Self-talk. Affirmations. Blech.
When I first started attending Weight Watcher’s meetings and the topic of “self-talk” came up, I would roll my eyes and secretly laugh to myself at all the cheesiness in the room. I thought even the IDEA of addressing the way I speak to myself was sappy and useless.
And then I realized I was wrong.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, “self-talk” is how to talk to your, ahem, self. Your inner monologue, if you will. With me now? We all do it all the time, even if we don’t know it. I don’t remember the first “self-talk” WW meeting I attended where I actually listened, but it was most likely when I met Lynn who likes to reference Stuart Smalley, the SNL character from the 90’s, and his famous affirmation that even I have already quoted in this blog, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough,” now say it with me, “And gosh darn it, people like me.” I probably only paid attention to the meeting to keep me from staring at Julia Sweeney and Kevin Nealon who were also in attendance. I’m sorry if I’m breaking some unwritten Hollywood rule by outing them at my WW meeting – you guys look great, by the way, Bravo stickers to you both! – but I thought about that meeting all week because I kept wondering what they were thinking and if they called Al Franken and told him about it. But I digress.
Let’s get back to why I was wrong about the “self-talk.” Because it does have its virtues. For example…
Last Wednesday, I watched six episodes of Bunheads through the magic of On-Demand and brought to me by other ABC family shows like “Melissa and Joey” and a reality show about nannies in Beverly Hills. 6 episodes! Now, while I am enjoying watching Sutton Foster and all of her Broadway schtick, I did not choose Bunnheads so that I might better myself as an artist. I chose it because I did not have a stack of Us Weeklies lying around and also Us Weekly always ends up making me feel bad about myself. Bunheads feels good. Nice and easy. There are attempted deeper story lines like 16 year olds already on a diet and divorces from closeted gay dads, but mostly my deep thoughts center around wondering why Amy Sherman-Palladino (the show’s creator) decided to give beanpole-Sutton Foster a stringy non-haircut. Does she look like a teenager with short hair? Why not a few layers at least? I am so confused! Sutton, give me a call, I’ve got a great stylist.
Now after episode 3 I found myself having a conversation with myself. I was saying things like, “Bunheads isn’t exactly HBO.” And “Are you really going to waste a day watching television? That’s what the weekends are for.” And then it turned into “This is exactly why you don’t have the success you dream of – because you’re lazy.”
Since I had been trying to pay attention to my “self-talk” I noticed the nastiness right before it turned really dark. Lazy is one thing, but I’m pretty sure my mind can come up with nastier. Luckily, the first step to changing how you talk to yourself is simply just to notice it. So I noticed it. And then I heard it change. Myself started saying things like, “It’s a slow week. Sure there’s something you could be doing, but there’s always something you could be doing. Maybe it’s slow because this is when you’re supposed to watch 6 episodes of Bunheads. Maybe it’s slow because you’re supposed to be resting and gaining strength for when the busy explosion happens.” And then it got really crazy, “You DESERVE to relax.” Whoa. WHOA.
Suddenly, I was able to relax. To ACTUALLY relax. My brain stopped chattering the to-do lists that usually yell for attention quieted. I began to feel good about the Bunheads marathon and about myself. And then wouldn’t you know, I had a super productive Thursday. If I had allowed myself to berate myself I guarantee you I would have ended up with a belly full of Cheeze-it’s and the television marathon would have carried through into the next day and the next. But because I allowed myself to feel good about myself, I was able to contain the Bunheads into one afternoon. All through the magic of positive “self-talk.” And On-demand. Did I mention how I’m obsessed with the On-Demand?
What surprised me most was how little effort it took to not only monitor my “self-talk” but to change it. That’s not to say it’s always this easy, but just knowing that this kind of ease is even POSSIBLE makes me willing to try it again in the future. It makes me willing to push through the desire to roll my eyes as I say things like “You can do this. You are a smart, capable, powerful woman and you can do anything you set your mind to.”
I can already hear my WW leader, Lynn, telling me that there is a PhD of “self-talk” just waiting for me to tackle. And that is to change all those “you’s” to “I’s.” “I can do this. I am a smart, capable, powerful woman and I can do anything I set my mind to.” My inner monologue just rolled it’s eyes 7 times while I wrote that.
But hey – for now, I’m happy to talk to myself like I’m talking to a friend. That’s a start. That I can be my own best friend. That I can be my own coach. I’ll get to the PhD of “self-talk” someday soon, but for now, I’m sure as hell not gonna beat myself up about not being the perfect “self-talker.”
So give it a try – just start noticing how you talk to yourself. What are you saying? If you’ve never done this before, when you first start listening it might sound kind of like the teacher in old Charlie Brown cartoons – “wha wha wha wha, wha wha.” But it will definitely have some emotion attached. Anger, disappointment, pride, confusion. Something like that. When I first started listening, I heard emotional incomplete sentences and exasperation. Like “What the–! Stupid, grrr, stupid…fat fatty…grrr.” Not sure why my inner monologue was growling, but I guess it was really frustrated with me. So be patient with yourself. You might not hear yourself clearly at first. But if you are persistent with the listening and the noticing, you’ll hear it soon. And then you’ll be on your way to changing it.