IF YOU HAD A REALLY BAD COLD, WOULD YOU GO FOR A SWIM DURING THE WINTER? Probably not. How about this - if you had a really bad cold would you jump into a lake filled with bacteria and germs? Definitely not. Yet it is essentially what so many people do every single day. Negative self talk is just as dangerous as a lake filled with bacteria.
When something bad happens to us - we make a mistake or get rejected or fail to meet a goal, we end up in this vulnerable state where we question everything. What could I have done? Why didn't it work? Why didn't he fall in love with me? While we are in this tender, weakened space, it is not unlike having a cold - you are worn down, struggling, and vulnerable to any germs that come our way. Often, at least for me, my first reaction is to doubt myself and to heap on insults that I would never, ever say to anyone else; and thus I plunge my weakened self into a bath of germs.
This morning I was listening to TED Talk Radio and an episode dedicated to how we respond to depression and mental illness (which sounds depression I know, but isn't), and one of the featured speakers is a man named Guy Winch. He believes that we should treat our mental health as we do our physical health. Any child knows that they must brush their teeth, and their hair. Toddlers know that it is important to have a bath, and get a band-aid if you cut your finger. We do a wonderful job of teaching the importance of hygiene. In fact, when we improved our understanding of personal hygiene, we improved our life expectancy.
But what do we teach about mental hygiene? Do we teach our children how to manage emotions and develop healthy patterns of thought? Do we endeavor to teach them the difference between negative self-talk which brings no benefit, and does not move our skills or abilities forward, and self-reflection which enables us to determine a better approach to a problem that we previously addressed.
It is mind-blowing to think that for all our forward advancements, we have neglected to develop a path for a healthy mind-set that would undoubtedly improve the quality of our daily lives. I was in a situation recently, where I was attempting to have a conversation with someone while they were completing a task involving a simple machine. The machine didn't work, and their powerful, angry reaction to that made it impossible to continue the convesation. How we handle disappointment and frustration can get in the way of not only building healthy relationships, but also accomplishing simple and necessary tasks.
I have worked hard to rebuild my self-talk, as I lean toward have pretty negative conversations about myself. I suppose that is the giant secret that so many of us carry - we appear on the surface to have beautiful, easy lives, and internally we are carrying on a really negative conversation. It isn't enough to admit that negative conversation exists, but rather to begin to move toward erradicating it not only from our own lives, but educating the next generation about the importance of developing a healthy mental hygiene.
Go on, rise - you've got this!
Here is the TED Talk by Guy Winch