“I wasn’t a good figure skater. There was a girl 2 grades below me better than me.”
“You are an excellent skater and were good at figure skating,” I replied to my grand daughter.
“No I wasn’t,” she argued back
I grappled for words. “You skated two to three times per week, so you could do other things, while those other gals skated more. But you were not a bad skater because they had more practice.”
She’d just finished telling me a story of a recent time public skating with her friends, some who played ringette, and how she drove them a bit crazy with her fast turns and stops (which they could not do). And how they had asked her to do spins and jumps. “But I’m a bad skater,” she remarked.
My heart broke.
At thirteen years-old, her thoughts have begun defaulting to comparison rather than to growth. She is looking at what others can or cannot do, rather than seeing her growth. Even statements such as “You’re much better at that than I am,” are negative and self-effacing. Unfortunately, these statements can become self-fulfilling prophecies, reinforcing the “truth” to ourselves and others.
I try to reassure my grand daughter that she is not “bad” at anything. But she deflects my words, mentioning a school mark that she feels is bad (another comparison—this time to a school mark that she believes is good).
Thinking back to when I was a teenager, I did the same thing. I thought I was bad at math because it took me longer (it seemed) to grasp the concepts. I failed chemistry each high school year, and went to summer school —three years in a row—to get a passing grade. I never made any sport teams, and didn’t win any academic awards. Interestingly, I still remember the students whose pictures and trophies were behind a glass case in the school hallway. They were the celebrated; not us average students.
So, in a comparative and competitive world, how can we stop ourselves from uttering negative and self-effacing statements? For when we put ourselves down, we are possibly closing off potential opportunities and making ourselves smaller in the world. We are potentially shutting down our God-given gifts and opportunities to serve others as only we can.
1 Corinthians 12:25-28 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
How to Stop Negative Self-Talk
Ways to help negative self-talk.
1. Ask if it is true.
Are you really “bad” at doing that task, or is that you have not had the same experience as someone else? Are you even interested in learning that skill or is God calling you to spend your time on something else? Let yourself be okay with not having the same interests, ideas, and skills as others. Prayerfully consider where God wants you to spend your time. Does He want you to develop more in a certain skill that you “believe” you are not good at, or move on to something else?
2. Ask yourself why you are making these comments about yourself.
Are you putting yourself down because you want to control the expectations you “believe” are being placed on you? Instead of making our tasks about others expectations, we can make them about our personal growth goals.
3. Ask yourself what you would tell your best-friend.
If your best-friend is saying negative statements about themselves, how would you react? Write down what you would say to your best-friend.
I continue to pray for my grand daughter, that she will see her value in Christ, rather than through competitive and comparison thoughts. But I know I also need to work on being my own best-friend, intentionally accepting my worth is not in achieving or failing. I’m not sure we can free ourselves completely from worldly measurements. Yet, we do have His Truth.
May we soak in His words, the words that matter most, to become our best, so we can serve our world as only we can.