By Rory Scher, LMFT
You’ve probably heard the familiar saying, “We are our own worst critic.” This means we hold ourselves to a higher standard than perhaps anyone else in our life, and for most people, this is a relatable phrase. A good test to see if you fall into the group of people who could give yourself a break is to write yourself a love letter. In this process, you are forced to choose what words you will direct toward yourself. Will they be kind? Will you tell yourself how proud you are or how worthy you are? You will be given the opportunity to set the tone of your relationship with yourself, which will then beg the question, “How will you talk to yourself?”
Often times, without even noticing, we send ourselves messages of shame and doubt by the words we choose to say internally. You might be tempted to look at the progress of others and think, “They are doing better,” “I am so behind,” or “They don’t have the same problems that I do.” Or, perhaps you start to tell yourself, “If only.” “If only I were smarter, thinner, or more successful.” Or, maybe you have a string of negative adjectives to describe yourself or positive ones you haven’t attained yet.
Just like that, you have told yourself that there is something about you that keeps you from being lovable, worthy, and desired and that you are alone in your self-ascribed deficiencies. You tell yourself that others have what you don’t. These messages stick around in your mind and can stop you from truly loving yourself. They can work against you as you try to attain the very goals you are so afraid of failing to reach.
These messages do not develop spontaneously, however. Doubt crept in years ago when someone you loved and looked to for affirmation told you that you were not good enough or important enough or simply that you were not enough. You then picked up those messages and began to believe them, repeating them to yourself when you made a mistake or missed the mark for which you were aiming. You began to self-loathe instead of self-love.
I encourage you to change the messages you send yourself and fill them with words of love and kindness. You can start by writing two letters to yourself. The first one should be everything that comes to mind about yourself at the moment you sit down to write. Allow yourself to free-flow and see what words come up naturally. Afterward, read it out loud and ask yourself, “Would I write this same letter to someone else and say these things to them? How would that impact the way they feel about themselves?” Then, write another letter, but this time choose words that would be present if you were talking to someone you loved. We often go to extraordinary lengths to show and tell others that we love and care about them. We don’t always do that for ourselves. Often times, we forget that we are also a loved one.
How we talk to ourselves matters. Will you accept this challenge?