A few months ago, my counselor suggested we try a different approach. During that particular session, we were discussing an instance that brought on a familiar feeling of abandonment, coupled with the belief that I will always care more about other people than they care about me. My counselor directed me to address an empty chair as though I were talking to myself. When I sat in my normal chair, I had to speak about the positive possibilities; when I sat in the opposite chair, I would speak negatively.
The conversation went something like this:
Negative me: “This is just like when [person] didn’t [come through for me in an important time]. I trust people, and then they let me down. All I end up with is pain.”
Positive me: “That’s not a fair comparison. [That person] was pretty clueless. [This person] would come through for you if it weren’t for [this isolated but important reason why he/she can’t].”
Negative me: “But I feel like I always give people so many chances; I’m always giving the benefit of the doubt. And it all comes down on me.”
Positive me: “You know, you disappoint people sometimes, too. But yes, there is a possibility that even [in this situation], you will be hurt. But that is part of life and relationship, and you can’t know what will be without living it.”
An interesting thing happened as I had to take opposite perspective. I had to start talking to the “negative me” as though I was talking to a friend. A compassion for myself and a hope for my own life appeared. In essence, I had to treat myself the way I would treat others.
The reason I was thinking of this recently is because I found myself in a similar conversation with “me” about a week ago, as a struggled through the second half of a run:
Negative me: “I am so stinking slow. Why can’t I run faster? I should be faster. I’ve been running for a long time, not to mention having run half-marathons and a marathon… I should be better than this!”
Positive me: “Seriously? There are so many reasons to give yourself a break right now. You’re always exhausted after the first week of school, not to mention this was your first week of teaching first graders. Plus, it’s really humid right now. You’re sensitive to humidity as it is, and since you exercised inside most of the summer, you’re even less used to it than usual.”
Negative me: “Yeah, speaking of which… I hate that I am so sensitive to humidity. That’s not fair. I try so hard and it gets in my way.”
Positive me: “Good grief. You just ran six miles. Do you know how many people would be incredibly proud of themselves for running that distance? Do you know how many people would love to have the physical capability to run at all?”
Of course, nothing can replace others’ insight into your life. But the fact is, your own thoughts and feelings about your life are the ones you will always have around. So, you might as well learn to get along with them. You might find you can be a lot kinder to yourself, and probably the other people around you, too.