As I read the book Unseen by Sara Hagerty a quote from this book jumps out at me. Hagerty states, “There are two stories in a person – the visible story and the invisible story.” From the day we are born our two stories are being written and watered and rooted.
External Story: As a young child my parents dote on me, give me hugs and kisses and maybe even put a physical reward in my hands for performing well in school. When I do not perform well in school my parents punish me or I experience a consequence.
Internal Story: I am only loved or worthy of love if I am doing well in life based on other’s expectations.
This is a very common external and internal story but this is only an example for the purpose of this blog. The external and resulting internal story have infinite narratives. This internal story, along with other stories that will be added to this one over the course of childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood are important to know because they impact our self-thoughts, our behaviors, and the ever harsh and destructively critical self-talk.
Our self-talk is a reflection of our internal story. Here the internal story leads to abusive self-talk anytime a person is not performing well they fear punishment or rejection. Ever wonder about the start of perfectionism or the need to please others? Here is a blog on Perfectionism and the fear of failure. Critical self-talk may sound something like this “I’m never going to succeed. I’m a failure.” “I’m stupid.” “I am not worthy of good things in life.” Critical self-talk is rooted in your internal story. Take a minute here:
What is your critical self-talk?
What is the internal and external stories that wrote your life narrative?
Think about your own stories. There could be many stories. Write them down. Explore your deeper inner self. What external stories created your behaviors and self-thoughts?
The antidote to critical self-talk is self-compassion. Self-compassion is talking to yourself in daily situations the way you would speak to a friend or loved one. How many times have you tried self-compassion and it did not work? How many times have you tried to change your inner dialog and it simply defeats you every time?
Why is it that we can be easily compassionate with friends, family, and even complete strangers, but we struggle to be compassionate towards ourselves? We literally are struggling with self-forgiveness, self-leniency, and self-grace. The bottom line is that you are not perfect and so you have been taught somewhere in life to beat yourself up verbally. Many books have been written on the importance of self-compassion and that being compassionate to yourself is as easy as being compassionate to a friend or loved one. I want to challenge the ease of this concept. You are battling an internal story that has been watered and rooted. You are not battling the internal story of your friends and family members. Self-compassion, for this reason alone, is intimately complex.
There are steps that come before self-compassion. The first step is knowing your two stories: the visible and the invisible. The second part is giving yourself grace for your internal story; accepting the hard truth that there is a reason for your self-thoughts, behaviors, and critical self-talk. Thirdly, self-forgiveness. Probably years have watered your narrative and you may begin to feel resentful about lost time, potential, and opportunities. Can you forgive yourself? Can you see how your internal story is the result of an external projection onto you? You’re internal or invisible story is what makes you unequivocally human. Remember, in this process we are learning to relinquish perfectionism. The self-acceptance of your two stories is the catalyst for changing your critical self-talk to compassionate, love-filled self-talk.
Give yourself time to explore your two stories. This is not simple work. You may find your stories are intensely painful. Working towards self-compassion, positive self-talk, and self-forgiveness may be best with the help of a professional counselor who will be able to weave hope into your pain. I encourage you to reach out; the is no shame in sharing your stories; we are all unequivocally human.
Further blogs for you: Self-Care Ideas: Indulge! is a great read. Learning to take care of yourself is critical to self-compassion. Perfectionism (the Death Trap) describes to process of developing negative self-talk and lack of self-compassion.