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Talk Gently To Yourself

Dating Boot Camp Day Six

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Bonny Albo

This is part six of a free dating eCourse, although this article does stand alone on its own. For more information about the dating boot camp, start here.

I once had a dating client that said the most horrible things about, and to himself, whenever we worked together. I don’t doubt that he said similar things outside of the coaching relationship, and I felt strongly that it affected his ability to attract love.

“I’m such a FOOL! Why didn’t I ask her out when she was sitting there?! And now, she’s gone, and I’ll never see her again!” He bemoaned one day during a Skype call. He was talking about what he considered “the most beautiful woman” he’d ever seen, who sat down next to him at a coffee shop earlier in the week. Too shy to say anything, he quietly continued to read his book, and ignored her until she left 10 minutes later.

“I’m the biggest dating idiot in the world. Right?” He’d ask me.

“No, I don’t think you’re an idiot. Perhaps you missed an opportunity, but you’ll have many more of those. Why don’t we talk about what you can do differently next time?”

“I’ll NEVER see her again. She’s too perfect for me anyway. Why would she want a loser like me?” … and so on. It took a lot of work for this gent to move past his negative self talk, and into a more positive head space.

Many of us talk to ourselves like this when we feel like we’ve failed somehow. The thing is, we haven’t failed, but rather made a mistake, and one that doesn’t deserve self-flagellation or low self esteem.

If your friend came to you, upset for the same reasons my client did, what would you say to them? Likely not, “Yeah, you’re really an idiot, John. You screwed up.” Most good friends would offer some positive, kind support like, “Wow. She must have been really gorgeous. Well, there’s always next time,” or, “Dude! Stop beating yourself up. You don’t even know this woman, maybe she’s married, or was waiting for her boyfriend. It’s no biggie. Look, there’s another hot woman right over there, why don’t you go say hi now?”

From now on in, whenever you start beating yourself up verbally, I want you to stop. If you have to, say, “Stop!” really loudly. Then tell yourself in a kind, gentle manner that you merely made a mistake, and that it’s okay. Maybe, “That was silly of me. I’ll do better next time,” or, “I can forgive myself that small mistake, and I know now how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Paul McKenna, in his book, “I Can Make You Confident,” (Buy Direct) shares an excellent visualization exercise to help with negative self-talk. He suggests that you take the words you’re saying to yourself, and imagine them in your in big, red letters. Then imagine those same words in black and white, and push them back 20 feet. Now, push them back even more, so that you can barely see them. Next, imagine Mickey Mouse saying those words, over and over again, until they’re so far away that they fade out and disappear.

The point of the exercise is to reduce the amount of weight that the words hold, while making you laugh or realize how silly it sounds coming from another source. I’ve yet to do this visualization without feeling better immediately, and readers have said similar things.

Sometimes, it’s really difficult to stop the self-flagellation. If you’re struggling to replace the negative talk with positive words, think about where you might have learned this behavior. Did someone act in the same way when you were growing up, or do you have a mentor that you see succeeding using this same tactic? Journal about it if need be, and then find someone else that speaks more kindly to themselves (and other people) to see how they behave, react, and interact with others. Write down how what they do differs from what your previous role model did, and see how you can adopt the new, more positive behavior into your day-to-day life.

Today’s Homework

  • Can you think of a time in the past week where you scolded, criticized or yelled at yourself? If so, write down what you said, and how you said it in your journal. Now, what could you say differently in the future that’s gentle, kind, and tender? How would you phrase it to your best friend or a child if they were talking about themselves that way?

  • Smile at another three, new people today. How is the smiling going for you? Are you finding it easier than before? Has anything positive come out of your smiling? What have you noticed about yourself through the process?

  • Write down everything that you’re grateful for today. It could be one thing (my alarm woke me up in this morning in time for work), or 30 things, it’s really up to you. From now on in, please write a daily list of things you’re grateful for in your journal, no matter how big or small the list.

Need a refresher of Day Five, Make Time For Love? If not, then let's move on to Day Seven.

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