I have written before about self-talk, the narration that runs through your mind as you go through your day, but I don't know if I've really hit home how very much I'm talking to myself throughout my day. I've gotten better about doing this mostly in my head, but I am constantly talking to myself. And it's something I really need to keep an eye on, because it's not always nice. In fact, in the last few years I've made a conscious effort to improve my self-talk and...be nicer to myself. This sounds dumb, but I'm pressing on anyway because it's important and it's made a big difference for me.
I thought to write about this today because I noticed two really common pieces of self-talk running through my mind at different points in the day--one bad, and one good, and I realized that the good phrase was once an intentional sentence that I forced myself to think, and now has become sort of an ingrained mantra that has done me some good. Allow me to explain.
The first phrase, which I thought to myself repeatedly this morning, and honestly used to think to myself all the time, is "you are the worst." As in, I am the worst. I realized I was doing this today because I made a mistake at work--nothing major, but I've been tired and a little overstretched lately, and I didn't sleep well last night, and this just put me over the edge. "You. Are. THE. WORST," I thought. And I heard it, and recognized it, and knew that I am not actually the worst, and tried to find some ways to change my train of thought and just move on with my day.
The second phrase I noticed myself thinking as a force of habit later in the day is, "I'm doing the best I can." And when I noticed that, I remembered that this phrase is one I intentionally chose and tried to incorporate into my thinking to replace the phrase, "you are the worst," several years ago, because I was telling myself that I was the worst too frequently and I needed something to swap for it. So, for a while, every time I would catch myself thinking, "you are the worst," I would stop, and instead think, "no, you're just doing the best you can." When I'm not at my most stressed-out, "I'm doing the best I can" is a big part of my self-talk, and I actually realized when I started thinking about it today that consciously recognizing that I'm doing the best I can has made a big difference in my life and my ability to make peace with myself. (If you are someone who can make peace with yourself without intentional interventions like this one, I salute you. I am not.)
For example, recognizing that I'm doing the best I can also recognizes that I'm not perfect, and that I'm not going to be able to do everything all of the time. I'm only going to be able to do the best I can. Sometimes this means that I miss an event that I want to go to (seeing a friend, supporting a cause, showing up at an event) because I either have somewhere else I need to be at that moment and can't physically be in both locations at once, or because I mentally can't handle doing that thing because I am exhausted/supporting my family with something else/in desperate need of an hour to myself. That's ok. I'm just doing the best I can. This lets me off the hook--not when I don't deserve it, because if I'm not doing my best then honestly I need to do better, but if I really am doing the best I can (and I know that in my gut) then there's nothing more to be said. It must be laid to rest.
This is a picture I posted to my fitness challenge group on Monday night this week--we post sweaty selfies after we finish workouts, but it was Halloween and instead of working out I chaperoned trick or treating for two and a half hours and ate candy. It was the best I could do for that night. And there was totally walking involved. Juuuuust doing the best I can.
I wanted to share this phrase because it really has helped me. If I don't keep an eye on it, I can easily become frustrated with my own imperfections and that frustration can really spiral out of control. But this one, simple little phrase lets me be objective and step out of that. Am I doing the best I can? If so, I can't be upset with myself. I can't ask myself to do any more than my best. And when I'm upset that something didn't go perfectly--I'm not a flawless employee, friend, wife, family member, human--I just remind myself: I'm doing the best I can.