Kinstler: Hey self, it’s me

Ethan Kinstler, Staff Columnist

“Hey, it’s me, just making sure we’re doing alright. I know last week was kinda tough for us, and we have that exam coming up. Just making sure we have a plan of attack and that we aren’t procrastinating on the important things. By the way, what have we eaten today?”

When was the last time you had a conversation like that with yourself? Have you ever checked-in on yourself? Oftentimes, we are told, “Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends,” or “Let others support you.” But when was the last time you supported yourself?

Having an open dialogue with yourself is one of the most powerful tools when building positive mental health. Nobody knows you better than yourself, so next time something goes wrong, try looking inward, as well as projecting yourself outward when seeking support.

For example, when something bad happens to me, I give myself 24 hours to sit in my emotions. Whether it’s anger, insecurity, sadness, whatever, I give myself 24 hours to feel badly for myself. I say “Woe is me. I’m the victim,” and then, I look inward. I start my dialogue. I ask myself, “Why am I feeling this way?” Generally, this is an easy question to answer, as I’ve just spent the past 24 hours moping about it. 

Then, I ask myself, “Is it useful to continue feeling this way?” This question can be more challenging to answer. But, luckily, I have a process to answer this question. I ask myself, “Am I the same person I was before this bad thing happened to me? Do I have all the same qualities I had before? Have I dealt with this situation in the past?” Asking myself this series of questions reaffirms my self-confidence. I know that while I may feel like all I want to do is be a big mope and eat Oreos, eventually, this mood will pass.

Now, everyone deals with strife and grief differently, and there is no “correct” way to do so. Certainly, there are healthy and unhealthy avenues; however, our recovery process is just as personal and individual as the problem itself. This is just a method that helps me work through my own issues.

Opening up a dialogue with oneself is crucial to any healing process. If you can’t talk to yourself about what you’re feeling, you cannot begin having that conversation with other people.

Furthermore, this type of open dialogue with oneself can build confidence and help us fight future negativity. However, to do this, the language we use with ourselves becomes paramount. 

For example, let’s say you’ve done poorly on an exam, opening a dialogue with yourself in which you say, “You’re such an idiot!” is not only unhelpful, it’s counter-productive. Instead, be easy on yourself, say “Well, that wasn’t our best work, but now we recognize our mistakes so next time we can do better. I can meet with the professor and discuss what else can be done.”

In this way, we’ve acknowledged the problem, but also given ourselves a realistic plan to obtain a better outcome in the future. Whereas “You’re such an idiot” is an absolute statement, “We can do better” implies, as it should, that our issues are transient.

Paying attention to our inner dialogue is a great way to begin thinking about our negative thoughts and emotions more objectively which can, in turn, help us reduce our stress and anxiety. Everyone has an inner dialogue, but not everyone’s inner dialogue works for them. In the next few days play close attention to how you speak to yourself. Are you being supportive? Are the things you are saying to yourself something you would say to your friend if they came to you with the problem you’re having? Are there any negative themes that are being repeated in your inner thoughts? Write down these thoughts and then ask yourself: “How accurate is this thought? What makes it so? Am I overthinking the situation? What is the basis for my conclusion? Am I trying to interpret how someone will react before they’ve had a chance to react?”

Opening up an inner dialogue in this way helps us analyze and identify our negative thoughts, challenge them and ultimately begin having healthier thoughts. A healthy inner dialogue leads to healthy conversations as we are able to identify what we need and ask for it from others.

So, next time you need someone to talk to, but feel like you don’t know what to say, try talking to yourself. After all, you’ll make for a great listener.