I can only hope you find friends in life that love you enough to stand up to the mean girl. No, not some mean girl at work or a mean girl that you went to high school with. I’m talking about the mean girl that lives between your ears. Your mean-spirited inner dialogue.
I have a friend that loves me enough to call me out on my inner mean girl.
She’s someone I’d told you about recently, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill. The other day we caught up over life in general and I was sharing thoughts about how Covid-19 has left me feeling out of control. So much has changed and I expressed feeling like I just can’t quite get a grip. I rhetorically asked what is wrong with me that it seems I’m constantly hustling to keep up and chronically feeling like I’m falling short. I was in a “rainy day” kind of mood — if you can’t tell. As I shared my whirlwind of feelings and personal reflections I didn’t think too much of it — but she did.
The next day she said, “I need to talk to you about that mean girl thing you did yesterday.”
I took a big gulp and braced myself. Who was I a mean girl to?! I care so much about being kind to all people — I was horrified to think she observed something that indicated otherwise.
Jennifer then explained that the day prior, when I described how I’d been feeling, I was really unkind with the story I told. I assigned all sorts of negative meaning and qualities to myself. It was really unfair how I treated myself.
Have you ever been called out for being a jerk to yourself? It is a strangely affirming and encouraging experience.
Reframing the Narrative
She went on to tell me that she didn’t like the story I was telling and asked for permission to reframe the story. I granted her permission and that’s exactly what she did. Her story was much more beautiful. Instead of me being unsure and out of control she told the story of a woman who is making great decisions during unprecedented times, while remaining flexible to new challenges as they arise. With a quick re-telling I was reframed in a more empowered manner. Wow.
Do you need to make the mean girl stop? Are you allowing her to occupy rent-free space in your head. Stop. It. Now.
The way you frame the facts and assign meaning to events has a profound impact on how you see yourself today and your long-term self fulfilling prophecy. Be kind. Be gracious. When given the chance, assume the best about yourself and assign the most positive story possible.
How do you stop the negative inner-dialogue?
Step one is calling out your inner mean girl. You can’t make her stop if you don’t expose the nasty things she is up to. For me, this means speaking it out into the atmosphere, to a trusted friend or mentor. Sometimes I can sense my inner mean girl starting to show up and I will share it with a friend in the following way: “The story I’m telling about myself is _____.” That phrase has become my queue that I’m mentally headed to unkind places and it’s time to make a u-turn. I have the opportunity to acknowledge it is a story that can be told differently, when I’m willing to open up about the internal struggle.
Step two is being open to an alternative interpretation of the facts. Sure, we may want to say “just the facts, ma’am” but one thing I know after three decades of living is that it is never just that simple. Life is complex and so are we. When we are able to consider an alternative way of experiencing our multifaceted selves we extend a gracious frame of reference for who we are. Accept you are complex in the most wonderful way.
Step three is being intentional about speaking kindly to yourself. It is a habit you need to develop. It is a muscle you need to grow. Therefore, it takes commitment and work. Notice what you are good at. Feel confident in the strengths you possess. Spend time celebrating what makes you, YOU.
Join me in the fight to make the mean girl stop. It takes a connected community to make it happen. But, if we remain committed I am sure we can silence her.