“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go F off. Calling your critical inner voice a mean name might work for some people – but it’s never worked for me.
Here’s why this tactic doesn’t work for so many of us…and some ways (15, to be exact) you can reframe your negative self-talk when you start to spiral.
This month is in support of ON BEING HUMAN 2020. The OBH 2020 COVID-19 Food Drive supports families who were hit financially by COVID-19 by offering each household a $100 grocery card. They act as a bridge between folks who are in immediate need of food and folks who are able to give a little to help them. To donate,click here.
Inner monologue? More like inner bitch. Don’t give her the power.
“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go screw itself and F off.
Tell me again how is this supposed to be helping?
For what I’m guessing is some sort of evolutionary advantage, we’re programmed to interpret the world in very black and white terms. There can be no middle ground when it comes to right and wrong, and when we disagree with something, we typically villainize it rather than try to understand where it comes from (or what the real solution should be).
Good Versus Evil. Us Against Them. It’s a formula that’s easy to understand and easy to master. It’s primal.
So it’s only natural that with this sort of mentality, we’d choose sides with our self-talk and try to bully one of them into submission.
Brené Brown says to give your inner voice a name – she calls hers Gremlin. For some people, providing that separation is useful, and allows them to distance themselves from the harsh, usually-untrue things their inner voice likes to say.
I, however, have never been able to separate my inner voice from myself. Because the thing is, it’s all a part of who I am.
Maybe my brain is playing tricks on my heart, maybe my inner voice is misguided at times, but at the end of the day – it’s all just me, telling myself what to believe.
Some people might say to snap out of it – to tell your inner critic to shut up. And hey, that might work for some people. But it NEVER works for me. Identifying my negative self-talk as someone other than myself – an ass, a bitch, a bully – only puts me on the defensive and gives me yet another thing about myself to dislike (on top of whatever it is I’m negative self-talking about).
Empowerment, for the record, is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Yet I cannot see how throwing insults at insults does anything to make us feel anything but more aggressive and afraid. They’re just harsh words to combat harsh thoughts. Abuse masked as “empowerment.” Which, to me, is anything but empowering.
Instead of fighting against what is, why not try fighting for what could be? Instead of taking sides, why not confront the perceived enemy? Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your “true” self, why not try to understand what it’s actually trying to tell you?
Calling a very real part of who you are a “bitch” just reinforces and strengthens those negative-talk muscles that have been trained over the years to come to your defense in their negative-talk way – and focuses on the problem, not the solution. Berating a part of who you are is not the answer. Tapping into a new reserve of power to retrain that voice – that voice that so longs to be helpful – IS.
Next time you’re tempted to call your inner voice a harsh name, sideline the smack-talk and reframe it as something MORE.
Here are a few ideas of what your negative self-talk really is all about. Could it be that your negative self talk is…
1) An invitation to explore?
2) An opportunity to rise?
3) A clue to an imbalance?
4) A way to practice moving forward through fear?
5) A wound to be nurtured?
6) A signal for help?
7) A cautionary tale of what it looks like to not be self-actualized?
8) A sign of neglect?
9) A cry for attention?
10) A distraction from the truth?
11) A language that’s been inherited and internalized?
12) A sign of burnout?
13) A call to action?
14) An empathetic pathway?
15) A clue as to what needs some extra love?
When I first started working on WANT, I would get pitches from people with books or websites with names like “Bitch On The Inside,” “Mental Mean Girl,” or “#StopHatingYourself Life Coaching.” We’re so aligned, they would say. We’re all about empowering women.
I respectfully declined every single one of these pitches.
Again, to each her own. I guess I can understand how some people need a metaphorical smack upside the head to catapult change into motion…
…But I don’t think that’s what makes the change LAST.
Because here’s the clincher: the quicker we are to call our inner monologue a bitch, the quicker we are to find fault outside ourselves. The quicker we are to clique up and take sides and tell our friends to “get over it” or “snap out of it” when they’re feeling down on themselves, the easier it is to do it to ourselves. Life becomes arduous and unfair. It’s a negativity loop that goes on and on and on – all in the name of self-love.
Teaching yourself a new language, whether it’s Spanish or Self- Respect, is a process. Sometimes it’s as simple as going word by word. Phrase by phrase.
Today, pledge to stop calling your inner voice a “mean girl” or your “inner bitch.” Your mind and heart are smart, and they’re most likely just trying to protect you from disappointment, shield you from loneliness, or numb that Ghost Worry pain that’s predicting what other people might “find out” about you so that when they do “find it out” it won’t hurt as bad.
Your inner voice is just used to using this warped defense mechanism – a defense mechanism you don’t need.
Think back to the times when your negative self-talk starts to act up. What is it usually trying to tell you? What does it signal? How can you reframe your most common self-critiques…without resorting to name-calling? Tell me in the comments below.
And know someone who needs this? Share it with them today to help them shift their negative self-talk.
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One of my favorite things in the world is sitting outside with a warm cup of coffee. A to-go situation works, but the best is with actual ceramic cups. There’s something so simple in the magic of watching the steam slowly rise in little loose tendrils, then disappear into the air. There’s something so calming about sitting with a delicately sculpted handle between your fingers staring out at the world and daydreaming. There’s something quite wonderful about those shallow pieces of everyday art you sip from a place other than your home – oversized or shrunken down, they’re usually shallower than usual, usually heavier than usual, and usually feel like you’re being treated to a tender moment by the barista or server in their home away from home. Over a cup of coffee, we soften and time slows down.
Jeremy and I agreed that sipping slowly on a fresh brew was one of our favorite parts of our honeymoon in Italy. Every day at 4pm, we’d head to the Piazza Navona and order a coffee as we watched the street performers dance and the students chase after the flocks of pigeons. When we go to Positano, we treated ourselves to the luxury of coffee delivered to our room each morning. We’d sit on the balcony together, overlooking the ancient church and the bluest blue ocean, and life seemed as perfect as it would ever be. Sitting and sipping was already a “thing” we did here at home, but after that trip, we made it a HABIT.
We work so hard to create habits that uplift us instead of harm us. No one habit is right for everyone, but it’s a proud day when you realize you’ve found what works for YOU. We replace draining after-work beers with energizing barre classes (and maybe beers after but that’s besides the point). We wake up early with the sunshine instead of pressing “snooze” 12 times and then rushing to begin the day. We journal our emotions instead of making jabs that hurt others. When we feel screens burning our eyes, we replace them with pages of books. We go to therapy. We make – and keep – friend dates. We visit our parents. We give ourselves moments of pause instead of blazing through each day.
So when life turns those habits upside down and throws them out the window, it’s natural to spiral into sadness and miss things deeply. It’s not just that your routines and practices have been taken away from you – it’s that mindfully-built sense of pride and self-appreciation that’s bruised, too.
I was looking through our photos from Italy last year, and got SHARP PANGS of sadness that not only would our next travel-adventure be postponed till who knows when, but that even the ritual of going to my local coffee shops, cafes, and diners, and slowing down over a perfect cuppa was a thing of the future and past but definitely not the present. I can’t even visit the hole-in-the-wall down the street, get my brew to-go, tip my favorite barista generously after bonding over the late-90s playlist crooning at us over the sound system, and sit leisurely on a bench with that tiny luxury in hand while watching all the world go by. I had done such a great job at honing the art of the peaceful pause and implementing our Italian habit back here at home.
As I scrolled through my Camera Roll, cried a little over the photos of us smiling on the Il San Pietro terrace, and laughed at the forgotten videos taken in the middle of the streets, I was ready to craft an Instagram post following suit of many of the people I’m seeing: posting a carousel of snapshots, accompanied by a caption titled THINGS I MISS. It was 8am. What I wouldn’t give for a delicate cup and saucer in the fresh air…
My “oh, DUH” moment came to me about about 8:02am. Wait a second. We have cups and saucers we bought in Italy! We drink coffee every morning!What if…what if we upgraded from our typical mugs to these delicate, fancy, unique pieces of art?
It obviously wouldn’t solve anything major…but, how would it make me FEEL?
We pulled out the ceramics from the top shelf above the sink – two hand-painted cups and saucers that had been sold to us in Ravello by the owner of the family-owned shop, Cosmolena (“My father was Cosmo and my mother was Lena!”), just after he’d demonstrated to us their indestructibility by banging them onto the top of the iron display table. Red stripes and blue florals wrapping around the sides. Plates perfectly spun on a potter’s wheel with the love and care of someone who takes great pride in their generations-long history of craftsmanship.
And just like that, my sadness turned into gladness. I felt time slow down as I balanced the saucer in my hand, careful not to let the coffee spill over the shallower-than-usual sides. I took a sip and was transported to the cliffs of Positano, and the piazza in Rome, and the restaurant in Ravello, and the balcony of the hotel where we spent our honeymoon, and the random cup we stopped to sip in Amalfi. My heart warmed (or maybe it was just my esophagus) as I thought of all the cups of coffee we’ve sipped throughout our time in NYC, and got excited for when we’re able to do it again.
You know to call someone when you miss them. But what if what you miss isn’t able to be dialed on the phone – what happens when it’s EXPERIENTIAL LONGING?
When life feels tough and you’re missing so many things it feels like your heart might shatter, find something that reminds you of something else you miss, and put it to use. Why let them collect dust when they could be bringing you joy? No, it won’t make the thing you miss magically appear – BUT, it will trigger at least some of the positive feelings associated with it. And right now, that might be just enough to get you in a proactive, not reactive, head-and-heart space.
When you miss celebrating birthdays and weddings, use the fancy dishes you got for your wedding or wear your favorite “celebration” outfit. When you wish you could hug your family, use the serving tongs that were passed down to you from your grandma (and send a picture to your sibling or cousins to share the moment with them). When you’re longing to go on vacation, drink out of those glasses you bought on your last adventure. Heck, when you’re missing window shopping, put flowers in the vase that has been hiding in the back of your closet for years! It’s so small and simple but makes just the right amount of a difference when you’re in the middle of Missing.
Nothing is too nice to use now. If you’ve deemed it “too nice to use,” it probably also holds some sentimental value, since we’re way more reluctant to use the really nice things that MEAN something.
It’s the most-used WANT exercise for a reason: it’s unexpected but it WORKS. Going through a major life transition, had a stressful month, or just wanting to take preventative measures to ensure you don’t have a *complete* meltdown when it all eventually feels like too much? You might be in need of a Planned Freak-Out.
In this episode we’ll talk about the origin story of the PFO, why it’s so different than any other goal-setting or self-reflection exercise you’ve done, and we’ll break down how to set yourself up for success in your own structured breakdown.
This episode is in support of She Should Run, a nonpartisan nonprofit promoting leadership and encouraging women from all walks of life to run for office. By encouraging more women to run, She Should Run is building a more effective and representative government that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. To get involved or donate, visit sheshouldrun.org by clicking here.
Forget about F-bombs or the S-word…today we’re talking the REAL curse words that are causing us lasting harm. In this super-pragmatic yet personal episode, we’ll dive into why it is the words we use matter SO much, tackle what I call E.H.W.’s, and you’ll walk away with actual steps to censor these words in your life so they stop holding you back.
No words are inherently bad or good, but the three words in this episode are your new must-shifts. Consider them the New Wave Curse Words.
This episode is in support of Together Rising. Together Rising transforms collective heartbreak into effective action. Since 2012, Together Rising has raised over 2o million dollars, and 100% of what Together Rising receives from every personal donation goes directly to an individual, family, or cause in need. Together Rising identifies what is breaking the hearts of their givers, and connect the givers’ generosity with the people and organizations who are effectively addressing that critical need. To learn more, visitTogether Rising’s websiteorfollow them on Instagram.
An arm brushes against you unexpectedly at work. The yogi next to you scoots their mat a few inches to the right to make space. It’s a crowded class and knocks your elbow.
I’m so. so. sorry.
We live in a culture of over-apologizers. Sorry Not Sorry is a cute hashtag and a catchy Demi Lovato bop, but its resonance comes from a very real and very not-cute place: we’ve engrained Sorry so deeply into our vernacular that rebelling against it feels electric, almost dangerous. “Sorry” is a part of who we are.
The problem with over-apologizing isn’t just that it cuts away at our self-respect – how can we respect our own opinions if we’re constantly apologizing for them? – it’s also that an abundance of apologies makes us like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Or rather, the Girl Who Cried SORRY. You remember the story: there’s this kid. He’s watching some sheep. He thinks it’s HILARIOUS to yell, over and over, that there’s a wolf. The villagers rush out each time, terrified, only to be met by the little twerp laughing at them.
Of course, when a wolf finally DOES show up and he calls for help, no one believes him. Can you blame them?
If we’re known as a constant sorry-sayer, it doesn’t matter how genuinely sorry we are or how terrible we feel – our sorrys are not trustworthy and are deemed inauthentic. “Sorry” has become cheap, and is way too often associated with weakness or being a pushover.
But sometimes you screw up – majorly. Maybe it’s a missed deadline. Maybe you forget about important plans. Maybe you sleep through your alarm clock or lose a pair of borrowed earrings or think it’s Sunday when it’s actually Monday. Or maybe it’s worse.
Whatever the case, you’re deeply sorry – yet don’t know how to accurately portray how sincere you really are without coming across as flippant, disingenuous, or just another sorry-monster.
Saying “sorry” can be a way of protecting yourself from hurt (ie: “if I say sorry first, then maybe they’ll pity or empathize with me”) or clinging to relationships (ie: “if I say sorry, then they know they have the power”) instead of really, truly, feeling regret or sorrow over something you said or did.
But what about those times when you actually are sorry?
The most sensitive and aware of us are usually the ones that mistakes hit hardest. I highly doubt it’s just me that can/will dwell over a misspoken word or even a tone of voice that might have been “taken the wrong way.” I’ll dwell for days. Weeks. I mean, there are things I said or did in fifth grade I still stress over.
A sample from my collection of thoughts I’ve gathered over the years: Do they hate me? Will I get fired? Will he break up with me? Is my reputation dead? Should I just quit everything and start fresh where no one knows me?
The act of saying “sorry” holds a lot more weight than others may realize – especially for you, you Sensitive Soul. The trick is to subtly shift the way you apologize and be the slow-yet-steady change you wish to see in the world (because change and mistakes go hand-in-hand).
Here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to how to say sorry, for those of us who get hit the deepest by our own mistakes and want to make our apologies last longer than just five little letters:
FESS UP COMPLETELY.
When we’re in the wrong, it’s tempting to lean on stories, excuses, or even little white lies in hopes of getting us in the clear quicker. However legitimate (or convincing, in the case of little white lies) your story, you’ve gotta face the facts. The act has already been done, the opportunity has been lost, and you just might have let someone down. An explanation might be necessary, but not if it’s in hopes of defending yourself. An explanation and an excuse are two very different things. Fess up completely, and explain whatever you need to in order to support your apology, not ask for a free pass.
As for the “omission of truths?” I’ve found that white lies can be habit-forming, or just icky. Little white lies are like plaque on your soul, and can (and will) build up inside you. Over time, they morph into a weighty guilt that is way harder to shake than telling the truth ever would be.
GO FOR QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY.
When you’re truly sorry for something you did, the best thing to do first is accept full responsibility – but keep it concise. Long, drawn-out apologies can seem inauthentic and water down your true intentions. Side note, they can make you seem weak, which you’re not. Acknowledge your faux pas, acknowledge the fact that you fell below your usual standards for yourself, then turn your focus onto the other person (friend, boss, lover, whoever). Look the other person in the eye and listen to all they have to say. Prepare to be met with at least a little bit of anger, frustration, or sadness. You might get a lecture and your impulse might be to go into defense mode. But being fully present, fully accepting of both the other person’s perceptions and emotions, as well as your own inherently beautifully flawed humanity, is one of the noblest, strongest things you can do to move forward in an effective way.
OFFER YOUR SERVICE.
Are you able to fix the situation? Get on it. Ask if there is anything you can do to help the situation – and offer clear-cut suggestions to prove you’re not just asking because you think you should. Is there something you can replace? Go find it. Is there an additional apology you can make to someone else? Go make it. Is there an errand you can run or a call you can make, or something unrelated yet needed that the other person values? Figure out what it is and make it happen. Being of service after a screw-up not only helps others feel good again, it helps you feel useful and proactive instead of ashamed and defeated.
MAKE A PREVENTION PLAN.
Ever heard that hindsight comes right after you need it most? Not necessarily. Forgive yourself first and foremost, then take at least one active step to prevent your mistake from happening again. Find yourself sleeping through your alarm when you’ve had a long day/week/month? Schedule a free wake-up call online. Work mostly off of memory or your phone’s calendar? Maybe an old-school, handheld Day Planner is what will help you stay organized (I personally need to take this advice – something about pen-to-paper keeps me on track like no app ever could). Did your mistake involve more of a slip of the tongue or an offensive remark? Start practicing extreme compassion and empathy in every single one of your interactions throughout the day. Constantly ask yourself what would make you feel good, how you would want to be treated, how you would want someone to breach a difficult topic to you. Basically, be the kindest, most thoughtful person you know.
The way you’re wired might be different than others, but the simple act of exercising empathy on a day-to-day basis could be the thing that saves you from a major misstep in the future. And if it doesn’t? You know what to do to make your apology count.
In the comments below, tell me about a time you made a mistake and had to apologize. What did you do to mend the situation or relationship? What was the lesson you learned as a result? Has it shaped the way you do things today?
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a version of this post originally appeared on the chalkboard mag in 2014