The illustration above is one of my favourite pieces by the amazingly talented Medya Bulduk. A lot of the captions that I’ve been seeing for it have been about the importance of elevating above negativity from other people which is what the image depicts. But the first thing that came to my mind when I came across this illustration was: What if the person saying words such as,
“ugly, fat, stupid, you will never make it and you will fail”
Is not an outsider. What if this illustration represents the internal dialogue that some of us have with ourselves? Because we can be our worst enemy.
I would argue that the process of dealing with toxicity from outsiders is a lot easier. Naturally, if and when you recognise toxicity and negativity from other people – friends, colleagues, family members – there’s a point where you decide and choose to either elevate yourself above it and control how it affects you like the light depicts in the illustration. Or you choose to avoid the individual/ individuals and cut them out of your life because you can no longer cope with the toxicity.
Throughout our lifetime, we will be spending more time with ourselves than any other person. If our internal dialogues are harmful, we don’t get the quick fix option of cutting ourselves out of our own life. While a lot of us are able to recognise harmful utterances from outsiders immediately, our own harmful internal dialogue can be cloaked from us. Either because we’ve built resistance towards identifying it as such, or even worse, we’re able to justify it. Personally, I used to justify harsh and debilitating self-criticism under the disguise of self-evaluation.
Do not package poisonous internal dialogue as a process for self-improvement. And I can tell you from experience now that self-evaluation is not abusive, it does not make you feel deficient and it most certainly is not destructive.
One of the greatest advice that I can give is that it’s important for us to learn to be our biggest cheerleaders! Pay attention to your thoughts, learn to be kind to yourself, learn to give yourself the allowance and excuse that you afford other people. It will take time but eventually your self-dialogue should reach a point where it’s consistently positive, motivating, full of kindness and mostly importantly layered with appreciation and love for yourself. Alhamdulillah, I’ve worked on it to the extent that not only am I doing all the above but I’ve added some mental somersaults and cartwheeling to my internal dialogue to the point where my mental cheer-leading routine has moves that will give you a run for your money. I want to conclude by sharing some important words from a lecture by Sheikh Yassir Fazagha which I found transformative:
Watch your thoughts they become words
Watch your words they become actions
Watch your actions they become habits
Watch your habits it becomes your character
Watch your character that becomes your destiny.
Lastly, the most successful people recognise the importance of their thought process in determining their destiny. I hope you’ve all had a great Friday and a late Jummah Mubarak to you all.