All of us do it. We talk to ourselves. The question is, what do we say?
I am direction deficient, I always have been. When I was about 13 years old, in Chicago, I was sent on an errand that required I take two buses; one there and one back. My little 5 year-old brother accompanied me. My mom carefully gave me directions and then repeated them. The trip went easy enough, but then we had to head back.
My heart started beating rapidly; everything looked different. In my confusion I took the wrong bus. By the time I corrected my error we returned later than expected. Walking from the bus stop I pleaded,
“Please don’t tell mom we got lost.”
“Okay,” Steve said and I calmed down.
But when we walked in the front door, he beamed, proudly announcing,
“We took 4 buses!”
My cheeks reddened as my mother laughed, running to the phone to call her sister.
“Can you believe it, Anne got lost!”
Fast forward to 2004 when I attended Judson College as a returning student. My biggest challenge would be making the trip from Sycamore to Elgin. The first few times were excruciating, even with maps my husband made for me. I’d panic and end up lost. Then there was the time I almost made it and told myself,
“Stay right, stay right.”
And I did, right onto the expressway! This would have been no big deal for the average driver, but I did not do expressways. Terror stricken, I got off at the first exit and drove to a gas station.
“How do I get to Judson College?” I asked out of breath.
“It’s easy. Just get back on the expressway.”
“No, I need another way.”
The attendant obliged me. Walking into that three hour class 45 minutes late, I remember being embarrassed, but relieved to finally be there. One day getting lost coming home, I pulled over on the side of the road and burst into tears.
“God, can I do this trip 86 more times? I need your help.”
And then I became aware of how I talked to myself on those trips.
“You’re never gonna be able to do this.”
“How could you get lost again?”
“What is WRONG with you?”
So, I started changing what I said to,
“You can do this.”
“Relax, you’re doing fine.”
It made all the difference. When I relaxed, I thought more clearly, making better decisions. Soon I learned the way to school as well as the way to talk to myself.
I remember one night arriving home. I burst through the front door,
“I didn’t get lost!!”
And my daughter responded, ”I knew you could do it, Mom.”
Words are so important. The words we use with others and even the words we tell ourselves.
What kinds of things do you tell yourself?