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Speak To Yourself Kindly (it's more important now than ever)

It's hard to know how to start writing this without falling into one of the stock phrases that has begun to grate on me so much.

"Unprecedented situation."

"Strange times."

"Rollercoaster of emotion."

"New normal."

Honestly, every time I read those words I feel my insides shrivel a little! But how can we find the right way to sum up the shitstorm we're currently living through? Because no matter what words we use it amounts to the same thing - this is really tough.

Although that's not to say there isn't happiness to be found hiding within the mayhem.

There have been times that I've really enjoyed the slower pace of life; an empty diary except for a few Zoom meetings; extra time with my children and husband; no alarm clock in the mornings. I enjoyed making cookies with my son. There are lots of things about life as it is now that I want to hold on to when some semblance of normality return.

But I've also found myself slipping into moments of negative self-talk that have felt really hard to cope with. Yesterday, for example, I found myself feeling tearful for most of the day. I told myself that I'm not doing anything well. "I'm not doing enough to support my clients and my online community!" I told my husband. "I'm not teaching the kids enough. I haven't checked in with my friends to see if they're OK. My home office is still a mess and I couldn't even do the Sainsbury's order without getting it wrong!"

And I know I'm not alone in worrying that my efforts just aren't enough. I know that you might have been feeling the same way. Whether it's because of work, family, money, health... I have heard so many people putting themselves down and examining their lockdown-lives through hyper-critical eyes.

But today is a new day and I'm seeing things a little more clearly... and in particular I'm realising how the negative self-talk borne out of comparison with others is heightened right now. I know I'm not the first person to warn of the dangers of comparing our "real" lives with other people's "online" lives. We know by now that people tend to share the highlights on social media, leaving us feeling like we're falling short when we contrast their perfect moments with our entire day. And life in the coronavirus-era has magnified that... because what point of comparison do we have other than what we see on social media?

And so the negative self-talk gets worse and worse. You see the happy smiling photos of families getting their daily exercise in a beautiful park (when you can barely coax yours into the garden); you see the incredible creations of children whose parents spend their days researching, teaching and nurturing them (when you've sent yours to their rooms to read - or something, anything - to give you half an hour of quiet after a rare morning of cookie-baking); you see beautifully-decorated rainbow layer cakes, and perfectly-crafted dinners (when you're debating vegan-nugget wraps for dinner again); you read how people have "pivoted" their businesses to succeed in these unique times (when you can't even keep on top of your email inbox. Also "pivot" belongs in the list above. Ugh.)

No wonder we end up feeling crap about ourselves. No wonder we're telling ourselves we're not doing enough.

"The language we use when we talk to ourselves and about ourselves is powerful. The more you say it and the more you think it, the more you believe it."

There's no more important time than now to take this on board. How are you talking to yourself? If you're finding that you're constantly comparing yourself to others and putting yourself down, try this exercise (taken from my book):

1. Think of a time – preferably recently – when you were unkind to yourself. Write down the exact thought you were having. Some examples of negative thoughts my clients have had are:

· I’m fat and ugly

· No-one likes me

· I never do anything right

2. Once you’ve done that, reflect on your words for a few minutes. How does it feel to see them written down? Do you still believe them to be true?

3. Next ask yourself: Where is the evidence that this is true?

Write down your answers.

4. Now ask yourself: Where is the evidence that this is not true?

Write down your answers.

5. Finally reflect on how you feel about your original statement and rewrite it to make it more accurate.

Encouraging positive self-talk is a huge part of what I do to help the women who come to me for support in building their confidence, and there's never been a more important time to be kind to yourself and about yourself.

If you're struggling to turn things around - if you're still feeling like you're falling short and would like some help to believe you are absolutely enough - click "contact" at the top of the page and let me know you need help. I'm here for you when you need me.

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