A common piece of advice for people with intrusive negative self-talk is to think about how you would respond if someone talked the way about a loved one that you do to yourself. Cognitively, this is helpful. But honestly, for me, it sort of just sits in the “thoughts” part of the cognitive behavioral therapy triangle. For whatever reason, it never seems to shift my thoughts or feelings.
But a couple of days ago, I did something that took that concept a step farther: I literally spoke, out loud, to myself in the same voice I use to soothe my toddler. Halfway between my car and the co-working space, I realized I’d left my phone in the car. Anxiety, she was waiting, and jumped on this: “God, Kimberly, why are you so stupid?” But Mom-Me instinctively said – again, out loud, “It’s okay,” in the sweetest way. In the same way I say to M. when he hurts himself, “That looked like it hurt! It probably doesn’t feel very good. I know it hurts right now, but you’re strong and you’re going to be okay.” And that out loud mom voice made all the difference. So what if I left my phone in the car? It wasn’t a high stakes situation. I turned around and went back to the car and got my phone, and didn’t berate myself for having left it there.
If you’re plagued by negative self-talk, imagine the creature you are most motivated to soothe, and try using the actual audible voice you use for that creature on yourself.
In the meantime, in case you need a mom to say it to you:
I know it hurts right now, but you’re strong and you’re going to be okay.
[Backstory: a friend recently expressed a wish to be able to take a moment out from busy, stressful life, as I had done long enough to share a slice of butter cake with my toddler. I replied that caring for someone else requires setting aside misery, for at least a moment. “Be your own toddler,” I urged my friend.]