The words we use...

Remember when you were a kid and somebody would tease you and you'd sing "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"? But how often *do* words hurt you? I always felt like such a failure when I sang that to a bully, because what they said to me really did hurt! And what my father always said to me hurt. To this day I still deal with hurtful things that people said to me 40+ years ago. They said I was trash, that I would never amount to anything, that nobody would want to be my friend because I was poor, or because I was ugly, or or or...these are all *very* hurtful things to say to a person! Honestly, I'd rather the sticks and stones. :(

But what of the words we use for our own "self talk"? Or the words we use about our self when we're talking out loud to other people. 

Give a thought for a moment to your "self talk". Things that the voices in your head say to you all the freakin' time that make you doubt yourself, or make you think you're no good, and that you will never have any friends, or never have anyone to love because you're just not worth it. If anybody else said those things to you, would you consider this person a friend? Would you think this person is being helpful to you? Or would you think this person is mean, and hurtful and you really don't need that kind of shit in your life? If that's what you think of other people when they say those things to you, THEN WHY DO YOU LISTEN TO THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD THAT SAY THE SAME DAMN THINGS? hmmm...

Now, I'm not saying that I have mastered the art of self love and that the voices in my head are all nice and loving and caring. Far from it! My "lizard brain" as I call it, is nigh on apocalyptic All.The.Time. If one little thing goes wrong, my world is ending, and nobody loves me, not even The Universe, and the zombies are coming! My lizard brain would be happy if the zombies come, because then she would be justified in all her apocalyptic warnings. But what does this do to help me? Absolutely Nothing! It’s taken me a lot of years to finally learn how to deal with the apocalypse in my brain. I’m still learning, and will continue to learn until I die. I’m learning how to direct the conversation in my head away from the apocalypse, and toward Now. Because the apocalypse isn’t Now. It’s sometime in an imagined future. Are the zombies really coming? Not very likely. But if you’re prepared for zombies, you’re ready for anything, right? ;) But still…not helpful!

I’m learning that when my lizard brain starts having conniptions, I need to acknowledge the voice, take a deep breath, and say inwardly, “but is that true? Is that really what’s going to happen?” or, when it starts ruminating about something in the past, whether yesterday, last week, or when I was 4, “but Reba, that was in the past, it happened, it was horrible, but we can’t change it now, let it be, it made us who we are now, and we’re strong and we can deal with Now”.

Playing the “what if” game is not helpful. Wondering “what if I had done xxx, would s/he still love me?” “What if I hadn’t done…” “what if what if what if what if???” Living in the past, wondering “what if” is not helping your Now. Come back to Now. What’s going on around you Now? Are there school children right Now teasing you and calling you names and pushing you into the mud? No. Acknowledge to yourself that what happened way back when was horrible, it was painful, and you had a right to have been upset about it Then. You had a right to cry and feel hurt. You had a right to be angry about it. Acknowledge that little person inside of you who was hurt. And look at yourself Now! Look around you Now. You don’t have a time machine, you don’t have a TARDIS. You cannot change the past. Acknowledge and love that hurt little person within you, and come back to the present.

My apocalyptic lizard brain often goes on “future trips”, which are also not the least bit helpful. Now I’m not talking about “what would I do if I won the lottery?” fun types of future trips. They’re more like “everybody is leaving me, and I’m all alone, and nobody loves me, so I have to learn how to survive on my own, and I have no money so I have to learn how to survive in the wild all alone, because I can’t afford to pay my bills, and I need to stockpile toilet paper because leaves are itchy, and and and and…” Holy shit right?!  Can you relate? Is this really helping Anybody? No. It is incredibly damaging, not just to my inner psyche, but to those around me who I push away because I’m getting ready for them to leave me. And to the people I knock over in Costco when toilet paper is on sale.

So, what do I do when the lizard starts future tripping? Again, I acknowledge that voice that says the world is a big and scary place, and that yes, for a lot of my existence, I HAVE had to do things on my own, I HAVE had to protect myself from evil, and it is entirely possible that at some point, I will have to do things on my own again. But right Now, I don’t have to. I have help now, and I just need to look around to see it. I can’t see it if I’m somewhere in a fictional future full of zombies and where I’m living in a hollowed out tree!

When we talk to others, what do we say about ourselves? What language do we use every day that may also be counter to our selves? Using words like “just” or “only” when we refer to ourselves or what we do with our time. I always found myself “just-ifying” myself when I had jobs that are lower on the totem pole of corporate life. Like when I was receptionist. I would often say “I’m just the receptionist”. When in fact, the receptionist is one of The Most Important People in any organization! S/he’s the gatekeeper. S/he keeps things running smoothly up front, so that the organization looks like a functioning and functional company. Never “just-ify” yourself! You are not “just” anything. You are you. You are necessary. You are needed. You are lovable. Do not use the word “just” unless you are using it with this definition: guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness. k? You are just. You are guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness. This You would not allow yourself to be minimized by language.

The same goes with the word “only”. How often do you use this word? It is a minimizing word, like how we use the word “just”.  It can be used interchangeably with “I’m just the…” “I’m only the…” Whenever I feel one of those words about to come out of my mouth, whether in reference to myself or to someone else, I omit it. The sentence remains the same, and is getting the message across, but with an entirely different meaning. Check it out. “I’m just a data entry operator” or “I’m a data entry operator”. People still know what your position is within the company, but you have not minimized yourself to them by including that superfluous word.

Parents do this unknowingly with their kids. When you’re having a discussion with a toddler, oh how this can get frustrating yes!? The kid is asking question after question after question, and you keep answering because questions are good, they get to learn things, they see the whole big world so much better than we do because they are not yet clouded by experience. But then you get to that point in the discussion where you start to say “well what do I know, I’m just your mother/father…?” What is that saying to your kid? What is that saying to your inner child? No, parents don’t know everything, nobody does. But again, you’re “just-ifying” yourself, and minimizing yourself. To your child, you are the world. You are the only person who could be their mother or father. If you use the word “just” then it somehow seems that anybody could be, that there’s not much to it to be *their* parent. But that’s not true, is it? You are the only one who could be your child’s Mother, or your child’s Father. Even to a toddler who doesn’t fully understand the language yet, our use of words and our tone convey everything. A child learns by example. Primarily Your example. Don’t just-ify yourself, and don’t ever just-ify your child! Don’t brush your children off and say “you’re just a kid, you wouldn’t understand”. Help them to understand! Kid it down for them so that they understand.

When it comes right down to it, we are our own worst bully. We need to stop that. We need to recognize when we’re doing it, and we need to take a look around at our Now. I have a great job with a wonderful charitable organization that does a lot of good for people. I live in a lovely condo, in a wonderful city, I have a dog who loves me no matter what I do, I have food in my fridge, I have shoes on my feet, I have enough toilet paper, and I have a family I can turn to when I need them.

If anybody else said all those horrible things to you, would you be their friend? Be a friend to yourself. Be compassionate to yourself. Love yourself, and love that little person inside of you who was hurt and scared and felt all alone. Acknowledge that little person, talk to that little person and tell them “we’ve got this, you’re not alone”.

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