I recently flew to San Diego to meet with a team of developers I work with virtually. I spent a week out there on my own, away from my husband, children, home, office and all the usual demands of a busy life. At first, I enjoyed the peace and quiet and the ability to focus and work on whatever I wished. But it wasn’t long before I started hearing the voices.
You look so tired.
Why did you say that to her? You sounded stupid.
You’re not getting anything done.
Wow! You look old.
In the stillness, my own negative chatter got louder and started to drown out all other thoughts. Only when I stepped away from the chaos of daily life did I realize just how loud those pessimistic voices in my head had become. After years of indulging it, the voice that was telling me I’m not good enough was so firmly situated in my brain that it had moved in and hung wallpaper–the old, ugly kind that is stuck to the wall and a pain to scrape off and cover up.
I carried this revelation back home with me and started desperately working on cutting off my negative thoughts as soon as they start– which by the way, is easier in theory than application.
Fast forward a couple weeks. My tender 13 year old daughter Mirabelle comes into my room just before bed and I could have cried just listening to how hard on herself she is. Questions about her appearance, her friends, her future, her dreams all shrouded in negative expectations, fears and insecurities. My gut ached… I felt her pain, I knew her self-doubt. Then of course, I blamed myself. It’s my fault, right? My own negative self talk rubbed off on her. Shame on me.
Whoa! Then I realized the vicious cycle– I am criticizing myself for her self-criticism–I need to stop, to save her, to save me before we both drown in the negative sludge.
But my daughter is not going to learn to drown out the voices in her head on her own, so in that moment I challenged myself to consciously speak pieces of affirmation to her every day. Not that I wasn’t already but now I was going to paint the beautiful walls before any ugly wallpaper stuck. I want to affirm the way she responds to situations, how she treats her friends, and the way she approaches her schoolwork. I want to affirm her tenderness, her grit and organizational skills, her sense of humor and thoughtful perspective. I hope that by hearing a flow of positive reinforcement, she will develop her own stream of affirmative thoughts that will overcome the negative ones. I hope she will see her beauty, uniqueness, and light.
As for me and my negative thoughts, I have a lot of work to do, but I have committed to start simply and “be in the moment” as I learned in Acting School.
Acting Lesson #1: Be in the moment.
To live each moment fully present, true to myself with a grateful heart. To shift my focus to the people in front of me, instead of my reaction to my own behavior. To catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and choose to see a positive quality and then focus on the next beautiful thing in front of me. Be mindful of what I do well, be kind to myself and love myself with the same unconditional love that I have for my Mirabelle.
Now you. Start right now by closing your eyes, taking a deep breath and when you open your eyes, be right here, right now. Focus on someone in your life you can send sweet messages of affirmation.
Maybe it’s you.