with Hannah Garland

  • Hannah Garland

Don't be a jerk (to yourself)

As a parent, the job can feel thankless and you never know what “success” looks like. Overcome this with how you treat yourself. Only you can control how you think. If you want to be a more confident, positive person, start with how you talk to yourself.

It is so common to focus on the negative, especially when it comes to ourselves. We carry a lifetime of failures around with us. We think:

What should we change about ourselves?

Where are we failing?

Why can’t we get it right?

Though it is good to always be improving - and much of my podcast is focused on self-improvement - it is important to have a balanced internal dialogue with yourself.

Too much focus on where you fall short can lead to an internal narrative wherein you genuinely feel like you fall short as a person. It might start with feeling inadequate in certain areas, but it can lead to feelings of general inadequacy, which is nonspecific and much harder to overcome. It is especially easy to feel insecure and negative about yourself if your life is void of encouragement, affirmation, or positive words from others because you alone bear the burden of positive talk.

One of the things I gained from work was a sense of accomplishment and positive affirmation from other people. If I managed a challenging project well, people were quick to praise or show respect. However, as a stay-at-home mom, I never really know how I’m doing. I can hear my negative self-talk getting louder the longer I’m home. I know that, as a parent, I’m not alone in battling a negative internal dialogue in the absence of external praise. Babies don’t say “thank you” and often we don’t notice how hard our spouses are working to keep it together.

Nonetheless, you can’t force anyone to praise your efforts or rely on external factors for validation. These factors are fleeting and, when you let them control your internal dialogue, you let them control you. The only thing you can control is what you think. How you talk to yourself, and what you think of yourself will mold you over time.

What kinds of things do you say to yourself? While it is important to be honest if you have truly messed up about something specific, it is not okay to be unkind. If your ongoing conversation includes phrases like:

Gee, you really screw up a lot.

It doesn’t matter what you do anyway.

You don’t look good, so why even try?

Then it might be time to insert some positive dialogue and positive activities. I find it helpful to start with complimenting myself for things I’m objectively good at so I can’t argue with myself! For example, if I make a delicious meal, I need to notice it just like how I would notice it if a friend cooked for me. I can say to myself, “You are such a good cook. You make delicious and healthy meals for your family.” As a bonus, knowing that cooking is kinda my thing, I might delve deeper into this hobby and foster a behavior that brings me happiness.

So, how can you improve how you talk to yourself?

  1. What are 3 things that you are really good at? The next time you do any of those things, earnestly compliment yourself.

  2. Anytime you are beating yourself up about something, insert a “but” clause and make it positive. For example, “I am having a hard time juggling childcare today but I know I’m doing the best I can and, tomorrow, I can ask for my husband’s help.”

  3. Identify one of the things you’re best at and enjoy doing and dive deeper in that hobby or activity. I find that, when I foster my passions, my mood lifts. Engaging in something I can do well helps put me into a positive headspace for the rest of the day.

Redefine “success.” For me, success used to look like a bonus and verbal praise at work. Now, as a parent, I have to redefine what success looks like so that I can meet this bar and feel accomplished. Success at its base level is keeping the child alive! It also means cooking nourishing meals most of the time, not snapping at my husband (I’m working on that one), and doing everything I can to keep my stress levels at a minimum so that my kids don’t have an anxious mother. This is my personal definition of success but success might look very different to you. It will be dependent on what you and your family value. Define it such that you can succeed. Then, notice when you do and tell yourself how well you are doing.

It might seem odd at first to congratulate yourself but you should be treating yourself like you would treat your best friend. How do you talk to her? If she messes up, you would probably be honest with her but you wouldn’t be condescending or unkind. When she does well, you would praise her. Why not treat yourself as well as you treat others? Notice the things you do well and give grace for the things you could improve.

Episode 1 dives into the topic of treating yourself like your own friend. Listen here.

Even more powerful than how I talk to myself is how I treat others. When I focus on gratitude and compliments I pay toward others, I find myself thinking more positively in general. Seriously. An attitude of gratitude can do wonders for the human spirit. Start with your spouse. If you want to be appreciated for childcare, start by appreciating them for childcare. If you want to be noticed for little things you do around the house, start by noticing the little things they do.

I want to be clear about something: if you do this, you might increase the likelihood of reciprocation, but that’s not the point of this exercise. We shouldn’t treat people kindly for the purpose of reciprocity. Rather, the point is that, when you focus on what you are thankful for outside of yourself, you feel more positive in general. This is because you get out of your own head. When you see positive things your spouse does, you will be more likely to see positive things that you do. Try it! It certainly can’t hurt to be more grateful!

This is still about self-improvement but, the focus is how you can improve in positivity and self-love. Your kids should see a confident, content mom. Your spouse should feel secure and appreciated. You deserve to live with your own best friend - and that’s you!

Hi, there! I go deeper into topics in my podcasts. Each are 20-30 minutes long and they drop weekly on Thursdays. Please check one out here!