I recently started swimming in an attempt to get more active. I hate working out and going to the gym, but I used to be a competitive swimmer and thought I’d try and do something I used to love to do. It turns out muscle memory is an incredible thing and I feel like I never left the pool.
On one of the days that I swim I have a coach that runs me through drills. She also cheers me on while I swim. As I swim laps, she yells encouraging things like: “super,” “you’re doing great,” and”good job.” This week, while I was swimming with her voice was echoing in my ears, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if someone encouraged you through life like that? Wouldn’t it be great if you had a little cheerleader on the sidelines as you went to work or school reminding you how awesome you are? And then I thought, why don’t I cheer myself on?
The idea of speaking positively to myself is a foreign concept. My self-talk is almost exclusively negative. My thoughts are a constant barrage of “you’re not good enough,” “you’re not thin enough,” and “you’re not smart enough.” Nothing I ever do is enough. I’m never enough. Even as I write this, my negative self-talk is spinning:
“This blog post is shit.”
“I’m an awful writer.”
“Why do I even try? Everything I do fucking sucks.”
If someone else talked to me the way I talk to myself they would be the meanest and cruellest person on the face of the planet. I wouldn’t be friends with them. I wouldn’t even remotely tolerate them in my life. They would be considered abusive and toxic. And I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to go fuck themselves (or I’d at the very least think it). This sort of negative self-talk is a form of abuse that we tolerate and to some extent, encourage. We think talking ourselves up or speaking highly of ourselves is conceited — a negative quality. But it’s not. Acknowledging you’re good at something or have a good quality is a form of self-love.
The adage goes, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” And I think that’s a good rule to live by. But, I think most human beings walk around with a basic sense of decency towards other people. Sure assholes exist and I’m not completely naive to the fact that some people are really out for themselves. But for the most part, people are genuinely good. Generally, some random guy on the street isn’t going to hurl insults at me for no reason. They’re more likely to say hello and thank you. So what if we turned the adage on its head. What if we said: “Treat yourself the way you treat others.”
For example, the other day I tried driving my car with the emergency brake on. When I realized what I was doing, I immediately called myself an “idiot” and smacked myself in the head. Now let’s turn it around. If I treated myself the way I treat other people I would have never called myself an idiot. What would I have said to a friend? I probably would have just laughed it off because in the grand scheme of things, it’s really no big fucking deal. So why am I an idiot? Why does kindness extend to everyone else except for me?
So I’m vowing to you, my mad lovelies, to be nicer to myself. And I encourage you to do the same thing. Be your own cheerleader.