I'm Just a Mess
It has been a typical week.
In bed a lot from pain. In bed a lot from anxiety. In bed a lot from fatigue and sleepiness. Barely anything on my to-do list getting done.
This morning, I was lamenting to myself as my husband ("T") walked out of the room. I muttered, "I'm a mess."
Hearing me, T said, "That's definitely where she gets it from."
Knowing that my perfectionism, anxiety, headaches, and just being a mess was genetically passed down to our daughter ("B") from me, I replied, "Obviously!"
He walked back into the room, gave me a hug, and said, "I meant the talking down to herself."
1.) Why did I immediately think T was confirming that I'm the reason B is a mess? and
2.) Why did I say to myself that I'm a mess in the first place?
Reflection on Question 1
I could simply say that it sounded like T was directly responding to my statement because his reply immediately followed my self-assessment.
But it's much more than that.
The truth is, I feel so much guilt and shame for the struggles B has that presumably came from me.
I work incredibly hard at keeping her from seeing my crazy. She knows I have chronic pain and anxiety, but I hide how extreme they are from her. I hide most of my tears, my insecurities, my complex trauma, my depression, my body image and eating disorder issues, and my other most private battles.
So if she's not learning these things from her home environment, they must be genetic, right? And T doesn't have any of these issues, so she must have inherited these things from me.
Not only do I feel guilty about the problems I may have passed down to her, but I also feel like a bad person—no, a bad mother—for possibly passing them down.
Therefore, although I should know that my husband would never insult me like that, my brain assumed he had.
Reflection on Question 2
As for the second question, I realized a couple of years ago that I don't hesitate to put myself down when I do or say something dumb, when I make a mistake, when I forget something, when I don't complete my to-do list, etc.
I think this is because I figure if I ridicule myself first, then nobody else will need to.
Growing up, my dad expected perfection from me (and I always tried to deliver). He never missed an opportunity to tell someone they had made a mistake, and if the mistake affected him, his bad temper would flare.
Fail to know the right answer to a question and he would say, "Are you stupid or something?"
Forget to get him tuna fish at the grocery store and he would say, "I specifically asked you to get me tuna fish. How could you forget?" (pause) "I can't believe you forgot. How could you possibly forget that?" (Then continue with the same kinds of responses for several minutes.)
Make a life choice that he didn't understand and he would say, "That doesn't make any sense. That's not logical."
Then as a young adult, I was in an abusive relationship, and I experienced something similar...just with an occasional punch in the stomach or choking attempt added.
So these days, I automatically berate myself so that nobody else will.
But doing so doesn't actually help. Instead, it intensifies the negative self-talk in my brain.
My daughter calls this voice her "Chip" brain, named after a mean cartoon character she doesn't like. When she starts talking down to herself, I encourage her to say, "Shut up, Chip!" It always makes her feel better.
I need to get better at shopping my Chip brain from taking control.
So, the next time I want to put myself down—out loud or silently—I will try to give myself some grace instead...and tell Chip to shut up!
Today I will remember...
that negative self-talk benefits no one.