When I was little I adored my older brother. I followed him around, I hung out with his friends and he and I often played together.
I’m not sure he felt the same way though.
One of the stories my mother loves to tell is of a hot summer day at our home in downtown Buffalo, NY in 1966. I was 8-months old, which means my brother was almost two. My mom had us outside on the driveway. I was in a playpen and my brother was toddling around playing with a bucket of water.
He filled the bucket, made his way to me and dumped it on me.
The story goes, ‘oh, how cute, he wanted to cool you off.’
At 5, my brother trapped me under a mattress. I was so small it was hard to see that I was there. When my mom came looking for me I heard him say ‘I don’t know where she is.’
At 10, he and I got sleeping bags for Christmas and he convinced me to sleep out on our three-season patio with him. In the middle of the night, he got up, closed the door and locked it, shut the blind and went to bed. My parents awoke to me banging on the door trying to get back into the house.
At 19, we got into a physical fight and with his hands around my throat he banged my head on the floor, screaming, ‘I could kill you.’
‘You’re stupid, fat and ugly.’
This was his go-to phrase for me. He said repeatedly. Always.
Couple the mantra with the actions and what I see is that he wanted any light that I held to be doused out.
To this day, I do not think I’m pretty (others tell me that I am,) and every photo I see of myself, despite knowing it’s not my truth, my first thought is that I look awful and fat. Yet when I see those photos a few years later, I always think I look good. The body image distortion is tremendous. It is overwhelming to witness how damaging hurtful words can be.
Before I stepped into doing energy work and conscious life work, I tried to heal this piece as if it were my own. As if the negative self-talk – stupid, fat, ugly – were my truth. As if I were the one who saw myself in this way. It was only when I began working on myself by looking at the energies of words, emotions, and beliefs I held, did I see that I could not heal something that was never mine. My brother’s words were never my truth. They were his pictures or projections. They were his fear, his lack, his anger and his resentment. When I started clearing out his energy, it was then that I was able to release those words and move to heal the wounding that they caused within me.
When it comes to negative self-talk, the question I ask myself and have my students and clients ask of themselves is this: ‘Is it mine?’
When we carry the words, the pictures and the programming of others we can spend a lot of time trying to clear those energies. In my experience of working with thousands of women over the past 20 years, if we are trying to clear those wounds as if they are our own inner critic, we may never fully clear them.
As you explore your negative self-talk, start with the question, ‘Is it mine?’ If it isn’t, envision the words and the energies attached to them releasing from your body, your mind, and your soul, then replace the negative with how you want to see yourself and how you want to show up in the world. Reframe. Replace how someone else saw you, or the space they allowed you, replace their limiting pictures with your own empowering vision of you.
‘Is it mine?’ are three powerful words that can positively change your relationship to your thoughts and how you see yourself.
Postscript: After receiving several comments on social media, I want to say that I hold no ill-will toward my brother. I believe that when we are learning unconsciously, our lessons come to us in the way they come and oftentimes, those lessons are ugly and difficult. As we step into conscious learning, we begin to understand what our life lessons are and can learn without the need for adversity. This piece is not about my brother, it is about the impact that actions and words have on us, what we carry, how we carry it and ultimately, how we heal it.