After being in an abusive relationship for over 10 years, Marvin could not get it together. He had finally left the relationship, severed the ties, got some counseling, and even moved away but he was still struggling. The harmful words of his ex still rang in his ears. He would hear her voice in his head as if she was still there. “You’re stupid.” “You’ll never succeed.” “You’re such a loser, no one wants you.”
Worse yet, Marvin started to believe her words and now he began to say the very things to himself that she said to him. He left her for her abusive behavior but yet he kept abusing himself. This drove Marvin into a deep depression because he thought that by leaving, he would finally be free. While he was physically free, emotionally and mentally he was still bound.
It wasn’t as simple as stopping the abusive thoughts. Marvin needed to replace the harmful words with new phrases. Phrases that would encourage, lift his spirits, move him forward, and help him to grow into the person he wanted to be. So he made a list using the guidelines below of new sentences that he could look at several times a day. This reminded him of his intention to stay mentally healthy.
- It is better positive than negative. Negative words tear people apart while positive words and phrases lift a person. Instead of, “I am not a moron,” Marvin said, “I am intelligent.”
- It is better directional than distracting. Distraction can be an excellent coping mechanism but it is not a good mantra to live by. Marvin decided to fix his sights on obtaining a job promotion, so he said, “I am going to give my best at work.”
- It is better transformational than unchanging. Hurtful words like “loser,” “ass,” and “failure,” are used to paralyze a person and keep them from growing. Transformational words like, “encourager,” “courageous,” and “devoted,” move a person forward.
- It is better freeing than binding. Bound words are unhealthy vows a person makes to themselves. For instance, “I am never going to get anywhere,” or “I’m always going to be alone,” is binding a promise of failure. Marvin decided to say, “I don’t have to live in the past,” instead.
- It is better challenging than dogmatic. By challenging himself to be a better version of the person he became, Marvin was able to stay focused on his goals. “I am confident, present, and driven.”
- It is better inspiring than discouraging. Even though Marvin was depressed, he decided not to beat himself up for feeling that way. He realized that his depression was normal and did not allow it to discourage him. Instead, he said, “It’s ok to feel depressed, this is just part of my healing process and is temporary.”
- It is better exciting than dull. Marvin did not just want to survive life, he wanted to thrive. One of his forgotten goals was to be more adventurous. So he changed his self-talk to, “I am going to try one new thing a week.”
- It is better thoughtful than mean. “You are your own worst enemy,” Marvin’s best friend would repeatedly say to him. After hearing it several times, Marvin finally realized that he was just plain mean to himself when he would say, “I’m never good enough.”
- It is better gracious than condemning. All too often, condemning or judging words from another person are absorbed more frequently than gracious and encouraging words. Whenever a condemning thought popped into his brain, Marvin chased it away with, “That was then, this is now.”
- It is better kind than hurtful. Marvin changed his hurtful words of defeat, inadequacy, and frustration into kind words of compassion, satisfaction, and pleasure. He made daily statements of thankfulness for where he had been, where it presently is, and the direction he is headed.
It only took a short while for Marvin’s spirits to lift after he intentionally changed his self-talk. Soon afterward, his best friend began to notice the difference and he was able to get the promotion he wanted at work. He understood that the life he wanted began first in his head before becoming his new reality.