Most dysregulated eaters agree that their self-talk is abysmal, that they’d never speak to someone else the way they speak to themselves nor let others put them down the way they put themselves down. Just to be sure you know the kind of self-talk that is hurtful and, therefore, unacceptable, I thought I’d share what you don’t want to say.
When clients make mistakes, they often accuse themselves of being stupid or dumb. They may say it playfully or even with a smile, but it’s still a put down. And they’re neither stupid nor dumb, but simply weren’t paying attention or didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. Why, then, would they call themselves stupid or dumb? Perhaps because they were told that these descriptors fit them as a child or this is what their parents said to themselves when they made mistakes.
When things don’t work out, clients often say, “This is what I deserve.” They deserve no such thing. They say this because it’s easier to believe that they’re undeserving than that they are, in fact, as deserving of good things as anyone else and are feeling disappointed. By telling themselves that they deserve whatever negative things befall them, they can keep their expectations really low. This perspective also gives them the impression that they have control over getting everything they deserve. In fact, we may be extremely deserving and get far less than we’d hoped for.
Clients often engage in constant mental chatter such as, “I’m so anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed.” This only makes them more anxious, overwhelmed or stressed. You never want to tell yourself what you’re feeling. You want to say how you want to feel (that is, better), as in, “I’m relaxing or feeling calmer.” You don’t want to reinforce a distressing state but, rather, suggest to your brain that it can feel and do better.
Another favorite of dysregulated eaters is telling themselves that they’re lazy. They are usually anything but—taking work home as teachers, doing overtime shifts as nurses, running large businesses and staying late so that everything gets done, or trying to be perfect parents or care-givers. What they usually mean by lazy is that they’re exhausted and there’s more left to do. Or that they want to turn off the world and just vegetate. This is due to their needing to rest, relax, take care of themselves, play, or even sleep.
Listen to your self-talk. Just observe it without judgment and, for goodness sake, don’t say bad things about yourself if you’re unhappy with your self-talk. Instead, give yourself some compassion and a gentle correction. You become what you tell yourself you are, so who do you want to be?