by Rachel Smith, founder and owner of Give Yourself Kindness
The impact of self-talk
Imagine you’ve just had to make a presentation at work. You step to the front, see all your colleagues watching, and then your mind goes completely blank.
You can't remember what you were supposed to be talking about, you feel your face turn a shade of tomato and notice suddenly your hands feel very sweaty. This wasn't the plan.
After a few minutes and a few deep breaths, you start talking and you get through it. You get back to your seat, alone with your thoughts - can you imagine what you would say?
Now instead the person in the scenario is a friend. You were sat watching them as this exact same thing happened.
They finish, sit down next to you - can you imagine what you would want to say to them?
Do we give ourselves the same kindness?
Sadly for many of us, the way that we speak to ourselves, compared to the way we speak to a friend - or even a stranger! - is very different.
It is often so much easier to know exactly the comfort and kindness you would give to a friend, it can feel automatic. Sadly for many of us, it can also feel automatic to be harsh and critical with ourselves.
I am writing this because I want you to know that this doesn't have to be the case. I want you to know that you can speak to yourself with kindness, the same kindness you would give to a friend.
I also want you to not feel alone if experiencing a critical inner dialogue is the normal for you. Sadly for so many of us, it can be really challenging to speak to ourselves with kindness. Which is where using the tool of imagining your friend in the same situation, and imagining what you would want to say to them, can be so powerful.
I also want you to know that speaking to yourself with kindness is not weak and it will not make you selfish or unmotivated. I worked with the experienced psychotherapist Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW, to explore the research behind whether we can ever give ourselves too much self-compassion. The research together with her clinical experience is clear... and the answer is no.
The way you speak to yourself matters
If you're reading this and imagining the years spent talking to yourself with self-criticism. Wondering if it's possible, or even worth, trying to change?
I want to leave you with the message that you can change the way you speak to yourself. It is challenging but worth it.
Today can you try to notice your inner dialogue, with a curiosity - not judgement. Know that awareness is a massive step.
As part of our self-compassion Give Yourself Kindness journal, we have prompts to support this. I want to share a few of the prompts here and if it feels supportive try them out, either with a pen a paper at home or get your Give Yourself Kindness journal and let it be a comforting tool to have right by your side.
“Notice how you are feeling right now. Think about what you would find it helpful to hear - it might help to imagine something a friend would say. Write down words to say to yourself”
“Can you think of a time when you've struggled to feel proud of something you've achieved, but if it had happened to a friend you would have felt proud, and wanted them to feel proud of themselves? Write down words of reassurance to show yourself that you serve to feel proud”
Now is the time for self-compassion.
I hope I can leave you with the reassurance that you deserve your own kindness and that the way you speak to yourself matters.
In the words of the renowned American researcher, professor, speaker Brené Brown "Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love."
Sending you warmth & kindness,