Do you remember the first time someone paid you a compliment? Maybe, maybe not. But I would lay money down that you remember the first time someone told you something negative about yourself. This is, in fact, human nature. According to an article in Psychology Today, “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sigh. As well, it turns out we spend more time thinking about and processing negative words and events than positive. So are we doomed to a life believing that Negative Nancy voice in our head? Here’s my story.
If you know me, you know there are not many minutes of the day that I am not singing. I was in choir from the age of nine and love the swell of many voices coming together, breathing life and emotion into music. Truthfully, when I was younger, I never worried about whether I could sing or not. I just loved it. Fast forward to high school – grade 12. My family was living in Toronto and our high school was pretty fantastic. Canadian favorites, the Bare Naked Ladies, went to school with my siblings! My brother also had a pretty amazing band with rockstar status and for one school talent show, they asked me to sing back-up. It was Meatloaf’s hit, Two out of Three Ain’t Bad. You know the one, lol. I didn’t hesitate as I often joined in when they would practice. So here we are at rehearsals. We do our run through and after we finish I make my way up the aisle to head out to the lockers and I hear voices. Girl voices. Not so nice girl voices. And they are talking about me.
“She’s horrible! Like she is totally going to ruin this for the band.” and then one of them is singing, howling really, and pretending to be me, and the rest are giggling at her impersonation. And me? I am devastated. Embarrassed. And believing every word of it. Of course, I can’t sing. What was I thinking? I cried the short walk home and that night told my brother I was out. He prodded and I finally admitted to the details of the scene from rehearsal.
“Okay, first, she is a jealous b****. And second, she’s ugly.” Which made us both laugh. “You are like a haunting voice coming in and out of the song and making it all just so perfect. You HAVE to sing.” Scott said a few more things to boost my spirits and the other members of the band insisted they couldn’t do it without me. So we did. And we brought the house down. No, no, it wasn’t the background vocals, lol, the lead singer is phenomenally gifted. I will always be grateful to my brother for putting a salve on my heart that day. But truthfully, I never recovered. I still like to sing, LOVE to sing, but I don’t tell people I can sing or that I am a singer. SIGH. The power of words.
There is a link between suicide and negative self-talk. Luke, as much as he feigned bravado, hated himself. He thought he was weak, he thought he was fat, he thought he was a burden. Every negative event that had happened to him clearly added tenfold to his inner voice that screamed “loser”. John often brings up a time Luke was in a tough situation and he went up to his room and literally ripped up every picture of himself; like he was trying to rip himself out of this world by tearing up his photographs. And who does that? Who hates themselves that much that they can’t even look at themselves in a picture?
“The negative thought processes that led these people to an action as desperate and as hopeless as suicide proves that very often one’s worst enemy lives inside him or her.”
So where does this critical voice come from? It is a culmination of every unkind word, or comment, or event in a person’s life. People with anxiety or depression struggle even more to find balance between the good and the bad and therein lies one of the biggest issues for those suffering with mental health issues.
” People with depression and anxiety frequently experience destructive and dysfunctional self-talk; the internal chatter they hear may be incessant and overly critical. Overwhelmed by the negativity, they can wallow in painful rumination, attacking themselves ceaselessly.” – Psychology Today
Therapy is the best course of action to help these individuals recognize and combat this negative self-talk cycle. But is that the only thing we can do? I am inspired by the following quote from an article in the New York TImes around the power of negative self talk,
“As Professor Baumeister noted in his study, “Many good events can overcome the psychological effects of a bad one.” In fact, the authors quote a ratio of five goods for every one bad.”
So here’s what I need you to know: Five goods for every one bad? That is a data point I can get behind! Now that you know the power of your words to fight evil… and suicide… might I suggest we get complimenting and connecting with others? Not meaningless compliments, but intentional words to lift the spirits and self-talk of those around us. I may not call myself a singer, but I am one heck of a cheerleader, lol. So I am going to start a campaign – Have I told you lately…. where I reach out and let someone know something about them that really impresses me. Something maybe they have forgotten about themselves or take for granted. Let’s try and get that 5 to 1 ratio going so when someone struggling does have a bad day, they have something positive to pull up. What if by doing this we save someone from suicide? Just one someone will make it worth it. I hope you will join me. Xxx
PS – I think we need an adult chorus with a rock band to back us up. Keith Lewis…. let’s do this. 🙂 Xxx