This is the time of year when we’re most likely to hear admonishments to be kind to others. Celebrating the birth of Christ in part by caring for each other and extending ourselves even in the midst of our busy lives is what the season is all about. It serves to reconnect us with fundamental tenants of our faith, to refresh our spirit and to renew our commitment to live a certain way. In all of this we sometimes forget to include the most important person in the equation of caring….ourselves!
Many of us keep it together and do an admirable job showing kindness toward others but simultaneously engage in the most mean-spirited self talk you can imagine. I find this trait in all people but most commonly in women. I don’t think that’s because men don’t do it but I think they’re more taciturn when it comes to talking about their emotional lives so I’m less likely to hear it. We all know someone who is in the process of meeting some goal or another and all along the way, instead of celebrating the incremental steps they make, they denegrate themselves for not having already reached their target. There’s a wonderful mom I know at the gym who decided she wanted to lose 30lbs. She’s been faithfully showing up and doing what she needs to in terms of her nutrition and exercise to lose those extra pounds but despite her obvious progress she’s completely disheartened by the fact that she’s lost “just” 20lbs so far. Imagine, she’s 2/3rds of the way there and instead of feeling happy and motivated she’s frustrated and upset. She says things like, “I guess I’m just destined to be a fat ass” and “I’d already have met my goal but I can’t shut my f@#$%$G mouth.” I can’t imagine her saying anything of the sort to a friend or even a stranger but she’ll say things like that to herself all day long.
The problem with mean self talk is that it doesn’t do one single thing to help the cause. As a matter of fact it’s most likely to have the opposite effect. You listen to that mean talk, you get discouraged and then you know what happens? You quit. That doesn’t stop the mean talk, it just intensifies it. You start piling on. Now you denegrate yourself for being overweight AND being a quitter. It’s a terrible thing but people do it to themselves constantly. I see it all the time and just for the record although I’m using diet/exercise as an example it happens in every area of life.
While you’re out and about buying presents for other people or thinking about what you can do for them to make them happy this season, why don’t you contemplate a true gift to yourself? Make a commitment to treat yourself more gently in the coming year.
YES, YOU DO DESERVE IT! Every single person alive on this planet has internal struggles. We are all imperfect. We’ve all done things we wish we could reverse. We have all done things that make us feel ashamed..less than…bad. That’s just the way it is. God doesn’t demand we be perfect, we’re only asked to make an effort to improve. Kicking yourself, tearing yourself down when you think you’ve fallen short may feel like you’re dosing out your just desserts but it doesn’t lead to self-improvement. Stopping the mean talk and showing yourself compassion and patience coupled with a gentle insistence on continuing to strive creates an internal climate where self improvement is actually possible…and isn’t that the real goal? Being able to reach the little goals we set for ourselves (losing 30lbs) is just a benchmark in the greater goal of becoming better today than we were yesterday…in fulfilling the spiritual challenge to improve over the course of our lives.
If you train yourself to say “stop” when the mean self talk starts you’re going to receive the best Christmas gift ever. You’re going to give yourself peace of mind and nurture a place within that will allow you to reach the goals you set. I promise!