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October 7, 2015 / 24 Tishri, 5776
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Self-Messages: The Need To Reframe

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Crossing boarders always makes me nervous. Even though I do nothing wrong and always declare what I am carrying, I still feel unhinged. My mother used to say it’s the Jewish genes. It comes from generations of ancestors struggling to get in and out of countries during persecution. And so, just the image of a boarder guard stirs up a collective fear.


In a similar vein, my friend hates talking to the tax people. Anything dealing with her tax returns sends her into a tailspin. And so I totally understood when she called me in a panic saying she got a letter from the taxation department wanting her to call them in regard to an item she submitted on her tax return. Despite the fact that everything she submitted was honest and backed up with receipts, the very thought of talking to the tax man immobilized her.


She told me that she wanted her accountant to deal with it. “That’s why I pay him, right? I know that whatever I say will be wrong. I am just so stupid about these things! I don’t have what it takes to deal with it. I’ll say the wrong thing and they’ll audit me forever.”

I thought about what she had said and what kind of message she was telling herself. Basically she was reinforcing her own insecurity and putting herself down. I called her back and told her how impressed I was with her action. It was so perceptive and smart of her to have the sense to call on people with more expertise than she possessed to handle the situation for her. I told her that her decision to pass the situation on to her accountant took good insight into herself. It wasn’t easy to know which areas of her life she can handle really well and which areas she felt were better handled by the experts.


I told her I thought she had made an intelligent choice. She thanked me for the comments, laughed and said, “Isn’t it amazing what reframing does.” Both she and I had basically said the same thing. We had the same plan. But what a difference the words made. Her statements were self-deprecating and insulting. Mine, about her, where reinforcing and praiseworthy.


We often put ourselves down and send ourselves negative messages. Negative self-messages only feed into our insecurities and make us feel worse than we already do about ourselves and about the things we have difficulty with. A simple reframing, a way of seeing our action as not only all right, but positive as well, can make all the difference in how we feel about ourselves. It is the first step to bolstering our self-confidence.


Well spouses seem to have self-deprecating comments down pat. Always being told what they can do better, being challenged about whether they are doing the right thing and often being criticized by the ill person they care for, well spouses quickly develop the skill of beating themselves up with self- deprecating comments. The greater community teaches them that they need to constantly defend their actions and justify what they are doing, so they cannot help but always second-guess what they decide. Hence they tend to see themselves in a negative way and will often put a negative spin on any comments about themselves.


This creates a never-ending spiral. Self-deprecating comments lead to more insecurity, which leads to more self-deprecation.. Being unsure of yourself is revealed in your behavior and so people around you feed into it. If you’re unsure of yourself, your behavior and comments invite people to help you make decisions. This tends to make you feel even more inadequate in your ability to decide what to do on your own. And, so it goes, on and on.


There can be a positive way of presenting almost anything. The first step is to stop calling yourself names. “That’s stupid, or I don’t have the brains to do it, or what an idiot I am!” just serves to make you feel bad about yourself. Next, you need to realize that no one has all the answers and no one does everything well. That’s why we have experts.


Realize that everyone makes mistakes and that we all need assistance at times. That knowledge makes asking for help a positive choice − a smart thing to do, instead of a negative one. It turns asking for help into a strategy, instead of a response to a feeling of inadequacy. We all need help at times and it is only smart to ask for it when you need it. Lastly, accept your limitations and acknowledge that knowing your limits is smart.


Reframe how you talk to yourself. Praise yourself for what you do right and find what you do right in everything you do. Concentrate on what you do well. Acknowledge it and pat yourself on the back, because you really did do a good job. Just reframe your self-talk so that you can see it.


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

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