Kind self talk or as I like to call it positive brainwashing is essential. So much of our internal and verbal dialogue about ourselves is so easily negative and critical. This is partly due to the evolutionary process that also sees the negative possibilities in every situation, because if you can see the worst then you can prepare for it. And if you get negative feedback from something you did/said then you’re less likely to repeat it. Which is great if that negative feedback is helping you not to pick the poison berries/chase the lion/burn yourself on the fire. Less helpful when it’s about non life threatening activities in the modern day.
As with anything we practice often enough it becomes a habit and then a deep seated belief.This is true for everyone but even more so when you are chronically ill/disabled and your brain and body no longer works as you want or expect it to. The frustration and anger that this creates can cause us to lash out at ourselves and create an untrue, harmful narrative that we believe and repeat. Things like I’m so stupid/worthless/a burden because I can’t remember/be productive/always say the wrong thing.
These negative thought patterns affect us both physically and mentally as we’re holistic beings and both mental and physical are nearly always intertwined. This is incredibly draining and can then often make us more likely to make mistakes due to decreased energy levels. Which then causes us to repeat the negative thoughts and as we have more evidence they’re ‘true’ and so it continues. There are plenty of articles about the science of kind self talk these are just my thoughts.
It’s possible to change!
The good news is that it’s possible to change this. To stop the negative thoughts we need to challenge them and replace them. Speak truth and kindness to ourselves. And yes this absolutely is easier said than done, but it is possible. It might feel silly or cheesy or unnatural for a while but that’s completely normal and understandable. We just need to keep at it.
Where to start?
The first step is in recognising what your negative thoughts/sayings are. Over the course of a day or a week make a note of all the times you’re critical or dismissive of yourself. You might begin to see patterns of when you’re more critical, or a specific type of task that brings out the negativity.
Next to each item on your list (or you can choose one at a time) write the truth about that statement. I’m so stupid because I forgot to pick up the milk again (negative). Truth is I forgot to pick up the milk again because I have brain fog from my chronic fatigue. This does not make me stupid, my brain is tired.
I’m useless I’ve achieved nothing today, what is the point of me (negative). Truth my productivity doesn’t equal my self worth.
It’s about challenging the held beliefs and retraining your brain to find the truth (and compassion) about your situation.
Stopping it in its track
Against your list or on the bottom of the list write some counter points. I forgot the milk? That’s ok I can get it next time. I forgot the milk? I’ll text my partner to pick some up. I forgot the milk? Nevermind people forget things all the time, we’ll have something else.
I achieved nothing today? Actually I got up, washed/dressed/replied to some emails/ate (insert anything that you’ve done). I achieved nothing today? That’s ok I can do things tomorrow. I achieved nothing today? I existed and that was enough.
Being our own friend
Nice and simple one this we talk to ourselves as if we’re out friend/family/loved one. With compassion, empathy and understanding. We don’t laugh at/mock ourselves unless we do something very funny because let’s be honest sometimes our bodies/brains are hilarious. We’re not mean or critical or horrible to ourselves. If this feels completely alien to you then viewing yourself as almost a different person to yourself can help before it becomes natural to be kind. Sounds weird but when you’ve only ever been awful to yourself it can take quite some time to rewire your brain.
This is a simplistic take on this (cos brain fog!) but if you find there are certain things you constantly do that cause you to have a negative reaction/belief about yourself, then there may be things you can do to prevent the event happening and so bypass your brains negative reaction. For example you always forget to buy the milk? Can you make a list/have a phone reminder and alarm that will go off before you leave the supermarket? My neurodivergent beloveds I know the just make a list narrative can be super annoying, this is for the neurotypicals. Could you buy longlife milk so you have some spare if needed? Could you get milk delivered?
I achieved nothing today? Write a list of what you’ve actually done (and I mean everything). I achieved nothing today? What’s one thing you could do before bed to help you change this feeling. It could even be planning a task for tomorrow so you feel like you’ve achieved something more.
If you’re constantly having the same symptoms e.g. extreme brain fog, pain or anything else make sure to get this checked out by a doctor just in case this is a sign of something that needs/could be rectified
If the negative talk you have is constant or is about harming yourself and/others please seek professional help. On my previous post on the hub of hope there are contact details of people who can help you. Please know you’re important and loved.
I would love to know how you get on. Please let me know in the comments below.