The setting of Sheila’s chapter is at a blogging retreat and the substance consists of a couple of conversations with her peers. It’s through that lens that she reveals her deep depression and insecurity. Quite a bit of her chapter is the voice of her self-depreciating internal dialogue.
Self-talk is unavoidable, but most of it is automatic. It’s the part of your thought life that you respond to, but don’t give a ton of attention. A lot of times, it’s a repeat of things you’ve been told throughout your life. You have to purposely pick what you say to yourself, otherwise this debilitating negativity seeps out, attacks you, and controls you. Sheila’s internal dialogue sounds like this:
“You think if people knew the real you, they’d be disgusted. Or filled with pity. Or both. You wear that stinking mask all the time. Even yesterday, when you first arrived at this long-awaited retreat, finally, finally gathering with your blog friends in real life -even then, even though they knew you were depressed, your voice was too bright. Your jokes flew too fast. You laughed like a braying mule” (page 148).
Her self-talk is cruel and abusive. How can anyone function under the weight of that negativity?
She revealed a bit of the internal battle to a couple of friends and they offered her tenderness.
“My friend wraps her arms around me, rocking gently. She doesn’t let go. And her rocking, my other friend’s chair-patting and nodding, the listening, the not turning away, they teach me something. …It’s okay to let you see me” (page 150).
Counteracting a friend’s low self-esteem with positive affirmations and tenderness is soothing, but it’s only a bandaid on which the suffering person becomes dependent. For someone looking for acceptance, it’s addicting to get people to give you their time and compassion.
Depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety are debilitating conditions that affect the person’s entire life. The cruelty of these conditions causes the person unnecessary shame and can further alienate them, making them feel as though they are the only ones suffering. Sheila chose to share a peek of herself to her friends and she “nearly collapsed” when they gave her their time.
Negative self-talk is a symptom of a bigger issue (like depression), and it’s a cause of other issues (like anxiety and low self-esteem). It weakens you. Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself and the way you interpret the situations you’re in. People who experience depression often interpret their situations negatively. People who suffer from anxiety and/or low self-esteem may be allowing their thoughts to break them down. The negative conclusions drawn from everyday events are often unrealistic, baseless, and entirely made up.
It’s reasonable to conclude that if negative self-talk consists of made up conclusions that dismantle your self worth, then positive self-talk, even if it, too, is made up, can build up your self worth. If you’re going to make stuff up, then make it work for you, not against you. Challenging your self-talk, as opposed to getting affirmed by others, is what will have a lasting effect on the quality of your life.
Noticing your internal dialogue takes practice. You have to capture it and train it to build you up instead of tear you down. It may feel silly at first, but it’s a powerful tool that can change your life. Positive thinking changes your chemistry. In a Christian’s life, you can use scriptures and Biblical truths to bolster your positive thinking.
Consider this scripture:
“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” -Philippians 4:8 KJV
Be elementary with yourself. When a negative thought attacks you, run it through the scripture:
- is it true?
- is it honest?
- is it just?
- is it lovely?
- is it of good report?
- is there any virtue in it?
- is it praise to the Father?
Your answers will either be all “yes” or all “no”. If you are too far removed from the truth of your own value, then ask yourself just one of the questions: Does this thought praise the Father? He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). If you want to know if a thought is from God, ask yourself: Does this thought work for me or against me?
Purposely use every bit of your thinking time to find a way to be thankful and full of praise. It’s an activity that takes conscious effort and you will build strength over time. Notice the way it changes your day. Notice the good that shows up. Wherever you focus your attention, you’ll simultaneously focus your energy. You are not a victim of your thoughts, you’re the author. Use the book that God wrote about His love for you and actively rewrite your internal dialogue.
…if there be any praise, think on these things.
The 23rd chapter of Soul Bare is written by Sarah Markley. She titled it “Without People Like You”. I’ll write my thoughts about that chapter next.