Thursday, July 19, 2012

lesson Three...

If you talked to your friends the way you talked to yourself, there's a chance you wouldn't have very many friends.
To be very honest with you, dear reader, I do not want to write this post, because once it's written and's written and posted, meaning that people will be aware that I'm aware of this problem in my life. Then, they'll expect me to change it.

Nothing is wrong with change, I understand that. Where I get hung up is that I'm not able to change fast enough. But that is beside the point of this post. The point of this post is to address the next lesson that I have realized I need to learn, that being the statement above in italics.

What led to the recognition of this problem was a conversation with my friend Parker. As usual, he had gotten me talking about things in my life that very few people can get me to talk about. After about fifteen minutes of listening to me, he interrupted and said, "Stop saying that you're stupid." I laughed it off and replied that I wasn't saying that, and he responded, "Yes, you are. I've counted six times in the last five minutes that you've referred to yourself as 'stupid.' Stop it."

The sad fact was that he was right. The sadder fact was that I honestly hadn't noticed. Six times in five minutes? That's ridiculous. But if I replay conversations in my head, it's true. Be it stupid, immature, boring, fat, dumb, whatever word you like -- I use it frequently in reference to myself.

Once he'd pointed this out to me, Parker said something that has made me think a lot more about this (and I'm paraphrasing here): "If you were to talk to me like that all of the time, I wouldn't want to be your friend. And if someone else were to call you names and talk badly about you, I'd tell them to shut up and possibly punch them in the face. So why on earth is it okay for you talk that way about yourself to me, or anybody?"


But really! I mean, if someone else comes up to you and says, "You are so stupid," it makes you feel angry, indequate, or hurt (or any combination of feelings). It's never okay for anyone else to treat you in that manner, nor is it okay for you to speak that way to another person. It's just as bad then to talk to yourself that way.

By no means is this easy to do (I'm finding that most of these lessons are similarly easier said than done). However, recognizing this problem in myself has caused me to pay attention to my patterns of speech, and in some ways my patterns of thought. I've noticed that I don't call myself "stupid" as much as I used to. Granted, part of that may be the fear that Parker will find out and deck me (which he wouldn't), but most of it is because I know it's not fair to myself. Slowly, I am removing that word from my vocabulary. I still slip up (Brianna can attest to that), but it's getting better.
The hard part is removing other such words from my vocabulary. It's easy to see from the experience with Parker that I don't realize I'm speaking in certain ways. Then there are some words that I don't particularly want to stop using because they're safe and familiar. In some ways, they're a part of the identity that I have established. However, if that identity is one that is uncomfortable going outside or being with people, then perhaps it truly is time to change things. Or change more things.

The way we talk and behave towards others is a big indicator of who we are. I'm beginning to see that it is much the same in the ways we talk and behave to ourselves. It's easy to believe that my words and thoughts towards myself don't count and don't matter, but I'm beginning to see that this idea isn't true. It's a false belief -- hearing my inner voice say the words "you are so fat" hurts just as much as hearing my classmates say those same words did when I was in elementary and junior high school.
The biggest problem is less related to the words we use and more to the meanings attached to them which can lead to improper ways of seeing and thinking about yourself, others, and the world. It isn't necessarily the words that hurt the most. It's the belief in the ideas that the words hold. The words "stupid" and "fat" don't mean anything -- the ideas surrounding those words and the societal definitions that we buy into are what hurt. I would never project those definitions and ideas onto a friend or family member. I don't buy into those ideas in the context of my friends and family. Why then is it okay for me to apply such ideas and definitions to myself?

In short, it's not okay. It isn't easy, and it isn't just about removing a word from my vocabulary. It's about treating myself better. My friends are not verbal punching bags. Neither am I. It's time to tear up my stock receipts in the ideas of society and use words that encourage good thinking, good speaking, and good acting -- not just in others, but myself.

Be your best friend. Take care of all of you -- mind, heart, body, spirit -- in the way you think, speak, and act. After all...

If you talked to your friends the way you talked to yourself, there's a chance you wouldn't have very many friends.

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