Self-deprecating humor or trash talking?

Once you change the words you use to talk to yourself, you will soon see your experiences changing in like manner.

I know for myself, I have spent a lot of time trying to improve myself. Much of that improvement has come in the face of feeling better about myself. So I do affirmations, visualization, self-talk monitoring, you name it.

But how do we talk about ourselves? For example, when I am with friends, one of my favorite things to say about myself is, “Well, you know, I’m not the brightest bulb in the box.” This conveys I don’t think I am very intelligent, or sharp, or clever, or quick-witted. And the thing is? I am ALL of those things. I believe it to my core. And yet, I diminish all the work I have done on myself when I talk like that.Woman in workout clothes uploaded by Drew Carey career coach in Indianapolis Indiana

One of my guilty pleasures is going to a local bistro, by myself, and ordering their cinnamon toast for breakfast. Recently, I was there and overheard a conversation among four, 30-something women at the next table. One women had just arrived, and her friends were complimenting her on how great she looked. Her response? “Oh please! I’m a cow!” I had to glance over, and she was no cow. She was in workout clothes, and while she wasn’t a size 0 or 2, she wasn’t more than a size 8. That’s when it dawned on me that I was not the only one who did this “self-trash talk.”

When I hear someone I care about say something like, “Man, that was really stupid of me!” I feel compelled to stop and make a point to say that the person is not stupid. The circumstances might be wacky or there may have been a momentary lapse of good judgment, but the person in the middle of it is always perfect and whole.

Don’t most of us completely lose track of what we say to ourselves – and ABOUT ourselves – throughout the day? Not only is there a running dialogue in our head, those tapes that scream at us, but then we compound it by thoughtlessly talking to ourselves during the day. I want to be clear here that I am not talking about those voices in our head. I mean talking out loud either to ourselves or others. Often, it's seen as self-deprecating humor but at its core, I believe it's destructive

Have you ever said or heard someone else say one of these statements?

“I’m a little ADD [or ADHD]”

“Wow, that is so beautiful. But I could never afford it.”

“I hate my job. But I am lucky to have a job. This is as good as I can do.”

“Why is he such a jerk? He’s so mean to me! Well, I’m not going to rock the boat. I’m not the best catch in the sea after all.”

“I’m so fat, I’m so out of shape. I’m disgusting!”

“Man, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

“Why bother? I’ll just screw it up like I always do.”

During the life coaching and career coaching sessions I do with my clients, I spend a lot of time “reframing” comments my clients make, how they talk about themselves. I try to help them to see different perspectives, new ways of looking at old problems and the tired opinions we hold about ourselves. Many times, I ask, “Where’s the evidence? How has Angry male friend uploaded by Drew Carey career coach in Indianapolis Indianathis been proven to you?” Most times, there are no real-world examples that would prove the horrible things we say about ourselves.

I advise my clients to take a "pause and reflect” break whenever they are badmouthing themselves. In fact, would you ever allow a friend to say such things about you?

Say to yourself, “Wait, what? What did I just say about myself?? Is it really true? How can I say this differently?” Here are some examples of reframing the statements from above:

“I’m a little ADD [or ADHD]”
Maybe this is a more accurate way to say it, "Boy, I am feeling really scattered right now. What’s going on that could be causing that? What can I do to fix this? Maybe make a list of what I need to get done. I could say “no” more to the requests people make of me. I do have a lot going on in my life right now, but I am handling everything as well as anybody else would in the same situation."

“Wow! That is so beautiful. But I could never afford it.”
How about, “But I can save up for it; there are ways that I can cut back, and eventually I can buy it for myself. I am beautiful, and I deserve beautiful things.”

“I hate my job. But I am lucky to have a job. This is as good as I can do.”
Instead, “I have control here. What can I do to make my job better? And if that doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other places that would value me. In fact, I am opening myself right now to bring these new jobs to me. I expect I will now meet people who will lead me to my perfect job.”

“I’m so fat, I’m so out of shape. I’m disgusting!”
Today, try this: “I make different choices every day. It’s true, I am not happy with how I look but I can change that. And just because I don’t like how I look doesn’t mean there aren’t other people who love how I look!”

“Why bother? I’ll just screw it up like I always do.”
“I have made mistakes in the past; that is true. But today is a new day, and I am confident things will work out this time. How can I do it differently than I have in the past?”

What are the things you say to yourself during the day and how could you change them to something more supportive? How might you use the dialogue above to stop a friend or loved one who is bad-mouthing themselves?

Once you change the words you use to talk to yourself, you will soon see your experiences changing in like manner.