How Do You Change the Negative Self-Talk Conversation?
by Beck Medina
I almost got into a collision the other day.
Not because I was driving recklessly or not paying attention to the road.
It was because I was crying.
I was in the middle of another one of my conversations with myself. It’s this thing I do now that I am working on cultivating a more loving and supportive relationship with myself. I also have dry eye syndrome; and sometimes, when I tear up, my eyes will start burning. This leads to many a self-compassionate yet eye-stinging, blurred-vision-filled conversation that…might serve me better to pull over and have in the future.
I was driving home that night from a good friend’s birthday party. Prior to going, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety. I have suffered from panic attacks (ranging from minor to very severe) for about nine years now, although rare. I mostly deal with the physical symptoms of anxiety. For me, it’s a lingering dread that sits inside my chest even when I’m feeling little to no emotional stress.
I also go into fight or flight mode a lot, sometimes several times a day. From bosses to roommates to my own family members, I constantly worry that disappointing or angering others will result in my ending up alone. This has made me extremely avoidant of conflict, which has caused me my share of failed relationships, both professionally and personally.
I’ve always struggled with feeling like the outsider. Whether it was feeling like I was the least liked or wanted in any group or situation, or like my crushes could only be reciprocated in my constant daydreams, I put nearly everyone on a pedestal and made love in all its forms unavailable to me. I was drenched with insecurities about my looks, my body, and my intellect.
That’s why I was freaked about going to my friend’s party that night. Will I be missed, or forgotten? Accepted or rejected? How do I explain why I’ve been missing in action without coming across like an a-social weirdo?
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The reality is that I was making myself separate this whole time. We are all suffering through something. That might be scaled differently depending on where we are in our emotional and physical lives, but our problems never cease to exist. Our emotions are never permanently on one side of the spectrum. It’s only when I allow myself to release those barriers that forbid anyone access to my heart that I remember that we are all the same.
“You did great tonight, Beck,” I told myself on that drive home. “I can tell you had a lot of fun, and I’m really glad we got to do this together. I’m happy it’s you I’m going home with tonight.”
I know it sounds cheesy and, believe me, it’s uncomfortable. But I do it because I got so sick of the vicious cycle of negative thoughts and beliefs that took up residency inside my mind.
Growing up in my family, we didn’t express our emotions in calm and collected ways. We didn’t sit down with each other and talk out our feelings. I never was asked how I felt, only whether the emotion I was expressing at the time was right or wrong based on how it was received. We stuffed everything deep down until we couldn’t take the pain anymore. I only knew how my loved ones truly felt during one of their outbursts. Once those feelings were released, everything was suddenly fine again, except I was left speculating how much I was to blame for my loved one’s pain. “What did I do to contribute to this?” my younger self often wondered. My obvious reaction became to become quiet and agreeable so I could never be the cause of someone’s pain.
I want to be clear now that I love my family more than anything. They support my big and (potentially) financially unstable dreams wholeheartedly, which is so rare and beautiful. But I grew into a shy and insecure girl who didn’t see her worth, and I know it was due to my environment and what I saw in the people who surrounded me. I watched my family put others before themselves, say yes to everything and carry resentment around as a result, and suffer through heartbreak in the unfulfilling and abusive relationships they remained in because they wanted so badly to be loved. That’s the kind of person I ended up becoming.
My negative self-talk primarily manifested in my actions, such as rejecting a compliment or believing I had to have the perfect body; always saying yes to bosses or relentlessly pursuing unavailable or disinterested men.
The result is a not too terribly tasty cocktail of resentment, frustration, and more loneliness. I gave my power away to others by giving them my time, my energy, and my feelings.
I still struggle to deal with unconstructive criticism. For a decade I have grown and nurtured audiences on several online platforms, including YouTube and Instagram. I started off as an aspiring comedian and Internet personality. Some of my fans from back in my YouTube days still follow me and have witnessed me transform into a young adult author, founder of a health coaching business, and now aspiring songwriter.
One negative comment from a random person means little to nothing to me, but it’s when my own followers who get upset that I didn’t respond back, or I get unfollowed by someone I frequently see in person that social media gets rough. I feel the extensive need to make everyone happy, which results in being less of who I truly am.
Regardless, I still manage to do a pretty good job of making myself seem put-together. I never share about the daily panic attacks I get when I haven’t signed a new coaching client in weeks or how stressed I am about how I’m going to manage to pay my bills this week. The entrepreneur life is hardly glamorous. I’ve mastered how to make my life appear fun, and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone rolled their eyes when they scrolled past my latest post. I’m guilty of doing the same.
A big reason why I’m a writer is because my soul thrives on human interconnectedness. I think it’s so special that there are only a handful of emotions in the world, and we have all experienced them, albeit to different degrees. At the end of the day, we are all just people who have the innate desire to be loved, appreciated, respected, and accepted; all of the qualities for which my inner child yearned.
The problem is that we are constantly seeking validation in others, when the person we should really be striving to get this approval from is ourselves. We are living for the instant gratification that a “like” can bring us. But that is only temporary, and as soon as the rush is over, we are back to square one: feeling empty, and in dire need of more approval yet again.
But what if the person whose “like” I got the most fulfillment from receiving was my own? What if the person whose company I craved the most was my own? Whose comfort I sought when things didn’t go my way? Is that even possible? I figured it was worth a try to find out.
I’m starting to believe that life isn’t about arriving at happy. It’s about finding little ways to be happy today, even when life is imperfect. Sometimes that means spending little to no time on social media in favor of spending time with my loved ones while I have the chance. Or going for a walk and feeling dumbfounded by how freaking beautiful our planet is. It also means sitting with my own shit when it comes to the surface instead of trying to chase it away or bury it.
So whenever I fall into my old patterns and my inner child is feeling especially afraid of the big risks we are taking and all the change that’s going on internally, we have a good heart-to-heart with one another. Some of the dialogue “we” share together includes looking in the mirror and saying those three words to myself. “Beck, I love you.” I’ll even occasionally recall all the little victories I had throughout the day and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done.
We have conversations with other people, too (in my head, of course). We have forgiven a lot of people who we believed wronged us—while owning up to the part we played in the situation, too. We have let go of a lot of guys who wouldn’t give us the time of day and wished them well. Heck, sometimes we even tell our future husband how much we can’t wait to meet him because we are that gung-ho and supportive of my dreams.
That’s what I’m trying to be; for me. That’s why I’m getting into near-car accidents and accepting people’s compliments while giving myself my own. I’m working hard to be the support system I needed rather than my greatest enemy.
While I was absolutely surrounded by some loving and beautiful people growing up, nobody ever just grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Beck, you are enough just as you are. You deserve exactly what you want out of life, not because you’re the prettiest or the funniest or the smartest or the kindest or gladly followed by all, but because you are enough and that’s all you ever need to be. Plain and simple.”
That’s what I really needed back then.
That’s what we all need, isn’t it?