The oxygen mask of kindness
In that weird way that coincidences crop up (*coughs* universe tapping you on the shoulder *coughs*) I've had the exact same conversation with four different women this week.
Why is it that kind, caring, generous, intelligent, wonderful, thoughtful people are capable of being absolutely fucking awful to themselves? Negative self talk is so much a part of our everyday internal dialogue, that we barely even notice that we are doing it. We have become as fluent in it as breathing.
What would you say to a friend who came to you with an existential crisis, a broken heart, a massive meltdown? How would you respond to that friend that shared her most private aspirations, wishes and fears? What words would you have for the woman that comes to you in tears because she's made a huge arse of herself in a meeting at work?
'Well I'm not really surprised because quite frankly you've always been a complete mess. You've been fucking up over and over again as long as I've know you so it was only a matter of time before you did something phenomenally stupid. I mean, you're barely tolerated at work because you're crap at your job and everyone thinks you're an incompetent dullard with terrible dress sense. Which, by the way is true because that skirt makes you look like a sofa.'
I mean you just wouldn't would you. You'd more likely pull out your own fingernails than say that to someone you knew, let alone a dear friend of yours.
I bet you an espresso martini that something like that has crossed your own mind in the last week at some point. Why are we so epically vile to ourselves?!
There are enough people out there queuing up to punch us in the face, and yet there we are, at the top of the line. We create our very own little Pig Pen cloud of negativity that follows us around, so how on earth are we expected to go out into the world as a happy and productive, fully-charged person?
I think one of the reasons is that our brains are very good at protecting us. Now I know that sounds a bit backwards, but that kind of negative self talk is very good at keeping us small. It keeps us timid and quiet and obedient and up for cosy fireside chats with our good friend fear. Negative self talk keeps us safe. It stops us trying because - holla girlfriend, you gonna FAIL!. It keeps us in our little boxes, on our little tracks and drowns out the parts of our brain that say 'but what if..?' and 'why the hell not...'.
It will do and say anything to keep us on this side of fear. To keep us safe from risk. Which is keeping us from reward. So we lose out twice. Not only are we making ourselves miserable but we never get to move beyond fear. And what is on the other side of fear? FUCKING AWESOMENESS that's what. And, you know, flexible working and better pay.
A very wise and kind woman said something to me this week that really resonated:
'The words you speak become the house you live in'
The throw-away comment, the defensive humour, the internal AND external monologue cause the death of our souls by a thousand tiny, unkind and unneccessary paper cuts.
So choose your words carefully. We have the power to control our own thoughts and if we change our thoughts we can change our experience and understanding of a situation.
Here are 8 things you can try:
- Notice what you notice
- Don't judge yourself even further for recognising that you're having negative thoughts. The point isn't to send you spiralling into a vortex of doom
- Gently, but firmly stop and tell yourself 'No. This is not serving me'
- Get specific. Is whatever you're beating yourself up about really that bad?
- Really? Cos it's not like everyone in that meeting is bloody Einstein and most of them were playing Candy Crush on their phones under the table
- Unpack what has triggered it. What is the context? Is it actually a situation that suggests your reaction to it is entirely appropriate?
- Reframe it. How can you turn a negative experience into a positive one? Let 'I'm a fucking idiot for not hitting save and losing 3 hours work'* become 'I'm grateful for the opportunity to do it better this time' **
- What would you say to a close friend in this situation? What would a dear and kind friend say to you (this is usually the point that I start crying)
Finally, another thing you can do is the Buddhist practice of Metta, or lovingkindness meditation. It is about extending the wish of well-being to all those around us. But before we can think about sending out feelings of warmth, friendliness and love to others, we must first look inwards and wish that upon ourselves. We cannot love others and treat them with kindness until we have learned to do that to ourselves. Try it. Let me know what you think of it.
May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
Fit your own oxygen mask of kindness first, ok?
Are you starting to think there might be something in all this sorting-your-shit out? Feeling that it's time you gave being healthy, wealthy and wise a shot? Need someone to help boot yourself out of your own way? Come join Team JKill. My unique talent is cheering you on and kicking your butt at the very same time! What larks!
As ever, we finish with a tune....
*This is totally me **I genuinely have trained myself to think like this. It was a painful process.