How We Talk To Ourselves

Since moving into our new house last year, I discovered that I’m not afraid of bugs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like them, but I’m not scared of them.

We ran into a few cave crickets after our initial move. For those unfamiliar with cave crickets,  are pretty huge. You’d look into a doorway and one would just be standing there, smoking a cigarette and casting his imposing shadow as if to say “Run.”

I was pretty freaked out until, like a weird epiphany, I realized something. He can’t hurt me at all. There’s no real offensive moves in his crickety repetoir other than to jump on my face. It might be a bit gross, but that’s the extent of it. He doesn’t have a gun. He doesn’t know Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He’s a cricket. I am literally 1000 times his size and by simply taking a step, I could end him. If anything, this cricket should be scared of me.

So creepy crawlers don’t send me running to the hills, but I would rather not deal with them if I don’t have to. All these thoughts were running through my head while I was gardening in my backyard last week.

talk.jpgI’ve been doing a pretty big project by removing all the vines that were here when we bought the house. As I was pulling away at a bush that turned out to be a bunch of vines wrapped around an old fence, I saw a gigantic toy bug on the ground. I got that quick jolt of adrenaline, but then quickly settled. The people who lived before us had sons and they lost more than a few toys in the Amazon rainforest that is our garden. I added it to the nerf gun, baseball, and multiple golfballs that were unearthed during the clean up process.

When I saw that toy bug, though, I thought to myself, “Wow. I have managed to avoid any really disgusting creatures while doing this.”

Almost immediately, a voice in my head said, “Hey! Idiot! Don’t say that out loud! It’ll happen!”

So I shut myself up and kept raking but, alone with my thoughts, I began to overanalyze what I had just done. Much like my bug-epiphany, I suddenly realized something.

I, along with many other people, make a point of not saying “bad things” out loud for fear that the universe could hear and then make it happen. If we do vocalize a bad scenario, we knock on wood or make a “poo poo” sound with our mouths to voodoo it away. The thought is that, in a world that we all insist has no magic in it, we will magically be doomed to see our words comes to life. Say, “I don’t want a cave cricket jumping on me” and you’re bound to be covered in crickets before you escape the yard.

OK, fine. Let’s pretend that’s all true. If so, then why don’t we say good things out loud?

I mean, think about it. How is it that we’ve convinced ourselves that bad luck will surely find us just by visualizing and vocalizing it, but we don’t do the same for the outcomes we want?

Not only don’t we do that, but we will actively talk down our hopes and dreams when saying them out loud. How many times have you heard things like this:

I interviewed for that job. It went really well. I probably won’t get it, though.

It seems counterproductive to success, but is incredibly hard to remember in the moment. I may be preaching it, but I rarely practice it. It’s a constant struggle. I know others deal with this problem too. I’m no exception.

It all goes back to how we speak to ourselves. When I have an internal dialogue, I can be pretty brutal. There are words I use and ways I speak when dealing with me that I would never use when dealing with someone else. The thought of telling another person, “You do this all the time, you idiot” for dropping a pencil sounds abusive and excessive. Yet, saying it to myself, the person I am supposed to look out for the most, is almost second nature.

A few years ago, I was with a group of friends and talking to one, Sal, who had a reputation for being gruff and offensive. He was the fighter of the group and the reason we had to leave more than a few bars before we were ready. In this particular instance, I had forgotten my house keys at home. Upon discovering this fact, I said the first thing that came to mind.

Oh man. I’m such a freaking moron.

I’ll never forget it. He let out this big laugh as if I had just delivered a perfect one-liner. I looked up at him confused and, through his terrifying smile, he remarked:

Haha. Whatchu say? “I’m a freaking moron”? Haha. Dude, don’t talk about yourself like that.

It completely rocked my world. I had talked like that to myself since I could remember. Every mistake I made was met with a mental beatdown that would involve an intervention if someone else had been doing it to me. Instead, it was just a part of who I was.

Even crazier is that if anyone on Earth should probably talk to themselves this way, it was Sal. Had I started half the nonsense he did, I would be tearing myself apart all the way home. “How could you throw a soda machine down the stairs at that guy? You’re a damn fool.” That’s what I would say. Apparently, he just whistled and drove home. At most, he probably thought, “Now I’m in the mood for a soda.”

I’m not sure if magic exists or if it’s just my brain willing good and bad things to happen. Either way, we should all try to be a little bit nicer to ourselves and our aspirations. Even if doing so doesn’t make them come true, it’ll make our lives much more pleasant while we wait to see if they do.