The way you talk to yourself?
We all talk to ourselves: in our minds, out loud, both. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our inner back and forth that others hear us muttering. I think that everyone does it to some extent, but creatives and students–students of all ages–are more likely to have intense inner conversations and to slip up and verbalize them. Often when I’m rereading a scene, I catch myself mouthing the dialogue and even gesturing. This was first pointed out to me by my ex-husband, and then he told me what I was doing was abnormal. Well, it wasn’t. In fact, experienced writers and editors often suggest reading dialogue aloud to make sure that it sounds natural (depending on the time period you’re writing, of course.)
But I set out to write about talking down to yourself. Badmouthing yourself. Cursing yourself. Beating yourself up verbally. When you’re trying to solve a problem, do you find yourself calling yourself stupid in your mind? Or “yeah, dummy, that’s it.” That’s one I use all the time. I solve the problem, but I still call myself a dummy. I don’t call other people dummies. Someone obviously called me that a lot when I was quite young, and I suspect I know who that was.
So why don’t we use our inner voices in a self-congratulatory way? Because it sounds silly? Sillier than calling yourself dummy?
A few months ago, I joined a workshop designed to build up self-esteem. I dropped out because my self esteem is so low that I felt stupid standing in front of a mirror saying good things about myself. But I have no problem verbally beating myself up.
This is a problem. I spend a lot of time on the Internet and I see it as a societal problem. There’s a great deal of victim-blaming out there . . . and fat-shaming, and slut-shaming, and “walk it off”-shaming, and skinny-girl shaming, and many things I know apply specifically to men but I’ve only experienced the female-centric shaming. When someone tells you that it’s your fault for reacting to non-constructive criticism, sarcasm, insults, verbal abuse, physical abuse, harassment, bullying, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, workplace bullying by getting upset because your reaction is your fault . . . that is a load of manure.
But, because saying “this hurt me” inevitably subjects you to more ridicule, you internalize it.
And there you are calling yourself a stupid brain-dead idiot because it took you 20 minutes to figure out the new food processor.
It’s not about the food processor. It’s about the self-shame ingrained in our psyches. God forbid you’re a man and can’t figure out a mechanical thing because men are just born knowing all that stuff. Right? Right? Like I was born knowing how to use a sewing machine. I’M 43 AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO RUN A SEWING MACHINE. I’m not stupid. No one taught me! Random man reading this, rebuild my carburetor. You don’t know? How can this be?
We’re people. We don’t have all the skills. Even if we do have all the skills, things happen that confound us.
We have to stop mentally berating ourselves. Plenty of people out there are waiting to pounce on us and berate us. We shouldn’t be halfway beaten down and ready for them. We need to talk ourselves up. Develop self-esteem. Be like ducks and let it all roll off our backs like water.
We (I) also need to stop gender-stereotyping. I apologize for that.
Please stop bullying yourself, and please find something that helps you build up your self-esteem. Because there are so, so many people out there waiting to tear you down, and they can’t do that if you build yourself up.