If there is one thing we can do for ourselves to make our lives immeasurably better without spending a dime, it’s turning down the “hate radio” in our minds.
“Hate radio” is my term for those voices that tell us we’re not good enough or that we should never have been born. As sex workers, it’s especially important to not fall into the trap of berating ourselves unnecessarily because our livelihoods depend on sexual confidence and an outgoing attitude.
Whenever you find yourself asking why the world keeps beating you down, ask yourself: Am I the one doing most of the beating? Here’s some heartfelt advice for what to do when those ugly voices in our heads just won’t be quiet.
Stop, Observe, Name What You’re Doing
I know this sounds basic, but the very first step when we’re in a self-hating loop is taking the time to notice that we’re doing it. This little bit of distance is extremely powerful.
When we’re in a self-punishing spiral, it can feel like this is our natural state of being, now and forever. The fact is however, it’s no more than a state of mind — the same as moods or seasons. Simply saying out loud, “I’m pumping poison into my head right now,” puts a time-stamp on those nasty messages and is an invitation for them to end.
How might your very best friend view you right how — or, for that matter, how would you treat your best friend if they were feeling the way you do? If you can’t imagine saying those hateful things out loud to someone you love, why are you saying them to yourself?
Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind To Yourself, counsels that when we feel sad, bad, alone or afraid, we need to actively soothe ourselves. So often when we’re hurting, we crave comfort from others. In reality however, we have full and complete power to soothe ourselves. We do not have to rely on or convince anyone else that we deserve to feel better.
Try closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Scan your body for where you carry the pain of your self-hating messages. Place your hand on your chest or stomach or other hurting body part, rub yourself gently and say the words: “It’s okay, Sweetheart. It’s going to be all right.”
It may feel strange the first few times you do this, but your body doesn’t distinguish between your own gentle touch and someone else’s. No matter where you are, no matter what the circumstances, there is never any need to starve yourself of loving comfort.
Practice Healthy Self-Talk
Our brains respond to the messages we tell ourselves. Consciously repeating positive affirmations can be an effective antidote to negative scripts. One way to look at the hateful messages we tell ourselves is like they are tire tracks worn into a dirt road. We can detour our brains away from those deep muddy ruts by taking different mental routes.
Find a positive statement that’s especially meaningful to you, and write it on a Post-It note and stick it on your mirror or on your bedside lamp. Make it your password to all your online accounts. Turn it into a meme and use it as your Twitter header. Your brain can just as easily repeat a positive message as a negative one.
Ask Yourself What If…?
Finally, you might try this mental exercise: How would you be different if you weren’t so hard on yourself? What would your life look like? What would the world look like?
Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and list all the ways feeling this bad makes you a better person. You might shock yourself with just how short that list actually is. Then take some time to consider, would it be possible to be just as good a person without feeling terrible about yourself?
The world isn’t a better place because we beat ourselves up. This doesn’t make us better people. All it does is make us feel miserable. There is always a time and a place for self-reflection — none of us are perfect, and we can all find ways to improve. Endless self-flagellation though is completely wasted energy.
If you can’t directly credit your internal hate radio for turning you into a superhero, time to change the station!
Until next time, now and always, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry, a self-help book for sex workers now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and wherever else ebooks are sold. Contact her at Lola.Davina@ynotcam.com and visit her on Twitter at @Lola_Davina, on Facebook and on Tumblr.
Image of Lola Davina courtesy Pat Mazzera.