Changing the tone of self-talk

For my whole life, I’ve equated what I do with who I am. As in, I have believed that my actions demonstrate the type of person I am. This means that for my whole life, I’ve been labeling myself. Applying dichotomies to my character, oftentimes false. If I said I’m not sure where I learned this, I’d be lying. I know where I learned it, and who I learned it from, and I imagine it’ll take me quite a while now that I’ve realized it to slowly let that neural pathway die as I form a new one.

This is how this usually plays out in my head. Maybe you can relate. Disclaimer: These have to do with spending time at home since I’m about halfway through the initial part of my hysterectomy recovery. But don’t worry – there are plenty more that have to do with my actions as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, teacher…. you name it! 🙃

  • “Shit, I’ve spent so much time scrolling on my phone this afternoon when I should be outside enjoying the beautiful weather. I guess I’m just the type of person who’s addicted to their screen.”
  • “I’m glad I’m sitting down to read that book for book club, finally. But I’m on the couch when I should be enjoying that new recliner we got. I guess I’m that person who just buys things to have them and never use them.”
  • “Yet again I chose diet soda over sparkling water. I guess I don’t care that much about my health.”
blah blah blah

The patterns that I see are:

I’m observing my action and then judging myself for it, and then “should-ing” myself, which then leads to shame. And to top it off, I self-sabotage my own enjoyment of said action! Shit, can a girl just enjoy some mindless scroll time, reading all curled up on the couch, or a freakin’ diet Coke without a running commentary from the peanut gallery?

Whew. When I put it like that, it’s obvious that something needs to change in how I talk to myself. Unfortunately I don’t think I can fully escape the inner dialogue. I think that’s just a part of who I am, and maybe a part of being neurodivergent? (I’ve been using that term to describe how my brain works.. I’m still learning about it. Would love to hear any insight you have.)

I think, though, that I can recognize this self-talk when it happens and try to turn it around in the moment. The goal of what I want to do, the action, is clear. But maybe I can turn the tone around with something like this:

  • “Man, I’ve spent so much time scrolling on my phone this afternoon. I’ll give myself five more minutes and then I’ll get a glass of iced tea and head outside to the patio [or other outdoor activity].”
  • “I’m glad I’m sitting down to read that book for book club. Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll have my coffee and some reading time in the front room.”
  • “Oh, another diet Coke. I’ll put some sparkling waters in the fridge so they’re cold for later.”

The reason for my lack of follow-through in the actions I want to take are simple barriers. But in my mind they’re mountains that I’ve made out of molehills that eventually feed into what I believe about who I am as a person. This is the dangerous and insidious part. What happens is that I find myself just plopped into situations and then wondering how I got there when I would have loved to have had some foresight to have the outcome I wanted.

Another really big issue with this sort of demoralizing self-talk is that it takes a lot of energy that could be used for much more important and productive endeavors… such as paying close attention to that book for book club, or applying to jobs that look like a good fit, or focusing on my latest counted cross-stitch project. Instead, I’m harassing myself for the tiniest, smallest things. Would I talk to literally anyone else that way? Um, no.

Anyway, these are some of the thoughts going through my head as I lay low and recover. I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands, which sounded completely awesome, but I also knew to expect these moments when I doubt myself and let bad habits dominate my inner thought life. I really shouldn’t let those thoughts win, because then what kind of person would I be? 😉

At the end of the days, I need to remind myself that I can’t take a lot of things too seriously right now. I’m not only recovering from major surgery, but also only a few weeks out of a very difficult work environment that sapped my energy and creativity, as well as my hormones readjusting to hopefully their life for the next 15+ years. There’s a lot going on, and I need to give myself grace.

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