Mini preamble: I started a Facebook group for people who want to stop shopping. If you struggle with this (hey, it’s hard!) or have some helpful experience in this, you are welcome to join!!
“You can’t keep throwing money at your self-worth problems.”The voice of reason
I have previously written about this little epiphany, a thought that popped fully formed into my brain while sludging through the snow last December. A reader went out of her way to mention that this was meaningful to her. I got to thinking, based on her feedback, that it might be worth a full-length musing. (Thank you for your feedback, by the way! I sometimes feel like I’m musing into the void, and it feels great to connect via social media with you!)
“Stop talking harsh!”
At some point, early in my youngest scalawag’s toddlerhood, I found myself frequently overwhelmed by his capacity to get break every. single. thing. that. ended. up. in. his. hands. It got so bad and my fuse became very very short and for a while there, I became a Yelling Mom Oh, I still yell sometimes, but not like that… My voice ached all the time (not cool for a singer). I got so used to yelling that I would yell for no good reason.
Finally, one day at lunch, my eldest shouted at me, “Stop talking harsh!” and then erupted into hot, scary, miserable tears.
I am now a reformed Yelling Mom. I am not perfect, but I am much better. It took a really uncomfortable de-programming period. Hearing the voice of reason, this time in the voice and tears of a little boy I loved more than anything, shocked me into changing my ways.
Sometimes we need the voice of reason to cattle prod us into making necessary change.
How we talk to ourselves matters.
Please do something for me. Please, go stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye for twenty seconds.
Done? Okay. How difficult was that? What did you think about? How hard was it to look yourself in the eye?
If your answer was “No problem. I love looking at me!” this post isn’t for you.
If you thought “Ugh. You again?” this post might be for you.
It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you are from, married, single, divorced, unemployed, underemployed, burned out, retired, parent, voluntarily childless or struggling with infertility. Your self-worth is not built on these things.
“But if I had…” Nope. “But you don’t know my…” Nope.
Your self-worth depends on one thing: How you talk to yourself.
Our days are made up of a hundreds of little moments during which we cast judgment on ourselves. “Ugh. I look like crap,” or “I am losing my mind,” or “What an idiot,” or “There you go again!” We berate ourselves in ways that we would never speak to another human being.
If we want to improve our sense of self-worth, we need to show ourselves more respect in how we talk to ourselves. We need to reform our ugly self-talking ways.
Filling the void
Growing up in the eighties and nineties did us no favors. Television was our babysitter and we knew every single commercial by heart. Teen magazines sold us dreams and fashions and makeup. We were raised by Madison Avenue. Needs were cultivated in us that we were trained to believe could be met by some new thing.
The cultivating of those needs taught us that we weren’t enough. The ads gave us a vocabulary for criticizing ourselves in ways that truly didn’t matter except to sell us a product.
Today, the result is that deep in our souls, we believe that something new will solve all our problems. We might not say it like that, but it is the only reason people like me and like many of those around me have closets full of unworn clothes and bins full of unworn shoes. Or a bathroom full of beauty products we never use.
We might say we love clothes or love a good bargain. But what we are really saying is, “I am not enough.”
Changing how you talk yourself will do infinitely more for your self-worth than that owning more makeup or that fabulous wool dress or that silk scarf or the little leather jacket you’ve been coveting (who, me?) ever will.
It’s hard but the payoff is worth it.
Changing how we talk to ourselves, however, is tremendously more difficult than taking out a little piece of plastic and handing it over for mascara, a dress, a scarf or a buttery-soft black leather perfecto (sorry, that’s me projecting again.)
It starts with speaking to yourself as you would someone you love. For me, it started very simply.
In September 2020, when both boys were finally in school all morning, I was certain I would finally have the time to finish editing my novel and begin the arduous labor of looking for an agent. I mean, three hours every day? I have barely had three hours to myself in 5 years! But lo and behold, the mornings would go so fast. I would get home, do dishes, laundry, make beds. I would work for maybe an hour and a half, then start making lunch. By then it was time to go pick the boys up again.
I berated myself for not being done with the book. “Come on! What is wrong with you?” or “You are never going to be done.” I hated how I felt about myself, about my capacities as a writer, as a parent…I felt so inadequate.
Then one day I made a decision. Every time I would leave the apartment to pick the boys up from school I was to look myself in the eye in the mirror by the front door and say, “You did everything you could.”
Just that little sentence changed my life. And here we are now. My novel isn’t published yet, but I am okay with that. I know that I am doing everything I can to live my Ideal Life, and part of that includes living in a clean house. Having a clean house takes time. Being a good parent takes time. Loving my own body takes time. Making a marriage work takes time.
Please, try talking differently to yourself. There is a toddler inside you crying hot tears shouting, “Talk less harsh!”
I’m willing to bet that as you speak less harshly to yourself, some of that need to fill the void in your heart with something new is going to start fading.