The Way You Think Influences How You Feel About Yourself

Would you speak to your friends the same way you speak to yourself? We doubt it! This is how you can be as nice to yourself as you are to your friends.

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick, and would not answer.
~ Adrienne Rich

Think about how you speak to yourself on a daily basis. Try to remember what you told yourself today. How did it make you feel? Now, imagine saying the same thing to your best friend. Here’s how talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend can help you like yourself better.

By criticizing everything you do, you end up constantly disappointing yourself.

Sad Woman Sitting on Stairs

We often think that if we change the things we dislike about ourselves we’ll feel better about who we are. But, what if it’s the other way around? You know those moments when, for whatever reason, you get really annoyed and angry at yourself?

Either it’s because you tried to put on your favorite pair of jeans and realized you can no longer zip them up, or you flunked yet another test, or you missed a deadline or simply failed to quit a bad habit that you promised you would.

Sometimes there is no specific reason; sometimes you dislike random things about yourself: your hair, your body, your style, what you are doing with your life, etc. It’s almost terrifying how these feelings can perpetuate and pretty soon all you do is criticize yourself and nothing you do is good enough. You set your standards so high that you cannot ever hope to reach them and, in doing so, you set yourself up to fail. You set yourself up to disappoint yourself.

There is no way around this: fighting against yourself is a lose-lose situation. In some of the most extreme cases, people get so deeply lost in self-dissatisfaction that it grows to full-blown self-hatred. So much so, in fact, that it becomes a part of who they are and how they see themselves.

Therein lies the problem as well as the solution – our opinions of ourselves depend on how we talk to ourselves and only on how we talk to ourselves. Our inner monologue is, in fact, the story of our lives: just as the way we talk to other people influences their opinions about us (and themselves to some extent), the way we talk to ourselves influences, in turn, our own opinion about who we are.

The way we speak to ourselves influences how we feel about who we are.

two teenagers having a fight at school

Let’s say you have a friend who is verbally abusive toward you.

They have a habit, for instance, of making it clear that they think you are fat, clumsy, stupid, ugly, boring, etc. whenever you hang out together. Or, they don’t congratulate you when you succeed, or they tell you that you will fail when you actually need support or encouragement.

You would end up resenting and disliking this friend so much that you would begin to avoid them. The same way that someone would stop being your friend if you spoke to them like that. Would anyone be your friend if you openly disliked them as a person? More importantly, would you be friends with someone who dislikes you?

When we find ourselves in an abusive relationship or simply offended by our friends’ words or actions, most of us do our best to confront the person and voice our disagreement, which can often turn into a nasty argument. Sometimes, this can even lead to the breakup of a friendship because, really, who wants to be around someone who offends, belittles them or makes them feel bad about themselves in any way?

We are friends with people we care about because they make us feel good, because they listen to, support and love us and go easy on us when we need it. Above all, perhaps, we are friends with people who respect us.

Imagine your favorite person in the world—the one person you think the world of and would never dream of hurting. Now, imagine talking to them the way you talk to yourself. How would you sound? How would it make them feel? Would it change their opinion of you? Would they still want you as a friend?

The rule is simple: if what you say would offend your friend, it will certainly offend you.

Closeup portrait two surprised girls looking at pad discussing latest gossip news

We don’t despise who we are for being fat or dull or inadequate (or whatever other belittling word we chose); we despise the part of ourselves that thinks it and says it.

Self-hatred, counter-intuitively, isn’t directed at our flaws, but at the little voice in our head that constantly reminds us of them. We are unhappy with ourselves because we are unhappy with how we relate to ourselves, not the other way around.

It’s not your flaws that you need to work on: it’s the way you talk to yourself. The problem, of course, is that we can’t break up with ourselves, or leave an abusive relationship with ourselves. What we can do is change the way we speak to ourselves.

I’m not trying to make some miraculous revelation or suggest that the solution to every problem we have in life stems from the way we relate to ourselves—nothing is as simple as that. Nor am I saying that the moment you stop the self-hate speech, you’ll instantly quit every bad habit and be satisfied with your life.

There are no easy steps to follow to become a better version of who you are. Just like there is no perfect friendship, or even a formula for an ideal relationship, so there is no universal map for a more fulfilling life. It’s all very individual and very personal.

However, the only person who is with you every single moment your whole life through is you. The way you choose to talk to yourself really depends on you and you only.

By being kinder to yourself you can make the journey a lot easier—at least by being in the company of not only someone who you like, but who likes you as well.

Consider it as a kind of experiment: the next time you have an opinion about what you are like, ask yourself if you could ever say something like that to a friend. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone who cares about you, someone whose feelings you’d never want to hurt. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone whose trust and friendship are important to you—someone whom you respect.

See what happens.

About the author

Luna Djordjevic

The author is a not-yet-but-almost 30-year-old from Belgrade. She’s a translator, writer, poetry and movie enthusiast, passionate traveler and absolute cat person. ’’Do you know what I'd really love to do? Skip a few afternoons and go dancing.’’ (Victor/Victoria, 1982)

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