I had a bad day. It started when I accidentally slept in and by the time I realized it, I’d blown past my usual writing time. That’s when the little voice in my head started. It’s my own voice, and right then it sounded disappointed. “Good job,” the voice said. “You wasted that morning.”
While making coffee, the voice had further commentary on my writing career. “You’re gonna die before you write anything worth reading.”
When I took too long of a shower, “You better get your ass moving faster.”
Holding a pair of socks in my hand, I walked into and out of the closet three times because someone called my name or I remembered I needed to do something else. Each time I forgot to grab my shoes. Finally, the voice stopped me dead in the hallway and, as if through a megaphone, “Go put your fucking shoes on.”
At various points in the day the voice had an opinion.
“You’re a terrible friend.”
“You’re an asshole.”
Too late into the battle, I tried to defend myself. “Wait, I don’t suck,” I said back.
But the voice just smirked and gave me side eye as if it to say it was a bit late in the game for me to have that attitude, wasn’t it?
And later in the bad day, when I got upset but I couldn’t figure out why, the voice asked, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” It asked, but it didn’t really care what the answer was.
What would that look like if someone else had said all those things to me instead of me saying them to myself? Awful, right? I mean, anyone who talks like that to you isn’t someone you want to spend time around. But what do you do when the voice is your own? You can’t just pick up your stuff and sit somewhere else.
So how do you shut that voice up? I thought of drowning the voice with a bottle of wine, but that didn’t seem like the healthiest choice, and the resulting hangover wasn’t worth the trouble. So here’s what I did do.
- Ask yourself, what is the next right thing? A good friend gave me this one. Sometimes the next right thing is just taking a breath. After you take a breath, what’s the next right thing after that? Accept that some days are just a long string of next right things.
- Give yourself a project. I assigned myself to cleaning out the pantry. It was a three-hour job after work one night. I took everything out, went through all of it to see what could be kept and what needed to be discarded, and then organized what was left. My back and knees hurt from walking barefoot on the kitchen tile for that long, but after I was done, the pantry was clean and that little voice was gone.
- Give yourself permission to rest. Self-care is important. Whatever that looks like for you, go do it. Take a bath, read a book, get some sleep. Self-care is like the airplane oxygen mask. You can’t help anyone else if you don’t help yourself first.
Do you have any other tips for handling negative self-talk? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.