The Reverse Golden Rule
Everyone knows the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. But for those of us who turn our hurtfulness inward, it’s just as important to follow the reverse: do unto yourself as you would do unto others.
Growing up, we are chided for speaking ill of others. Rarely are we taught not to speak ill of ourselves. How many of us had a parent, teacher or role model that called themselves stupid or fat or unworthy? As children, we absorb what is modeled for us and repeat that behavior without thinking. Did you have a parent that aggressively dieted, calling themselves fat whenever they enjoyed a cookie? Did your older brother call himself stupid when he failed a math test? Do you have a friend that calls herself ugly? What names do you call yourself?
Name calling is not nice, no matter who it is directed towards. The myth that self-criticism is normal -- and even good! -- is persistent and pervasive. An inner monologue of mean thoughts is only beneficial to advertisers, who thrive on our insecurities and perceived faults. What do you get out of it? Nothing but misery.
Dig through your memories of childhood and past relationships, and weed out those lessons in self-loathing. “I’m such a loser.” Yank it out! “I’ll never amount to anything.” Pull it out at the root! Tell your inner critic, “I am not ugly, but these mean words are. That’s enough.”
Listen to the names you call yourself. Pay attention to them and call yourself out. Would you speak to a friend that way? When you catch a mean thought, you might try saying out loud, “don’t talk to my friend that way,” because surely you are your own friend. Then turn the thought around: “I am not stupid. I just missed my turn. No big deal, I’ll turn around at the next light.” Eventually, through practice, you will break the habit.
Some names will be hard to kick out of your head. Maybe someone called you worthless and you believed them. Fact-check that. You are worth more than you know. There are people that love you. You are, more than anything, a space for love to enter the world. We don’t need more meanness in this world, but we desperately need more love. So be love, and be loving toward everyone you meet, starting with the face in the mirror.
Atira Zeoli, contributing writer for ifIknew