Green: Why you shouldn't always listen to what you tell yourself
Am I crazy?
Wait. Don’t answer that. I’m not sure I want to know.
But really… Am I?
For those of you nodding your heads, you can stop. I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to myself, which means you were eavesdropping. But I’m quite willing to forgive you because I understand the confusion. I eavesdrop on myself, too.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t talk to myself. Sometimes it’s out loud, like when I can’t find my keys but I keep getting distracted in every new room I enter. So I’ll walk into the kitchen to find them, see the coffee, pour myself a fresh cup, doctor it with cream and Stevia, and then remember the keys I was looking for. Then I’ll enter the living room, see the dirty mug and plate Man Cub left there last night and take it back to the kitchen, where I’ll see the coffee and remember I have a fresh cup somewhere, after which I’ll backtrack to find my coffee on the side table next to the couch, and I’ll grab the remote and make myself comfy. Ten minutes into the latest "Gilmore Girls" rerun I’ll remember I was supposed to go somewhere . . . but I couldn’t find my keys.
That’s when I’ll start talking out loud, saying, “Keys . . . keys . . . keys . . .” In that case, talking to myself doesn’t mean I’m going crazy. It means I’m already at the Looney Bin and trying to find my way back.
More often, I talk to myself inside my head. It’s such a constant yammer, I don’t even listen any more. Except, I do listen. It’s important to listen, don’t you think? Listening is an essential life skill.
When I really pay attention, I’m often disappointed at what I hear. The things I say to myself when I think no one is listening are absolutely unacceptable. If I heard someone talking to another human being the way I talk to myself, I’d be furious. I’d totally butt in and tell the rude speaker to stuff a sock in it.
So why do I let my inner brat say such awful things to me? Things like I’m stupid. I’m ugly. I’m useless. I’m forgetful. (OK, maybe I’ve got a point with that last one.)
The truth is, we all talk to ourselves inside our heads. It’s called thinking. Studies have shown that most people’s self-talk is actually quite negative. But healthy people know when to listen, and when to tell themselves to be quiet.
Did you know our emotions come from our thoughts? If we have a negative thought, a negative emotion will follow. Same is true for positive thoughts – positive feelings will come. That’s why it’s important to pay close attention to those inner mutterings. If we’re feeling worried or anxious or depressed, if we’re overcome with anger or bitterness, it all stems back to the voice in our head that just won’t zip its pie hole.
I’ve recently made a conscious effort to tune in to my internal radio frequency. When the inner dialogue is negative or harsh, I change the station to something friendlier . . . more soothing . . . more true.
And when that doesn’t work, I start talking out loud, to drown out the inner static. The truth is, I’m not stupid. I’m actually quite intelligent, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I know how to use Google.
I’m not ugly. If I want, I can change my body with diet and exercise, and the right makeup, strategically applied, can work wonders. But real beauty comes from within. Truly attractive people are attractive because of their kindness, their compassion, and their concern for the people around them. If those are the standards, I’m usually a supermodel when it comes to others! I’m only ugly to myself because of that awful inner dialogue.
I’m not useless. I have skills, people. I do . . . even if none of them are worth an actual livable wage. I have multiple books with my name on the cover, even if some of them have only sold 12 copies. Apparently, my mom and 11 of my cousins think I have something important to say.
So in answer to my initial question, I might be crazy. Or I might not be. It all depends on which voice I listen to. From now on, I’m going to treat myself like I matter, tell myself I’m pretty amazing, and tell my other self to shut up.
“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts,” Proverbs 4:23.
Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly perfect children, and far-too-many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com