A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the ego and the things I have to do to keep it in check and my head from getting so big that it floats away. And while that is definitely an issue for me, I also want to talk about the flip side of the ego – the voice that, instead of telling me how awesome I am, tells me how AWFUL I am. You know what voice I’m talking about – the voice that says you can’t do it, the voice that says you’ll fail, the voice that says you don’t deserve to be happy, the voice that says it’s only a matter of time before you drink again. I struggle with this voice often – self esteem has never been my strong point (an alcoholic with low self esteem? I’m such a unique snowflake…) and the years of drinking myself into oblivion just reinforced all the negative feelings I had about myself. I instinctively have a very negative self dialogue playing out in my head.
That being said, my self esteem has drastically improved over the course of my sobriety. As the old saying goes, self esteem comes from doing esteemable acts, and the way I choose to conduct my life today is much more conducive to feeling good about myself than it was back during my drinking career (or, as I affectionately call that time period, “The Dark Days”). I no longer believe I am a bad person or that there is something wrong with me or that I am worthless. Most days, I am happy and content with who I am. But there are definitely days when my ego starts whispering in my ear and repeating (loudly) that pesky negative self dialogue. I used to drink to shut it up. But, now that drinking is no longer an option, I have had to find other ways to deal and get out of the craziness that I call my brain.
RELY ON YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
I am SO fortunate to have the most amazing support system in the world. I have so many people that I love and respect that love and respect me right back: my sponsor, my friends, my family, my coworkers. Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, they are always willing to listen to all the awful, crazy thoughts I’m having – and then lovingly tell me that I’m being absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes that’s really all I need.
WRITE IT DOWN
I am (obviously) an advocate for writing. One really helpful tip that I find gets me out of negative self talk is writing down what I’m thinking. It’s one thing to think “You are going to end up a lonely old cat lady” and another thing to write it down and read it on paper. It’s easier for me to see how non-sensical my thoughts can be. I mean, hello? I don’t even like cats.
WORK WITH SOMEONE ELSE
Alcoholism is a self-centered disease, and negative ego speak is just a manifestation of that. Perhaps the quickest way for me to stop being so harsh with myself is to help someone else. One of the main components of pretty much every 12 step or self improvement support group in existence, working with others is a surefire way to get out of your head and lend someone a helping hand while simultaneously helping yourself.
I am not naïve, and I know my ego will most likely forever rear its ugly head ( at least every once in awhile) to try to make me feel bad about myself: part of it is just the human condition and part of it is the fact that I am an alcoholic, and that’s what our heads do. But today, I have choices – I can choose not to believe my negative self talk. I can choose to do something productive to stop being so self centered. I can choose to constantly move towards change, to work through the hard times with the knowledge and faith that things will get better. And I do.