Would you be in a relationship with someone who spoke to you as you talk to yourself? Hell no! Would you be able to have a relationship with your colleagues if you addressed them the way you speak to yourself? Hell no! Would you be able to have a relationship with your family and community if you talked to them the way you talk to yourself? Hell no!
Not only can I be so cruel to myself, but also I know, and I am hurting the most and that is when I decide to dig into myself. When I am having a hard day, I blame myself for it. When nothing is clicking, I put that worthlessness on myself. When I forget something as simple as my reflection journal for a meeting, I tell myself that I can never be exceptional if I can’t even remember simple tasks.
But, gentleness is a miracle worker.
Gentleness says, “I see why you might feel that way. I see what you might believe that about yourself. I see how you have come to these conclusions. You are not crazy. You are not sh*tty for having these thoughts. Joel, these are only thoughts. These are only thoughts usually centered around your feelings about your thoughts or your feelings about something you did or didn’t do. I see how your thoughts and feelings collide. But more than that, I see you. And who you are is so much bigger than your shitty thoughts or feelings.”
Gentleness likes to play the Opposite Game.
Growing up with three brothers, we love to annoy the sh*t out of each other by playing in the Opposite Game. Few things could rile them up like the Opposite Game. “Joel, you're so loud! Stop it!” “What? Did you say to be louder and to keep going?!” “Joel, you’re so annoying.” “What? Did you say that I’m the best brother in the world and that I’m hilarious?!” “Joel, you’re done. Knock it off.” “If you insist! I’ll keep going, dear older brothers!” How f*cking annoying is that?
As an adult and badass Changemaker, I realize that I can do that with gentleness.
When my negative self-talk turns into “Will you ever do anything right? Get ahold of yourself!", The Gentleness Opposite Game says, “What? Did you say that everything you touch is amazing because it is touch by the one-and-only you? Way to hold yourself and not be dependent on others!”
When my negative self-doubts say “Look at everyone around you. They are doing so much more than you. And not just that, they are doing it more authentically and passionately!”, The Gentleness Opposite Game says, “Look at everyone around you. There is inspiration everywhere. I wonder how inspired they get by you too, dear Joel who lives out loud his authenticity and passion!”
When my negative self-loathing says, “You are disgusting. You are not worthy or enough. What are you doing with your life?”, The Gentleness Opposite Game replies, “Did you say that you are charming or that you are fabulous. I couldn’t hear you over all the noise of blessings and abundance coming your way. I couldn’t hear you over all the worthiness and sufficiency.”
Something magical and visceral right happens when I play the Gentleness Opposite Game, I start laughing. I start laughing so hard because the intensity of my negative self-talk breaks open and the profound joy of truth springs out. Truth always brings out the laughter in me.
What would your Gentleness Opposite Game sound like? What would it bring out of you? How “annoying” do you think you could be with the Gentleness Opposite Game? How quick could you be in responding to your negative self-talk with the Gentleness Opposite Game? Do you think that the Gentleness Opposite Game would bring you to laughter or tears? How long do you think you would have to play the Gentleness Opposite Game for it to start working its blessings in your life?
Could you imagine what would happen if we communally started playing the Gentleness Opposite Game with each other?
Every time we hear negative self-talk like “Gosh, I’m such a hot mess today.”, we automatically respond with a “What? Did you say that you’re f*cking hot and can’t wait to mess up the same-old-same-old with your badassery?” Every time we hear negative self-doubt like “Gee, I’ll never be able to figure out personalized learning for all my students!”, we automatically come back with a “Did you say that you’re on the way to discovering how to make it work for your students? And that since it’s a long process, no wonder you haven’t figured it out yet and that you would like some help from a wise, fellow educator?” Every time we hear negative self-loathing like “I’m sorry I’m late. I’m the bad mom who can never get their kids set in the morning. I’m just horrible.”, we automatically breathe in and breathe out with a “Did you say that you are doing the absolute best you can because you love your child, and therefore, a rockstar mom? I agree. You are just a joy of a person and mom.”
What would happen if we played the Gentleness Opposite Game so instinctively and without a hint of sarcasm that it would break open the community around us as we speak truth and bring out their deep joy and hopefully laughter? The first few times I’ve done this, it usually brings out the tears (like the ugly tears!), because it is so against how the typical conversation and multiplication of self-loathing goes. (“You’re the worst. Listen to how I just fucked up!”) Bring on the tears. Bring on the laughter. Bring on the truth. Bring on the Gentleness Opposite Game. Let’s put self-loathing in its place - which is long gone and out of our way!