Back in my teenage years I battled immensely with crippling social anxiety and low self esteem. I quickly spiraled into a deep depression, constantly thinking self deprecating and self loathing thoughts; “OMG! why did I do that I’m so stupid”, “They’d never like me”, etc. I had gone through so much shit and so much therapy, yet nothing had worked.
During the period I hit rock bottom someone turned me on to a psychology book that elaborated on an Idea called “The inner parent” which revolutionized my outlook on life. In short we all have a self criticizing, analytical branch of our psyche which helps us to determine what we are doing is the correct course of action. This is what makes us feel good or bad about ourselves regarding our social interactions with others. Children develop most of their behavioral patterns from their interactions with their parents, and the parent’s role in discipline has a direct correlation with the child’s pattern of self criticism. If the child is disciplined either inconsistently or hypocritically the discipline is then internalized as “I am bad” rather than “what I did was bad” leading to the syndrome labeled “the inner parent”. The inner parent is that voice that tells you “I’m such an idiot” when you knock a glass off the counter, the voice that says “I never do anything right, all I do is ruin everything” when you have a falling out with a friend, or “I’m so ugly and weird, no one could like me” if your finding it hard to make friends or see someone attractive you don’t believe you could ask out. This voice has many variations, but all of them are negative and directed at how you view yourself.
So how do you fix this psychological condition that leads to so much needless depression and suffering? First you have to recognize the thoughts when they come up, when you go about your day make a mental or physical note of just how many times you devalue yourself. Then you have to differentiate it from yourself, give the voice a persona, is it male or female? You can give it a name if you like, and whenever the voice says something demeaning about you, stand up for yourself as you would your own child and correct it. An example would be if you said something along the lines of “God I’m a such a moron” you respond back “I’m not a moron, I’m actually really smart!” And with the correction bring up a memory that supports your new statement such as acing a really difficult test, helping people solve a social dilemma or anything you excel at! This sounds completely far out and weird I know, but quite a few years later after attempting this reprogramming of my inner voice I have to say I’d be in a much different place than I am now.. Your worst enemy at the end of the day is yourself. The good news about that though is you can also choose to be your greatest ally. Think of how you treat yourself from a third person perspective, would it show that you are a loving or hateful person if your thoughts were instead directed at someone else. We are told to treat other people like we would want them to treat ourselves, but virtually no one is told how important it is to treat ourselves like we would treat someone else. So next time you are feeling down, having a stressful day, and notice you are beginning to take everything out on yourself, instead try to treat yourself like you would a friend you found in the same situation.
I can honestly say this concept changed my life for the better!