I say things to myself. I guess everyone does and everyone who has had depression or low self esteem or any kind of mental frailty has been told to stop the negative self-talk, like it’s just as easy as zipping a zipper. These last two years have made me, if possible, more dismissive of anyone who tries to put “positive action” into the shit bucket load of potential solutions to mental health. Fuck you, my negative self talk is ingrained. It has its own apartment. I don’t need to “stop” it. I need it to not exist, and there’s a big difference.
Anyway one of the things I say pretty often is “You’re so stupid!” which, if negative self-talk phrases had last names, this one’s is “Smith.” I am not stupid. I am flaky sometimes. I make mistakes. I am impulsive and make choices I immediately regret. But not stupid. But I think it anyway, and this is why you can’t just “stop” negative talk. Negative self talk is like the receipt from the ATM. It spits out the paper and THEN you can crumple it up throw it away, but it exists nonetheless. One thing I do have insight on is where it came from and that is parents who told me I was stupid. Simple as that.
The second thing I say, and I say this A LOT, probably every day, is “Don’t be weird, Jane.” I’m going to have a hard time explaining this one, because I really hate it, but it does have its benefits.
I say things out loud that most people wouldn’t. I do things that are sort of eccentric. Examples: If I walk past someone’s desk and they have a plant on it and said plant has a dead brown leaf, I will stop, WITH THEM SITTING THERE, and pull the leaf off. I don’t know why I do such things, other than I’m just being weird. The other night Tim and I were walking through a restaurant bar on the way to our table, and a group of people greeted this woman sitting alone at a high top and then they realized she wasn’t who they thought she was and there was laughter and merriment and she said, “Oh, no, you don’t want to say ‘hello’ to me,” and as I passed her I said, “Hello!” WHAT THE FUCK.
I bring this up today because one of my directors and I were talking and we were sad we have moved from this tiny office we used to have where we were able to talk and visit and such and overhear what people were doing etc. (this was her more than me because I don’t care) Now we work at home and sit far apart in a much nicer building, and don’t talk to each other as much. I told her that Penny and I have calls once a week or so where we just fire up Teams and then talk and gossip. Well, okay, I didn’t say “gossip” but whatever. That’s what we do. She got all excited and said we should have a Teams call with all the people that used to be in the old office so we could talk and not gossip. And she was like “we’ll just get on the call and everyone will think it’s something official and then we’ll just say ‘this is so we can talk!” She’s very bubbly and I love her.
I sent out an invitation for a “Short Briefing” and in the body I put “We never talk anymore.”
I THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY. But then I realized I was being weird. And people don’t understand humor because people are The Worst. I got replies like, “Should we pull in so and so for the Briefing?” And “Will there be an agenda?” And shit like that. Christ. Why? Just why?
So anyway, now when I walk toward a plant with a brown leaf on it I say to myself, “Don’t be weird don’t be weird don’t be weird.” And the plant remains, sad and brown-leaved, but at least I wasn’t weird.
OK the people who didn’t get “We never talk anymore” are just clueless. Honestly it’s a good thing I’m retired now because the longer I was at work the more likely it would have been that I’d reply with something like “No don’t tell them! It’s a secret!”
“It has its own apartment.”
I don’t think you are weird. I think the plant owners are irresponsible and in need of assistance. I think saying hello to the woman at the bar was perfect. Or perhaps *I* am also weird.
So I’ve actually been working with a life coach (go ahead, roll your eyes, it’s OK, I do it too…my road here was windy, but I’m happy for where it took me) who has taught me a LOT about negative self talk. TL;DR? You are 100% right that you can’t just stop it, or even make it not exist. It’s going to be hard to explain this in one short paragraph, but instead, the key is recognizing that it’s a thought, not a truth. Period. You hear your brain tell you that you’re stupid, and you counter with, “That’s a thought, and it’s not helpful.” I think you probably already realize…you said it above with the stuff about calling yourself stupid, that just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true. So you can decide just not to believe that you’re stupid, even if that’s what you hear in your head all the time. And then you move on with your day. No longer fighting with myself over my thoughts has had an enormous impact on my mental health. I just deliberately note to myself, “oh, there’s that unhelpful thought again,” and go on doing things the way I was. There’s obviously more to it, but…truthfully? Not as much as you’d think.
And now you are probably thinking that I’ve gone all weird in the years since last we ‘spoke’ (though comments!), and to some degree I have, but I am just tired of feeling like crap, and this is helping, a LOT, so…weird it is!
I miss the days when I was a regular reader of both your blog and Jane’s. This resonated with me, and I shared it with a couple friends, too. Thank you!
Ok, I know this is from February but I just looked you up because I saw you tweet and I found all these posts I hadn’t seen. I’m starting a new sentence because I’m resisting writing like you do, which I really enjoy, but don’t want to copy. My point is… I relate a LOT to so much of what you talk about, and I really appreciate that you write about it and put it out there for us.
My real real point is that I do really weird stuff, and I say things that people don’t say, and I stew over it for days. So thanks for being someone else who does that too, and again, shares it with us.
But my real real REAL point is in my head, when you wrote “we never talk anymore,” I heard this song, and I totally would have added the link to that invitation and then been really sad and embarrassed, and would have stopped engaging with anyone at the office anymore when they didn’t get it. It’s not a horrible song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8FCZ5x8Gpg