Don’t say you’re okay

Sometimes (okay, maybe all the time) your harshest critic is yourself.

My sister, worn down by negative self-talk, will respond by saying “I’m okay” to herself. Sometimes she’ll modify it and say, “Honey or sweetie, you’re okay,” making her voice sound like the caretaker she wishes she had.

Hearing “sweetie” and the caring intonation created moments better than the usual walk of shame.

While this helped, it didn’t get her off that treadmill of shame—the perpetual loop of self-badness pervading the mind, body, and moods. I know it too well. Do you?

Interrupting the treadmill, like my sister does, reminds you that you’re more than those intense self images. But saying “I’m okay” may perpetuate the underlying problem—continuing to measure yourself.

When you’re treated as an object

My sister and I have an interesting mother. She is smart, intelligent, the height of elegant style, and can be affectionate. She is an excellent shopper with refined taste, and what she chooses reflects who she is.

As we hang out with her—whether it’s driving, eating in restaurants, watching TV… anywhere, really—we hear frequent opinions about what she sees: a hideous dress; houses she loves or are ostentatious; the quality of a menu, food, paintings, advertisements, the wrong clothes Mayim Baylik wears on Jeopardy….

Part of that is from her age. Women from her generation were trained to focus on appearances. But I’m coming to believe she went beyond being a product of her culture.

Her children were objects, too. I often felt like a doll, either as an object to show to others or how I (and my siblings) reflected her insecure inner self.

Why “okay” is not okay

When we fall into negative self-talk, we often start to look at ourselves like an object. An object, be it a doll or a house, becomes two dimensional, ripe for judging. You may have an unseen inner scale, measuring yourself from -10 (horrible) to 0 (neutral) then +10 (Wow!).

When you’re somewhere below a 0, you want to move that needle. Popping to the better side of the Okay scale may offer some relief.

But even in those moments on the plus side, you’re still judging yourself on that scale. And that means measuring yourself as an object.

You’re not an object, you’re human

Is there life beyond the scale? Yes, it means being human and connected to the Earth. Being “okay” or “not okay” aren’t relevant because you’re human.

KC Davis, author of my latest favorite book, How to Keep House While Drowning, says it best:

Humans are born with the birthright of worthiness (thanks, Brené Brown), but you know what? They are also messy, fallible, imperfect creatures who cannot and will not ever get everything right all the time. And this messy fallible imperfection never detracts from our inherent worthiness.

Messiness and fallibility are traits of being human, not from being 2D objects. When you get it wrong or struggle, your worthiness is not at stake.

The next time you feel panic at making a mistake, don’t tell yourself you’re okay. Instead respond with:

“I am allowed to be human.”

When you’re allowed to be human, you are not on the scale, you’re here on the Earth, really doing the best you can.

Relish your human gifts and faults. It’s all part of being alive. And when you’re alive, you go well beyond just okay.


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