there?
Do you sometimes tell yourself that EVERYTHING is going wrong? I certainly have!
When I asked my good friend how she was, she said that EVERYTHING was going wrong. After she told me about several things that did seem to suck, I asked: how’s your health? She said great. And your friendships? Great again. And your home? That was great too.
So, I said, it doesn’t seem like EVERYTHING is wrong – just a few things. She seemed to light up right away. Even in the midst of very hard times, there can be some things that are right.
We need to be mindful about how we describe our lives. Telling yourself that everything is wrong can be very discouraging. Remember that part of you listens to everything that the other part says.
Imagine if a good friend said to you that everything in your life was terrible. Imagine how it would make you feel. You have the same impact on yourself.
To exaggerate how bad things are does not help us in any way.
To focus on what is going well can give you a boost, a new energy, and can help put perspective on how things are really going.
So answer this:
What aspects of your life are going well? Tell yourself all about it in full detail. Tell yourself how grateful you are for these blessings.
How do you speak to yourself when you have made a mistake, when you are struggling, or when you are not “winning” – however you define the term?
I was inspired to think about it as I was watched four young guys play beach volley ball during a tournament. They had such a joyful way about them that I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Each time a rally was over, each member took the time to shake the hand of all three others and throw in a few words of encouragement to boost. It didn’t matter if they had won or lost, or if one of them had made a mistake – the attitude was the same. You couldn’t tell whether they were winning or loosing based on their demeanor. They kept encouraging each other and keeping it light. They lost the tournament, but they seemed as merry as the winning team.
When I taught public speaking at the university, many of my students had a huge fear of speaking in front of others. So I showed them how to use their self-talk to make it much easier and more fun. They learned how to have an inner speech that was calm before the presentation. They also learned how to encourage themselves – and to stand by themselves -- however they performed. It really helped them feel more courageous, improve their skills with each new speech, and have some fun while they did it. For many of the students, public speaking went from being the bane of their existence to a cool thing to do every week.
How you speak to yourself as you struggle with whatever challenge you presently have, can make a big difference. With your self-talk you can have more lightness, more support, and way more fun.
My cousin Caroline is a psychologist who for years worked with abused children in the court system.
She once told me that the children who were the most hurt were not necessarily the ones who had suffered the most abuse. The children who were the most wounded were the ones whose moms knew of the abuse and ignored it. The mothers hadn’t stood up to protect the children.
It’s very powerful when someone stands up for you. You feel supported, elevated, protected, loved. You feel like you matter. It also makes you feel like you are not alone.
If your self-talk is cruel, critical or even verbally abusive, it’s in your power to do something about it. You can be that person who stands up for yourself. You can make a difference in your life by standing up for yourself -- against your own self.
Be careful how you speak to yourself because you are listening
Neuroimaging shows that part of your brain listens to everything that the other part says. It’s like you are having a conversation with yourself. Imagine the toll that it takes on you to be listening to an inner speech that is filled with cruelty.
So, take notice. What are you saying to yourself? Here are some of the words that my inner bully has said to me:
- Who do you think you are?
- There is something wrong with you.
- You can’t count on anyone else.
- You will always be alone.
- You are unlovable.
- You are a fraud.
- You always mess everything up.
- It’s always your fault.
- You look terrible.
- You are a bad person.
Verbal abuse is detrimental wherever it comes from – including self generated.
Once I noticed how I spoke to myself, I was able to do something about it. I choose to do something about it.
You have the power to stand up to that negative abusive voice, and protect yourself. You can be that person for yourself. You can be the person you have been waiting for all those years. You can speak to yourself like a real best friend or a loving parent would.
I used to only have two ways of being: full speed ahead or full-stop. There wasn’t much of a middle road. Now I am very interested in the middle way and I use my self-talk to guide myself there.
My whole life I would slow down only if I got sick, or completely emotionally disturbed like after a painful breakup. I would stop my frenetic pace. I would give myself permission to rest, to care for myself, to heal, even to cancel on commitments – some of which I didn’t want to do in the first place. I let myself off the hook. I also provided myself with healthy foods and lots of rest.
Then I’d get better and start my frenetic pace once more, my race to achieve and make things happen. I ate on the run. I didn’t let myself sleep enough. I underwent way too much stimulation. I overworked. I let myself be drained by people or situations that didn’t feel right for me.
I realize too that I’ve done this since I was really little. When I would need extra care or gentleness, I got sick.
Now I am very interested in the middle road. Being in the center is a new practice for me. It’s so new that it is often hard for me to recognize where the center even is.
I want to spend more time being mindful about my decisions and what I really want in my life, instead of running towards a direction. I have just so much energy, resources and time. I want to use them wisely in service of my right life. I want to pay way much more attention to myself and what I need.
- Be mindful. Pay attention. You only have a certain amount of time, energy and resources. Where do you want to spend them?
- I give myself full permission to care for myself everyday.
- I have time to sit with my decisions, to feel what feels right for me.
- What is it that you really want to feel in your life as opposed to achieve?
- What is the middle road for me? What does it look like?
In your self-talk you can remind yourself of all that you have to be grateful for, of all the small and big things for which you can offer thanks. Gratitude will elevate you each time, and help you feel the many ways in which you have abundance in your life.
To give thanks this Thanksgiving weekend, we are offering our e-book, Speaking to Yourself with Love: Transform Your Self-Talk for free.
You can download your free copy here here on Amazon:
In this e-book, we will explore tools to start speaking to ourselves as a true best friend would: with patience, acceptance, compassion, kindness, and levity.
My self-talk of gratitude:
- Thank you for my health.
- Thank you for my life – all of it.
- Thank you for my friends who love me and whom I love.
- Thank you for the clean air here in our city.
- Thank you for my mom’s cooking.
- Thank you for my daughter’s gentle teacher.
- Thank you for my family.
- Thank you for my lessons.
- Thank you for all the help that comes my way in all its forms.
If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, that will be enough. --Meister Eckhart
The Japanese tell each other “gannbate kudasai." It means do your best, keep it up, or hang in there. That is what I say to you my friend and to myself in this back to school/work/real life season: gannbate kudasai!
We started strong my daughter and me. She back at school, me back at work. We had a little momentum going. And then we were back to a full crawl as she has another bout of croup – a respiratory infection.
Part of me resisted and wanted to scream nooooo – come on, not again! We had not even gotten back on track yet.
But maybe this is my back on track. This is certainly what my real life outside of summer breaks has looked like for the past six years — one respiratory issue after another. It's been about stopping all and caring for my daughter. It was also about caring for myself as I often get very tired and frightened when she has trouble breathing.
My back to real life is about resilience, about accepting what I can’t control, about patience, calm, healing, and forgiveness. It’s about hope that she heals, that her lungs get stronger, that she grows out of it. It’s about hope that I transform my relationship with it all, and stop resisting and being so afraid.
It’s also about continuing with my life direction with a positive fierce determination, taking small steps some days and bigger leaps on other days.
Whatever your real life is, you need resilience. Whatever you are trying to accomplish: a new semester, finding work, growing your career, caring for a family, healing, getting through a tough stretch, transforming yourself – it is about keeping it up step after step, little by little, slowly, slowly. A certain amount of grit is needed.
For me, it is also about gratitude even on my most tired days. Giving thanks that I get to live this precious life, as messy, painful and chaotic as it can be.
I tell myself thank you and gannbate kudasai.
- I am resilient.
- I have a fierce determination, a fire in my belly, I keep it up.
- Everything happens for me.
- Focus on what you can control.
- I take time to care for myself too.
- It’s ok, take a deep breath.
- Be gentle with yourself during this difficult time.
- Hang in there!
- Thank you!