“Forgive yourself for not knowing better at the time. Forgive yourself for giving away your power. Forgive yourself for past behaviors. Forgive yourself for the survival patterns and traits you picked up while enduring trauma. Forgive yourself for being who you needed to be.” ~Audrey Kitching
“I can’t do this.”
“Why do I look so fat? I’m disgusting!”
“I haven’t done enough today. I am so useless.”
“I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Oh my god, why did this happen to me? What am I going to do now?”
Since I was a teenager, there has always been a voice inside my head telling me that things are not going to be okay because I am not enough.
At school, it told me I wasn’t popular or cool enough. At Arts university, that my work wasn’t original or deep enough. At my first job (which I disliked), that I wasn’t happy enough. In my current work (which I love), that I am never productive enough. And as the cherry on top throughout all these years, guess what—I’ve never been thin enough, talkative enough, or proactive enough.
This voice has become so present and loud that it has led to severe anxiety attacks.
One day, the feeling of self-loathing and despair was so strong that my usual journaling affirmations and gratitude practice were not enough. My soul, wounded by all the negative self-talk, needed something stronger. More than being fixed, it needed to be held in a tight, comforting hug.
So that’s what I did: I knew that journaling was still the way, I just had to find a way to hug myself with it.
Without thinking, I started writing to myself what a wise mother or a loving mentor would tell me in this situation.
“My dear, I know you are feeling anxious about not having completed all your tasks for today. I know it makes you doubt if you will ever be able to achieve your goals. I know it makes you fear that you will end up out of money, out of friends, out of love. But here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter that you had a bad day. I know you’re trying hard. I know you’re giving your best. You deserve a rest. You are amazing, and you’re going to make it.”
The effects were immediate: like with nothing else I had ever tried before, I felt a deep sense of comfort and relief.
I had just discovered my new soul-medicine.
How This Exercise Works
The reason why so many of us constantly push ourselves to be more and do more (and blame ourselves when we fail) is because we’re trying to get from others the approval we have never learned how to give ourselves.
This exercise teaches us to do just that: to give ourselves the appreciation we crave so much.
But there’s one more reason why it is so powerful: it’s because it’s written in the second person.
We are used to valuing more the compliments we hear from others that the ones we give ourselves. Therefore, it’s like having your adult self give your inner child the love and validation it has always wanted and needed, and that’s why it’s so healing.
On top of that, writing it on paper instead of just thinking it in your head keeps your mind focused, and your heart fully immersed in the process. And it’s also quite relaxing!
How To Do This Exercise
1. Whenever your negative self-talk or your anxiety kicks in, grab your journal and a pen.
2. Observe the thoughts and feelings that are happening right now. Don’t look away. Dive in.
3. Now, imagine that the person thinking those thoughts and feeling those feelings is your inner child. Try to feel compassion and empathy towards their pain.
4. Then, ask yourself: “Who is someone I look up to and what words would I like to hear from them in this situation?” This can be a higher power, a parent, a teacher, or whoever gives you comfort and guidance.
5. Now, try to put yourself in that person/entity’s shoes, and start writing those words to yourself—to your inner child. Here are some examples:
“I can see that you feel lost. You don’t know where to go next, and you doubt that you will ever know. But you will. I can assure you that you will. And when you know it, you can pursue it. You’ve made it so far, haven’t you? You have more in you than you think you do. You are kind to others, you are taking care of yourself the best way you can, you are doing everything at your reach. You always have. Just keep holding on, my love. This, too, shall pass.”
“It’s okay to feel angry. Your anger is valid. I love you no matter what. You know what? You can scream. Scream, my beautiful creature. You are stunning when you scream. You are full of power, raw energy, and the time will come to use it well. You are simply taking your time. It doesn’t matter that things didn’t go well this time; but they will, when they have to. You are doing great.”
As you write it down, let the words flow freely. Get fully immersed in the exercise. It might be helpful to imagine that you are hugging your inner child, and definitely focus on giving love, nurturing, caring.
At points, the words you’re writing might feel like huge clichés, but it doesn’t matter: all that matters is that you feel them—that’s how you know it’s working.
All You Need Is Love
It’s easy to get trapped in a negativity loop: you feel bad because you failed to meet your own expectations; then you feel anxious because you’re feeling bad, and so afraid to get trapped into a negativity spiral that you don’t even notice you’re already in it.
You can’t fight negativity with negativity. To break the loop, you need love.
You have been hard enough on yourself. Give yourself the words and love you have been longing to hear. Do it from a different perspective—I guarantee, this will rock your world.
About Silvia Bastos
Silvia shares journaling tips and exercises at JournalSmarter.com. As a writer, a coach, and an artist, she helps people around the world become happier, healthier, more successful, and improve their relationships with themselves and with others.
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