Monday, 28 March 2011

Have A Word With Yourself

Firstly, for those of you returning to read my ideas on why cats love to watch TV, apologies. As much as it was said as a joke initially I did then come to think it may be an interesting article. But, despite much pondering, I haven’t come up with anything more profound than this: they like it for the same reason we do, because it gives them something to focus on and keeps them entertained. Just because they can’t understand it doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining for them. Which is true for a lot of things I guess, sometimes trying to understand something too much can totally overshadow any enjoyment. For instance, I found the TV series Lost complicated, confusing and I just wanted to understand what was happening. After each episode I would get so pissed off with it that I‘m surprised the man ever suggested we watch it, lest it brought on one of my torrents of TV abuse based around the general concept “why do we bother watching this crap?” Once I made a conscious effort to not try and understand what was going on, just to let it wash over me, and I found it far more enjoyable and less irritating.

So anyway, I have been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (my advice is to avoid the film until you have read the book, I have been told the film is simply a romance about a woman travelling the world who eventually finds love, the book is so, so much more than that, although I do intend to watch it once I‘ve finished reading it so I can comment with some conviction!). For those of you that don’t know anything about the book, the explanation on the front is “One woman’s search for everything” which kind of gives you a good indication of what the book is about. They say that life imitates art, and I do find that when I’m reading something that I enjoy it does totally consume me, and I tend to apply the things I’m reading to my own life. Eat, Pray, Love has certainly made me look a bit further into my mind than I would usually care to venture, given that most of my ventures into the weird and crazy world of my mind has often led to catastrophic results. The mind can be brilliant and enlightening but it can also turn on us, often when we least expect it. And the mind doesn’t always have our best interests at heart.

Thinking too much has long been my greatest downfall and my biggest asset. I can think myself into deep depression, panic attacks and general malaise, but I know, in some far off distant time, there must have been occasions when I have thought myself into a good place too. I just need to do that more often.

The other night, when discussing thoughts, a friend said to me “We must learn to be kinder to ourselves.” This statement rang so true with me that I have been trying to be more aware of my thoughts and recognise times when I am not being kind to myself. And it has come as little surprise to me that I am so hard on myself, so mean, that it’s a wonder I don’t absolutely despise myself and go around wearing a sandwich board pronouncing “I AM A TWAT“. My first thought on waking (after wondering if my beautiful boys slept OK and hearing the synopsis of the man’s dream about me - why am I always a bitch to him in his dreams? Is this something I should be concerned about? Anyway…) my ever present internal monologue went something like this: “Well you totally fucked up your diet this weekend didn’t you? What happened to being good? You have absolutely zero willpower. You‘ll always be unhappy with your weight” On the way to school this morning I was running seriously late, someone wanted to get out of a driveway and I was faced with the dilemma whether or not to let them out: “Should I let them out or not? Well I am running very late. OK just this once I won’t let them out, just because I’m late... Oh my GOD how rude was that? You could have let them out, it wouldn’t have made you any MORE late. Maybe that person is late too, maybe they’re trying to get somewhere really important. That wasn‘t what a nice person would do, a nice person would have let them out, rude, rude, RUDE!”  And so it went on, all the way to school. This kind of thought process is indicative of the kind of thoughts I have pretty much daily, almost constantly, and I don’t think I’m that different to lots of other people going about their daily lives while secretly being so hard on themselves that their internal monologue is like having Simon Cowell inside them critiquing their every move.

Sometimes I beat myself up for having thoughts (Why did you think that? You complete total and utter FREAK!) and other times it’s for something I’ve done (I can‘t actually believe you just burned those lentils, a CHILD could’ve cooked that), it‘s non-stop. But I think we all do it to a greater or lesser extent, whether it’s the occasional “Why did I get so drunk last night? They must all think I‘m such a knob” or the full on OCD fest that is my brain, and I don’t doubt there are others out there who are even harder on themselves than I am.

One of the problems with being so hard on yourself is that we make presumptions on what other people are thinking: “Now they must think I am an idiot”. When the truth is that other people are rarely as hard on us as we are on ourselves. Other people’s experience of a conversation or a situation with you is coming from an entirely different perspective, they see it from THEIR eyes, which will paint a completely different picture. They may be worrying about something that they have said or done, something you didn’t even take in.

I mentioned in a previous post about people who seem self assured and don’t seem plagued by this inner chatter, but I wonder if a lot of those people are actually (to use a much over used metaphor) swan like, to us seeming like they’re gliding through life without a care in the world, while underneath their little legs are frantically paddling to keep up with the rest of the pack. They may well be being just as hard on themselves as the rest of us, only we can‘t see it.

They say we should always treat others the way we would want to be treated ourselves, well how about treating ourselves the way we would like to be treated by others? Because once we take these insults out of the context of our thoughts, they become faintly ridiculous, laughable even. You wouldn’t ever be that hard on another person, so why do it to yourself? A very wise and wonderful friend of mine once said to me “You’ve got to have a word with yourself”. Well, the general rule of thumb, we are told, is that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness but I think we have already deduced that I am there already, so from my point of view that doesn‘t matter. However, we are all, always, talking to ourselves, in our thoughts, whether we are aware of it or not.

I think “have a word with yourself” is probably, almost without a doubt, the greatest piece of advice I have ever been given. It works in every situation and transcends every emotion. It implies we can give OURSELVES advice, something we are all so ready to do for other people. So what would I say to someone who was having these thoughts? “Stop being so bloody hard on yourself."


  1. You definately weren't being rude not letting that person out of their driveway today, you were simply thinking of yourself for a change! and there's nothing wrong with that, lets face it how often do you think about doing something for yourself? in anycase if you had let them out does that mean you would have felt oblidged to let the next and the next person sat on their driveways waiting to get out out just to make you feel better about yourself? then feeling really crap when you had reached you desdination because you were mega late for your appointment/work or getting your children for school? no you have a place to be just as much as the next. I'm afraid to say it, but should be about you No.1. That said i know exactly how you feel as i am the first to put others before myself, but thats just me! However for the first time in a while i did put myself first and as silly as it sounds bought some houmous at the supermarket that i liked knowing my husband didn't really like it! and yes i did feel guilty initially but it tastes GREAT :) anyway digressing somewhat there.... lifes to short. Lets face it if the shoe was on the other foot and it was you waiting in your drive way to get out do you really think someone would stop for you ?? probably not especially if they saw that green light knowing they will get to their destination before you do! will they feel bad ? i don't think so....... I think whilst you are beating yourself up about what you did or didn't do that day there will always be people out there who look up to you, wishing they were like you,think of you as a great person and an inspiration to others (a role model) whether its you being a great mum, the way you look, the advice you give,a great friend, your outlook on life, your personality etc....its important you focus more on the positives in life. (only wish i could take my own advice!!)

  2. I am in a job where i am taught to self evaluate my work everyday. It is important to do this to ensure smooth running/safety and that everyone is kept happy. (including you) Surely this is just the same as having to evaluate your own doings whether you did something right or wrong i don't think there is anything wrong with questioning or evaluating why you did it or how you would do it again differenly, its the letting go and moving on from what you may have done, said or what you are about to do which is harder!!

  3. Both brilliant comments!

    Firstly, you are right, we do need to focus on the positives and also put ourselves first more. I think we are all guilty of putting ourselves last to some extent, this is a habit that will be hard to break but we can do it! And yes, you should take your own advice!!! Although I am the first to admit that is easier said than done;-) I too love hoummous but the man hates it!!! He always says I stink out the bedroom with my garlic breath! But forget him, he always stinks out the bedroom with his fart smells :-)

    That's interesting that you're in a job where evaluating yourself is part of your day. It must be a really useful tool, teaching you to turn anything negative around and learn from it, which I think is the key. Not to dwell, and find the positive. Again this is easier said than done! How to break a habit of a lifetime? Practice I suppose!I know I must realise my mistakes and move on. This is apparently one of the key thoughts in Zen/Buddhist thinking, not to ignore your wrong doing but to accept it and move on.

    Today is a new day, or now is a new hour! Great way of looking at it.

    Thanks for your comments :-) xxx