Let's take this last weekend for example. Friday night, I spent time with family, and felt really good. Saturday evening I also spent time with some friends that was very uplifting, entertaining, and gave me that lovely 'feel good' feeling inside (interestingly enough, without a whole lot of cuddle time, but that is beside the point). Sunday rolls around, and I'm still feeling pretty good, albeit a bit tired. I get to church, and suddenly, the feelings of loneliness start to kick in. Elder's Quorum it seemed to be particularly bad, and I was feeling really down. Only after I got home, did I realize I'd been engaging in some negative self talk.
This is a more accurate view of what was going on:
Outside action: I drive into the parking lot, and feel like parking further away from everyone else.
Self talk: I don't have friends in this ward. I don't belong here. I want to park far away so that the pain of trying to pretend to be 'close' to the ward is less.
Outside action: I sit down in sacrament meeting, alone.
Self talk: I'm all alone. Everyone else has a family. I'm not the same as everyone else here. I'm a loner. I'm lonely. I'll always be lonely if I'm single. I'm less than the other people in the ward.
Outside action: I look around, a notice some men that I'm attracted to.
Self talk: I shouldn't be scoping other people out. I'm being some kind of voyeur.
Outside action: I see a man who I've noticed is affectionate toward his kids. I find myself straining to see if he's doing it today.
Self talk: You're some kind of stalker. Why do you want to see that?
Outside action: My Elder's Quorum president talks how if people are in need, they can ask their home teachers for help or their friends in the ward.
Self talk: I'm in some dire emotional need. I need friends in this ward. I don't really have any friends. My home teachers don't visit me. I don't feel like I'm making a difference here. I'm afraid to reach out. I'm afraid of asking for what I need. If they knew what I thought about, they would reject me. They'd chase me out of the ward with pitchforks. If they knew what I wanted sometimes, they would do the same.
Outside action: A man in the ward, who I do consider to be somewhat of a friend when I'm thinking straighter, gives me a friendly pat on the back as I walk by.
Self talk: I really want more than that. I guess I have to accept what scraps are giving me. I'm so tired of dealing with other men's phobia of touch with other men. I'm so tired of feeling that myself. Other men are just so scared to do it. I'm scared to ask for it from straight men. What's the point of bonding with these guys?
And so on, and so forth. All self talk, for me, seems to have a common thread: hardly any of it is based in truth. A lot of it is dirty, horrible, rotten lies that I've told myself for years and continue to tell myself. Some of those lies are:
- I'm worthless
- I'm not valued
- I'm not cared for
- I'm not important
- I'm stupid
- I'm ugly
- I'm weak
- I'm not a man
- I have no value
The list could go on and on and on.
I decided, during sacrament this last week, that I would try to replace my negative self talk with some positive self talk. Hopefully, that will ultimately change the beliefs I have about myself. Hopefully it will change how I act. Here are some of things I came up with:
- I am worthy of love and connection.
- I am loved.
- I have friends.
- God loves me.
- God is good and faithful. He can be trusted.
- I am worth dying for (speaking about the Atonement)
- I am worth it
- I am worthy of affirmation and affection
- I am working toward perfection
- I can do great things
The list of positive self talk helps me feel more bolstered and more uplifted. It helps build me up, and I feel like it helps build me up in the right way. One more thing that I heard from a friend recently is 'I need to be the change I want to see'. I remember at the time I was complaining to him about wanting to give and receive more touch from straight male friends. He then said something to the effect of: if that's something I want to see, then I need to do it. In other words, if I want to see appropriate male affection be introduced into the culture around me, then I need to be the one dispensing it. It sounds like a big and lofty goal.
Oh dear, here comes the negative self talk again. I have but one thing to say in response to it 'I can'.