This is how it starts.
We are unhappy about something (our education, our bodies, our relationship or relationship status, our careers, etc.). We decide we are going to do something about it. We lay out our plan.
Sometimes, the plan looks like:
I will read a lot about this area. I will see what resonates with me. I will patiently but tenaciously keep trying. I will do my best but give myself grace if something doesn’t work with the initial plan. I will continue to monitor my self-care as I take on this goal. If something doesn’t feel right, I will gently reassess and come up with a new approach that is more in line with what I want to feel and how I want to live. I will not judge myself harshly. Every action is a celebration. I will not grip tightly on reaching the final result and will honor the journey because I understand inherently that it is all journey.
A show of hands now from all the people who operate this way.
Wait. Where are the hands? WHERE ARE THE HANDS?
Okay, I’ll give you another option.
Sometimes, the plan looks like:
I will gather some ideas that have seemed to work for others. I will adopt those ideas like absolutes (I will make an A in every class, I will never eat a carb again, I will always wear make-up and do my hair, I will quit my job and immediately draw in 5 figures with my new business idea) and then I will boss my way to them every single day. Get queasy during that intense cardio workout? I will drill sergeant my way into submission. Don’t wake up early enough to perfectly blow out my hair? I will shame myself in the mirror. Because those things will show me. Those things I say will motivate me. They will make me change.
Does this strategy feel a little bit more familiar to you?
Sadly, dear heart, it is familiar to too many of us—the irony being that it very rarely works.
When we talk that way to ourselves, we create fissures in our core. The more we do it, the bigger our breaks become. Until we are walking around in pieces, unsure of why it is we cannot realize this damn goal.
What is wrong with me, we wail.
And, yet, there is nothing wrong with you but how you treat yourself. Your only mistake is not honoring and embracing the tender brilliant person that you are.
But then, at that point, it feels like the habit is too natural. It feels like our way of being.
I don’t even know how to talk to myself differently, we think. I do not even know how to treat myself differently.
And so the problem seems insurmountable.
But it is not.
Because the problem is just a habit and that habit—of talking to ourselves in that way, of treating ourselves that way—was born from a choice.
And you can always make a different choice.
Today, you can choose to not have an adversarial relationship with yourself any longer. You can choose to talk to yourself differently. You can choose to be more gentle with your expectations. You can choose self-care and self-kindness and self-acceptance.
Then you just begin: talking to yourself in the voice that you have reserved for those you love because you deserve to be your own personal loved one, coaching yourself the way you would a best friend, encouraging yourself the way you would a sister, thinking through solutions like you would a niece or daughter.
And when the awful voice returns—because it will as it would rather not lose its megaphone in your life—you just look at it, making piercing eye contact, and say,
“I have made the choice to have a different relationship with myself.”
You may have to tell the voice that 100 times before it grows tired of your new persistence and uproots itself, moving away from your brain because you will no longer tolerate its bluster. You may have to coach the new voice into doing its best work for you. You’ve got this. You can try. Whatever you do, is okay. I believe in you. And then one day, it will no longer need your coaching. The voice in your head will organically be your own encouraging champion.