We all know there are factors and circumstances that can make life seem unbearable at times. There are accidents, illnesses, money troubles and more to get us down in the dumps. The truth is, though, that despite these things, we still hold the key to our happiness. We choose how to react to things. We choose whether to trudge on or roll over. We choose how happy we will be.
In the next few posts I will be sharing some of my observances of women in particular, and some easy ways to be more happy and fulfilled in your life. Today I will start with the concept of Self-Talk.
I was at a seminar many years ago when I first heard the concept of self talk. Self talk is your inner dialogue. These are your thoughts, from making a mental shopping list to thinking badly about someone. Most self talk is benign. We are planning our day, trying to remember where our keys are, praying, or reminding ourselves to send out a birthday card. The trouble is when we get involved in negative self-talk. Since self talk is made up completely by our brain and imagination, it has many flaws.
Sociologists posit that we form an opinion of ourselves based on how we think others perceive us. This is called the Looking Glass Self. For instance, you may say something, and when a friend laughs, you get a positive feeling that you are funny. The Looking Glass Self socializes us from a very young age. We know when our parents are upset from just a look, or when a classmate doesn't like us from a glare.
Unfortunately, the Looking Glass Self is not full-proof, especially for people with poor self esteems or sensitivities, and don't we all doubt ourselves sometimes? Below are a couple of examples of how it can go wrong.
A. Jenny has been battling her weight for some time. She works hard, and watches what she eats, but she still doesn't feel comfortable in her clothes. One morning, a co-worker looks her up and down on the way into work, but says nothing. She likes Jenny's new skirt. Jenny, sensitive about the way she looks, however, assumes her co-worker is judging her, and doesn't like the way she looks. Jenny's mind then goes on overdrive. What, like she's perfect? She could lose a few pounds, too. She thinks she's so great, and I know that she hasn't been to the gym in a month. Jenny's co-worker said nothing, but because of Jenny's bad self talk, Jenny now has an issue with her co-worker.
B. Katie wrote a message on Helen's Facebook wall one day asking Helen if she would like to have lunch together tomorrow. Helen's laptop breaks and she doesn't have internet access for a few days. Since she didn't respond to the post, Katie gets spun up. I can't believe she didn't answer. That is so rude. I did something nice by inviting her, and she doesn't even have the decency to call? That's it. I'm done trying with her. All I am is nice, and she acts like I din't exist!
Helen is blameless in this situation, and doesn't even know Katie is mad at her. By the time she gets the message, the damage will already be done.
I tried to make the examples obvious, but self-talk is often more subtle, and does damage in our personal relationships. Take a second to think of a time you might have done this. I'll share one of mine that is pretty silly.
Years ago, I would get agitated by the way my mom was looking at me. It seemed like she was always looking down her nose at me. It seemed like she was really scrutinizing my face. It wasn't until I asked her about it that I realized how silly it was that I had been sensitive. She explained that when someone is standing close, she has to look out of the lower portion of her bifocals. She wasn't scrutinizing me at all. She was just trying to see me well!
We can get ourselves into a lot of trouble assuming things about people. We never know what others are going through. Just because someone gives you a funny look or doesn't return your phone call immediately doesn't mean they don't like you or they're judging you. Give people the benefit of the doubt, and ask yourself why you would assume something bad about that person. Most likely the real trouble is with YOU.
Cutting out negative self-talk could do wonders for our personal relationships, and happiness. When you start to venture a guess about someone, or let your imagination get the best of you, STOP. Stick to the facts. You're likely to save yourself a lot of trouble (and friends!).