Something that has always been super important for me and my experience of growth and acceptance has been working on my cycle of toxic self-judgment. I know that sounds wordy so let me explain.
A couple of years ago, I found myself in what I could only describe as a toxic relationship. It was emotionally abusive – there were yelling fits, screaming, manipulation tactics…I could go on. It was hard. The relationship ended with her coming out which was challenging for both of us. Given that I was already pretty mean to myself and critical of who I was, this relationship left me at my wits end. She had expectations of me and the pressure to meet or exceed those expectations was tiresome. But because the boat was rocking enough on its own, I tried my best to settle the tide. Instead of talking to her, I blamed myself and instead of bringing to her the reality of our deteriorating relationship, I gave up. I must be the problem. I have to communicate better. What can I do to stop triggering her? So, as you can imagine, my self-talk worsened and only I suffered as its result.
Talking to yourself about yourself is as common as talking to others but because of the different forms it can take, you may not be aware of it. Sometimes I hear myself talking to myself in my ex’s voice – critical and judgmental. Sometimes I hear myself using other people’s voices, varying in tone and intent – the persona of these voices dependant on the situation of course. The key to navigating these ways of talking to yourself, I think, is to notice them, observe how they affect you and be mindful of their impact. You may look at yourself in the mirror and think X, Y and Z. I know that I body shame myself all the time – I try to catch it but it’s hard. These comments, often covert, take a toll on your self-esteem and your ability to navigate the world confidently. But you’ve got to take the time to notice it happening first, and then try to gently correct course. I’ve become a better captain of my ship by doing just this.
The only battle worth fighting is the one that gets you feeling good about yourself – the one that gets you talking to yourself in way that is free of judgement and abuse. There are enough people in this world that will judge you and come between you and your solitude – you don’t need to be one of those people. So notice how you talk to yourself and work at confronting the voices that keep telling you that you’re not enough or that you’re not worth fighting for. For me, body image and self-esteem are mental battles that I engage in every day. I fail often and succeed at times, but I’m a better person because of those tribulations and victories. Over the past year, I’ve tried to be kinder to myself and if I’ve noticed anything different, it’s that I’m a calmer and happier person. Situations where I would have once felt overwhelmed and insecure, I am now able to cope with my emotions in a much more productive way. Start having genuine, honest, and kind conversations with yourself – I’m telling you, it works!
Brent Pleasance, student of life, peer-supporter, psychonaut, is passionate about rewriting the story of men in our culture and fighting the drug war from the grassroots level. He is curious about everything from philosophy and drugs to gender and physics. You can find him writing about anything and everything on thinkingsandthoughtings.wordpress.com, attempting to mobilize men into something greater on facebook.com/sensitivemenmovement, or changing the conversation on the therapeutic value of psychedelics on facebook.com/torontopsychedelicsociety. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.