Talking to Ourselves

Do you talk to yourself the way you talk to others?

I was thinking about the other day when I read someone talking about themselves and their work. They were very harsh and critical, with nothing good to say. I have no doubt if they heard someone speaking in such a way to another person they would have gotten angry. It made me ponder what it is that causes us to use language about ourselves that we wouldn’t use for other people.

When we speak, whether in our minds or out loud, we are the only consistent audience to hear our words. And when we repeat thoughts or words again and again, we are the ones hearing it, again and again and again. Words inside our heads matter—not just what we say outlaid to others. Our thoughts are the soundtracks of our hearts, and when all we play is despair we produce words and moods of the same.

In my life, this has meant replacing lies with words that are true. Instead of calling myself a failure every time I mess up or whenever things don’t go how I’ve wished (which happens a lot with chronic illness), I have learned to point out what I have accomplished or gained. It has required a lot of grace for myself and redefining the ideal self I’ve often pursued in my head.

Understanding myself—the true identity God has given me—has been the most foundational part of changing the way I talk about myself. Half-truths won’t kick out lies. Neither will cheap pep talk—life can still be difficult, disappointing, and draining, no matter how much optimism I shield against the rain. But when I have a root, a firm foundation, I have a place to start. It is from that place that my words bloom and spread not only to myself but to others.

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