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Self Talk...

It is impossible to change other people’s opinions of you.  I mean, you can try, but so far in this life, I kind of feel like the whole endeavor is pointless.  I mean, try as you might, people will always hold whatever opinion suits them.  And there is nothing that can really be done about that.

I will be the first to admit that my internal self talk really lags sometimes.  Other times, it has me believing that I am the best thing that has ever happened.  But in my increasing periods of time between complete self denigration and toxic grandiosity, I am coming to know better this idea that I am special and unique but also flawed and fallible.  And be able to sit with some relative peace in both houses of myself.

In short, I am the best me I can be and I can also use a little work...sometimes a lot of work.

The balance of struggle in my life is to change the way I think about myself, which is really one of the best kept secrets in this life...because if you hold yourself in high regard then it really doesn’t fucking matter what anyone else thinks.

Seems to me that we come into this world believing we are amazing or fearing that we aren’t good enough.  I come from the later camp.  I started out life thinking that I was not enough. Then I set about trying to run around and prove that I was.  And I have a long list of accomplishments to show for just how far I will go to show you that I am a worthwhile and intelligent being.  

I know people who fall into the other camp.  People who are capable of setting healthy boundaries, people who just love themselves for who they are and do not seem to buy into this idea that they are fundamentally flawed, broken or damaged.  I will say, that I do not know too many that fall into this camp.  My experience is that most people in this world are running around daily accomplishing life like it can be tamed and managed.

It can’t - just a head’s up.

So if you are like me in this camp that has historically believed themselves less than, not worthy and undeserving...then one of the hardest things you will ever need to attempt is to change the way you think about yourself.

To be able to hold yourself accountable for the things you screw up without careening off the deep end into self recrimination.  To be able to grant yourself some grace for the human living you do which is, like the rest of us, full of errors and missteps.

I was talking to a woman yesterday.  She was in an unhappy marriage.  She wanted to leave.  But she was raised that marriage was for life and her faith dictated that she remain in this unhappy and emotionally abusive relationship, there really was no way out.  So she attempted to make the best of it.  

She had two kids who both have special needs.  They are a lot to manage and even though she is a medical professional, there is a lot of need for constant medical care that is both expensive and difficult to access while attempting to do all the things a normal person does in a day.

But she persisted.  She got to many breaking points and attempted to leave this marriage.   Her family, and to a great degree, her friends were unsupportive.  So persisted some more.

Then one day, quite unexpectedly this new man walked into her life.  It was an easy friendship at first.  He was kind, attentive and present. Nothing like the man she was married to at home.  She was starved for attention and affection.  She was starved to have someone see value in her, instead of always criticizing her for her faults, perceived and real. 

And like these situations do, it crossed a line.  With much angst and disgust with herself, she left the marriage.  And now, she is having a very hard time living with herself.  She knows she was wrong to step outside her marriage.  Her own conduct violates everything she believes in...and yet, still, here she is.

I spent over an hour with her on the phone.  And I can tell you no one is suffering more for her indiscretion than her.  Her ex doesn’t know but he suspects and has his own wounds surrounding this and is not taking it well which is understandable and expected.

But she is killing herself internally.  She feels like a failure as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.  She has behaved in a way that is incongruent with all she believes in but she lacked the power to stop it or change it or whatever.

Most of my time in this conversation was to try to help her be able to forgive herself before the guilt consumes her.  Her biggest challenge is not the divorce or single parenting it is finding a place in her own heart, mind and soul to forgive herself for behavior she deems to be wrong.

And so I attempted to help her begin a narrative that would allow her to be accountable for her actions and their attendant consequences, but also change the way she thinks about herself.  A very hard ask...but without the effort to change your own narrative about yourself, you are really kind of signing your own death warrant.

And this has been my life long change how I talk to and about myself.  To grant myself a break but not let myself off the hook completely for the fucked up shit that I do.  I am getting better, every single day, but that does not mean that I do not still screw it and my life up with rhythmic regularity.

It has helped me a great deal to allow my mistakes to be learning experiences instead of moral condemnations of me as a person.  I mean, yes, I fuck shit up, but I do usually learn something from it and then do not repeat the same mistake again.  There are areas of my life (men) where I tend to make the same mistake repeatedly but even in this fucking emotional and damaged quagmire, I can see progress, slow though it may be.

The hardest thing I have ever done is to change the way I think about myself.  But I will tell you that this very hard work, is the best effort I have ever put forward in my life.  Like ever.  Well, maybe after getting sober...that was FUCKING HARD AS FUCK!  Motherhood hasn’t really been a picnic either but without the ability to change the way I think about myself and then subsequently treat myself, sobriety and being a decent mom would have never been possible.

In fact, it is this ever changing internal landscape, this intimate conversation with myself about myself that has ushered in all change and all possibility of change.  First I have to be wiling to see that I am not innately flawed, I am just human and so therefore I will suffer.  And so will those about me because of all their humanness.  And we will hurt ourselves and each other in the process, not because we are horrible people with no salvation able to reach us. But because we are human and so it is in our nature to make a mess of things.  We seriously can’t help it.

But it is how we talk to ourselves in our hearts and minds that becomes so difficult to change.  And if we do not change this, then we are kind of lost to really have much peace in this world.  And, in my experience, we end up inviting people in who do not have good intentions for us, are not capable of being there for us or will only be more than happy to join in the chorus that resounds in our minds, that we are totally undeserving and worthless.

So it all begins with us.  And so I agree with Ms. Angelou...the hardest thing we will ever do is to change the internal combustion of our thoughts about ourselves into something better, less harsh and more open to feedback - all of the feedback, not just the lamenting cries of an ego badly bruised.

The reality of who we are, who all of us are, is only capable of being changed when we find the willingness to give ourselves some grace, not because our behavior earned us it, but because the whole business of living is about failing repeatedly and learning how to assimilate those failures into a life well lived.  And loved.  And learned.  And most of all enjoyed.



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