I talk dirty to me: A reflection on negative self-talk and Romans 7:15-24.
No, this reflection has nothing to do with Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty to Me song, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m exposing some of my daily conversational habits’ subsequent negative effects. I talk ‘dirty’ to myself by talking negatively to myself. It’s an unfortunate familiar habit that I’ve not been able to defeat, but I hope to someday, sooner rather than later.
It’s true the old adage goes, I am my own worst enemy. I defeat myself, really. When I make a mistake, as trivial or small as it may be, I beat myself up. Sometimes for days, weeks, and years. Yes, years. Forgiving myself is probably the most challenging of tasks for me. ‘Why did you make this mistake, Jonathan?’ ‘You’re better than that. You know better. Control yourself.’ The voices are loud. Unmistakably present leaving me inevitably absent from those around me. Hiding my shame and my mistakes in my mind, I hope they will secretly escort themselves to the nearest bin.
They don’t. They remain. They live ‘rent-free’ in my head and they are LOUD and OBNOXIOUS tenants. They stomp the floor, talk loud, blast their music, and throw litter everywhere. These thoughts, these words, these phrases, are the things I tell myself after one mistake.
Paul talks something of this generally in Romans 7:15-24 when he says, ‘For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.’ (vs. 15) I don’t want to talk to myself in this way, yet here I am admitting that I do. I hate it because it kills my soul, and that’s exactly what I think is the essence of defeat. Where there’s no passion, willpower, or soul, there’s no triumph of the human spirit. There’s no resilience. There’s no perseverance. There is no life.
So how do I do the things I do enjoy while restraining myself from doing the things I hate that I do? Paul’s rhetorical structure, to me at least, suggests the internal conflict that ensues upon engaging with sin. (A ‘sin’ is not trusting in God when he provides life – for a very VERY VERY short definition) My sin is not the decline of my mental health. No, my sin is not talking nice to myself – also known as loving myself. There’s no way that I can love my neighbour as myself if I’m not loving myself as Jesus loves me. No way. The question remains: how do I revert this negative self-talk?
For me, sharing my struggle is one way to help because I hope that it will help someone consider my other suggestions. Negative self-talk is not normal. Admitting mistakes and learning from them is normal. Not forgiving myself and constantly beating myself up is not normal. How do I help this habit? I have to ask for help.
I have to ask for help from my wife, my parents, siblings, and other family and friends, and I have to ask for help from proper medical advisors. That’s exactly what I’ve done, and it’s what I’ll suggest to anyone else. Don’t beat yourself up. Love yourself so that you can love others.
Remember, you are loved by many people, including me. Mostly though, you are loved by the God of creation, Jesus Christ.