This morning started out quite eventful.
As I was getting cream out of fridge for my coffee, an entire 12 pack of La Croix came tumbling out of the box that was inconveniently kept on top of the fridge. 12 cans pummeled directly at me, hitting me in the head, on my arm and my ankle bone. It freaking hurt. Plus it created this super chaotic moment, made more intense because of fizzy water exploding everywhere.
What kind of idiot leaves an open case of water on top of the fridge?
Oh yeah, that was me.
My boyfriend came rushing down out of bed to see why I was screaming expletives at 5 in the morning.
After I let him know how lucky he was that I didn’t die by way of sparkly water, I kissed him, told him I was sorry that I didn’t have time to clean up the crime scene, and hurried out the door.
As I was juggling my work out bag, my backpack, my breakfast and my coffee-I somehow managed to pour hot coffee down the front of my body.
Naturally, I let out my second screaming expletive at the day, all before 5:30 am.
In my head, it was even more violent.
What the fuck is wrong with you? You are such an idiot. You always spill everything. You do everything wrong. You’ll probably fuck up everything else today. Now you look stupid with coffee all over your shirt. You should lock yourself up in Stevie Ticks’ cage so you can’t ruin the whole world. At least then maybe someone will feel sorry for you.
Now I know I’m not the only one who uses harsh-self criticism; but when I write out the things I tell myself, I come off as quite the bitch.
Luckily, this time at least, I was able to catch my whore brain attacking someone wonderful (me) – and by using these mindfulness skills that I’ve been going on and on about- I was able to put myself back into place.
I know from paying careful attention to my actions, that these two trivial events could have had the power to ruin my entire day. No, swipe that. I know that my reaction to these two trivial events could have had the power to ruin my whole day.
I could have spent my entire drive to work going down that familiar wormhole of self-hate. I would have arrived at work anxious and grouchy. I would have probably stopped at the vending machine to try to escape my uncomfortable feeling by stuffing my face with cheetos. Then I would have felt guilty about eating said cheetos, but since I already felt shitty and since I already ruined my healthy eating for the day, I would have gone back and gotten cupcakes.
Then I would have felt sick and gross and would have wanted to make myself throw up. Even if I didn’t choose to act on that, I would have continued to tell myself all of awful things, which would have kept me in a horrible mood. Because I was in a horrible mood I wouldn’t have gone on a walk at lunch. I would have picked a fight with my boyfriend. Then I would stress about that for the remainder of the day.
That’s probably worst case scenario, but my point is-just being mindful for one moment was enough to keep me from potentially spiraling down an extremely unhealthy and unproductive stream of events.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way I talk to myself, and why the habit of doing so has become so ingrained in my brain. I’ve both read and learned in group therapy that sometimes this comes about as a result of growing up in a highly critical environment.
For me, that definitely wasn’t the case. I can’t remember a time when my parents used any sort of criticism towards me that wasn’t constructive. They always encouraged me and told me I could be “better” at X if I wanted to, but they didn’t threaten me and they definitely never told me I was horrible at anything. In fact, I have so many memories of my family doing everything in their power to lift me up when I felt shame or embarrassment or like a failure.
So I can’t buy into the idea that my self-criticism and perfectionism came from my environment.
The best I can figure, is that everyone has that little mean asshole of a critic in their brain, and I just gave mine so much attention that it has grown more and more powerful over years. I really started to believe everything it told me. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve paid attention to it so much that it’s become the loudest voice in my brain.
When I first became aware at how often I use negative self-talk, I rationalized it as a way to push myself, to teach myself a lesson.
Then I started to really pay attention to my the patterns that arise when I repeatedly talk harshly to myself. I noticed that it wasn’t in fact, constructive, and that it wasn’t productive and that it didn’t make me feel good.
We’re all familiar with the saying “Love your neighbor like you love yourself,” but I realized I was doing it all wrong. I would never tell someone I love that they suck at life or that they are stupid (even though I’ve been tempted), so why do I think it’s ok to talk to myself that way?
Now, when I catch myself berating myself, (and I’m starting to catch myself more often) I try to really look at the situation objectively. If my boyfriend was the one who almost got murdered by sparkle water, would I tell him it was because he was a failure at everything?
The other, much cheesier tactic, that I’ve found works for me when I can’t turn off the voice, is to try singing my criticism.
This morning after catching myself talking negatively, I literally just sang my thoughts out loud. It takes the seriousness out of the situation and helps to make me realize how ridiculous I’m being.
Right now, I still have “I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid-the cans fell on my face” running through my head, and it’s making me laugh.
I’ve learned that singing criticism even works well when other people do it. If my boyfriend sings “You’ve left toothpaste in the sink again” I’m much more likely to to not spiral down a path of “I can’t do anything right,” and I’m much more likely to pay attention the next time I brush my teeth.
That’s not to say that there isn’t room for learning lessons or a healthy amount of constructive self criticism.
I may have not allowed myself to go down destructive spiral, but you can bet your ass that I move the La Croix to a better location and that tomorrow I won’t try to carry all the things to the car at the same time.