Waking up this morning, you probably stared longingly in the mirror, poking this part of your body, stretching the skin around your eyes, or immediately looking at your phone for calls and emails… You probably woke up just in time to get things ready for you and your kids, and rush out the door.
- Did you eat?
- Did you take a moment to enjoy your tea?
- Or did you mark off a mental to-do list and mechanically complete things as quickly as you could?
Believe it or not, this behavior that is all so common for mothers is driven by a negative inner-critic. Letting that inner-critic drive us affects our lives like a ripple effect, slowly invading every area of our day, our attitudes, our actions, and our words.
What has this got to do with talking to your teenager?
Well, before you can talk to your teen effectively, you have to examine how you talk to yourself. Learning how to talk to yourself might seem like a crazy idea, but is it, really?
We all have conversations with ourselves, daily. Those little voices that assist us when we’re trying to remember what the next item on the grocery list was, the time we were supposed to pick up the kids from soccer practice.
Are you one of those moms who needs to take care of everything and everyone before yourself? And if you ever try meeting your needs before your families, what happens?
You feel guilty! You feel like the most selfish person in the world.
That little voice in your head tells you’re no good, you don’t care about your family, and that putting one of your needs before your family’s, no matter how small, is going to send you straight to mother-hell.
Our mental lives are filled with dialogue. We’re already talking to ourselves. Where this turns into a problem is when our internalized fears take the wheel and start talking for us, and controlling our actions. Usually in ways so subtle that we aren’t even aware of it.
What do you say to yourself when you have a moment like that? When you consider putting a need of your own before the family?
You probably tell yourself that you’re a bad person and a horrible mother, don’t you? What we need to realize about moments like these is that they are toxic. They affect our lives in ways that are hard to measure. When we don’t take care of ourselves, it hurts us (and our mental well-being). When we’re hard on ourselves inwardly, it manifests outside of us as well.
How many times have you negative self-talked to yourself this week? Maybe it was about your “thunder thighs” or those “tired bags” under your eyes.
Maybe it was you lack of knowledge about something, or that you’re such a “ditz.”
What’s sad is that when we treat ourselves like this, we invite others to treat us the same, too!
We teach people how to treat us… And more importantly, we teach our children how to treat themselves and treat the people around us (including ourselves).
What kind of example are you setting for your kids if you put everyone else before yourself? If you talk so unkindly about yourself? If you allow others to treat you poorly, or demand so much from you with little in return?
You might be teaching your daughter that relationships (friends, teachers, siblings, boys) matter more than her own well-being. She’ll just become a needs-machine focused on satisfying the needs of everyone around her.
Or, she might see the needs-machine in her mother, see how unhappy you are, and strike off in the opposite direction, towards narcissistic self-obsession. Caring about nobody but herself, putting her needs ahead of everyone else, because she’s seen what the opposite of that is like and wants nothing to do with it.
This is just one example of how negative self-talk can have long reaching consequences in our lives.
Would you talk to your best friend the same way you talk to yourself? What about your kids? If you had a best friend, would you let your best friend talk to you the way you talk to yourself?
The first thing you need to realize is that you are faced with a choice. You can either choose to control your mental state, or be controlled by the outward circumstances that influence your mental state from all directions.
We can change the way we think.
It’s going to take some work, and you need to trust in yourself—that you have everything inside of you that you need, right now, to begin living a happier and more fulfilled life.
List 5 things about yourself that you genuinely like.
Got it? Good.
Now, list 5 things about yourself that you don’t like.
Which list was easier? The dislike list was, I bet. We all know how to negative self talk–giving into our inner-critic is a natural state for most of us! We need to learn how to question that self-talk, and we need to learn how to talk to ourselves positively.
Easier said than done?
Not if you take the power back and choose how to respond to the circumstances in our lives, rather than letting our emotions instantly (and usually self-sabotaging) react.
Here’s the kicker. You can either change your mindset about what you don’t like, or you can physically change it altogether.
The choice is yours, and only you can make that change.
Rather than taking your frustration and unhappiness out on others, it’s time for you to take it out on your inner-critic and begin transforming it into your inner-winner.
When your inner-critic starts talking, ask if what it’s saying is reasonable or true. If you feel comfortable doing so, start a conversation with it in your head, write them down on paper.
Try and turn this negative monologue into a constructive dialogue with yourself about your feelings.
Why would you inner-critic tell you something like this? What triggered this feeling and thought? Is it true? Or is it embellished? Is it empowering, or is it based on fear?
This same inner-critic is what causes you to instantly react and jump down your kid’s throat when they say something that triggers your fear or anger (as we talked about in our last entry).
If you can learn how to control this inner-critic, your communication will improve, as will your relationships, personal happiness, and sense of fulfillment.
Let’s use dieting as an example. I think everyone knows where I’m going with this: you start a new diet with all the good intentions in the world, and then two weeks later it’s back to Ben & Jerry’s, all your good intentions and enthusiasm forgotten.
What happened between the enthusiasm and the ice cream? I’m willing to bet that your inner-critic had a megaphone in your ear about how you’ll never be in as good shape as you used to be, that dieting was hard, that this salad doesn’t taste as good as ice cream would, etc.
There were a lot of moments where you had that voice, breaking you down inch-by-inch.
Aren’t you tired of that?
Doesn’t it infuriate you that your dreams are so easily destroyed?
Wouldn’t it break your heart if your child had this same inner dialogue before they even had a chance to reach their dreams or goals?
So what if, in the moment, when you hear that inner-critic tempting you into just a few spoonfuls of ice cream, you tried this:
Instead of letting your voice run your life, you took control.
What if you took a bite of that salad and said:
“This salad is transforming my body right now. This salad nurtures my body in ways that I could never get from a Big Mac or pint of Ben and Jerry’s. If I keep eating well, I’m going to feel great about myself, and my body will work to it’s best potential.”
You then picture the real you—the empowered, strong, healthy you, and how changing your eating habits are taking you to the real you. Every time after that, when you had doubts about the healthy way you were eating, you could respond similarly. Drowning out that negative self-defeating voice with the idea that you are transforming yourself. That the long-term gain was worth it.
Just by talking to yourself like this, you can reinforce a positive inner voice, the inner winner, and change the way you live your life.
This sounds crazy, but both us know, for a fact, that this works.
How do you and I know this? Because we listen and give in to our inner-critic all the time. We believe it when it says we can’t go on a diet, or that we’re fat, or we’re too old to learn a new language, or that we’re a bad mother.
We are ready and willing to believe bad things about ourselves. This is just taking the game into your own hands.
It’s taming that inner voice, that inner-critic, and transforming it into your inner-winner, cheering you on to your greatest victory rather than a hindering your goals and dreams.
So the next time you wake up and trudge to the mirror, marvel at how your body was able to deliver the most beautiful children on the planet. Marvel at how you have wise eyes with a story within them. Resist the urge to put those emails before your sanity.
Take a few minutes to yourself, whether that’s working out, doing a devotion, or just drinking your tea in peace. And regularly praise yourself and your accomplishments in front of your kids, doing the same for them as well.
You will watch as they transform their mindset with you, and your family grows stronger.
You will watch as discussion becomes easier between you and your children (and your spouse, and your in-laws, etc.).
When you have the strength of your inner-winner, and you develop it day-by-day, there isn’t a single thing that can rock your world without your permission first.
The cherry on top, is that your daughters and sons will begin to harbor that healthy self-love, strength, and peace, too.
The last part of this blog series can be found here, How to Talk to Your Teen, Part 3: Dad, It’s Time to Be The Man.
Need to talk to someone about your teen? Take a moment to speak with me personally on a 100% FREE Personal Discovery Session. I’ve spent over 20 years mentoring parents and teens, so take this opportunity to join me today!
Debra Beck is a devoted mother, sought-after presenter, author, and has spent over 20 years working with teens and their parents. She’s helped thousands of teen girls develop their self-esteem through her blog, one-on-one mentoring sessions, and mother-daughter retreats.
Her award-winning book My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girl’s Guide to Loving Herself was revised and updated for re-release in September 2011 with Beaufort Books.