Updated: Jun 20, 2022
I abused drugs and alcohol and chain-smoked for years. I've made terrible decisions that put me in danger. I've caused chaos and heartbreak and disappointed people more than I can bear to consider. I didn't want to feel or act the way I did. I simply lacked the tools to process the fear and anger and trauma I experienced.
Because my mind couldn't understand how badness could happen to me if I didn't invite it somehow, I punished myself. The substances and danger were terrible, but the worst thing I did was turn against myself; to hate myself. I didn't have compassion for the hurt I endured or possess the emotional ability to be logical about my life.
And before you tell me you didn't experience trauma or your life hasn't been hard- STOP.
If you feel terrible and can't process emotions well, or find your footing, there is a reason. People don't choose misery unless it's what they feel they deserve. But the good news is, you are capable of learning new things and changing your mind.
The first step is fixing the way you speak to yourself and about yourself.
You are not trash.
Your life is not meaningless.
You aren't stuck.
I've shared before that when I began therapy, one tool I was told to practice was positive self-talk. But every time I told myself "you're strong," or "you're capable," it was too different from my inner monologue that had been steadily bashing everything about me for decades. I read somewhere (I don't remember where), about neutral self-talk, and that idea actually worked.
It didn't change me overnight because I had 30 years of hateful programming to negate. But crediting myself for every small thing I did that was neutral or good, and speaking to myself with neutral thoughts when I made mistakes, slowly changed me.
Here's an example from real life:
I was late picking my daughter up from school, which she didn't like because the kids sat outside in the Texas heat to wait on their rides. I was often late and it was never due to an emergency- I just didn't budget my time well. This formerly would have caused such a stress response that my body would heat up and I would repeat in my mind, "You're so stupid! Why can't you manage your life? You're a terrible mother who should never have had kids. Everyone can see that you're a failure!"
Instead, I forced myself to repeat a logical, neutral statement: "You struggle with time management and need to spend time working through why this consistently happens. This does not make you a bad mother. You know how passionately you love your kids. But you do need to work on this." (FYI- when I did work through my issue with being on time, part of it was an improper calculation of the time I needed to do things. But part of it was people-pleasing. Hmmmm.)
I didn't pretend I wasn't late or act as though it didn't matter. I acknowledged the struggle while preventing myself from turning a common human problem, (lateness), into a character failing, or worse, an indictment against my mothering.
Once neutral thinking becomes a habit, it feels as though your eyes have been opened after being scrunched tight. There are possibilities all around you and have always been. But focusing on negativity has blinded you to your worth and capacity.
I have been working hard on opening my own eyes since 2016 and there are new opportunities I'm able to see, every day. Opportunities to grow as a person and be kinder to myself and others. Chances to change my life in huge ways if I'm brave enough to admit I'm capable.
I want freedom for you as much as I want it for myself. I spent so long feeling absolutely hopeless to live a life of joy and meaning. Now that I think and live so differently, it's my mission to share what I can with you.
It's my birthday today and I wanted to give you something because you have given me such positivity and support. I made you a neutral self-talk sheet, which you'll find is free on my "shop" tab. I hope it helps and that you know I am cheering you on, every day.