Feeding yourself supportive and realistic statements about how to handle your interactions with other people can go a long way toward reducing your stress level. Consider the following statements, taken from Dr. Marsha Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder (1993):
- It is OK to want or need something from someone else.
- I have a choice to ask someone for what I want or need.
- I can stand it if I don’t get what I want or need.
- The fact that someone says no to my request doesn’t mean I should not have asked in the first place.
- If I didn’t get my objectives, that doesn’t mean I didn’t go about it in a skillful way.
- Standing up for myself over “small” things can be just as important as “big” things are to others.
- I can insist on my rights and still be a good person.
- I sometimes have a right to assert myself, even though I may inconvenience others.
- The fact that other people might not be assertive doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be.
- I can understand and validate another person, and still ask for what I want.
- There is no law that says other people’s opinions are more valid than mine.
- I may want to please people I care about, but I don’t have to please them all the time.
- Giving, giving, giving is not the be-all of life. I am an important person in this world, too.
- If I refuse to do a favor for people, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. They will probably understand that, too.
- I am under no obligation to say yes to people simply because they ask a favor of me.
- The fact that I say no to someone does not make me a selfish person.
- If I say no to people and they get angry, that does not mean that I should have said yes.
- I can still feel good about myself, even though someone else is annoyed with me.
Each day in the coming week, when thinking about a relationship or an actual interaction with another person, pick one or more of the above statements that applies to your situation and write it down. Then write how believing this statement would change your behavior and make you feel.
Cheerleading statement: It is OK to want or need something from someone else.
Effect on behavior and emotions: I asked Mike if he could spend some time on the phone with me tonight, since I’m feeling lonely and want to talk. I felt better about myself and not like a weak person for admitting my feelings. In fact, I felt courageous and good about expressing my wishes.
Now, go ahead, using the following format:
Effect on behavior and emotions:
After a week, ask yourself:
Which of the above statements seemed to work the best for me? Why?
Did I find it easier to deal with other people as a result of trying these statements?
Which of the other statements listed above can you see being helpful to you? In which situations?
Remember, the new cheerleading statements may seem unfamiliar and awkward at first. This is to be expected — after all, you may well be charting new territory and forging a new path. Of course, the old path would seem easier, at least in the short run. However, in the long run, supporting yourself with kinder and more realistic statements will bolster your self-compassion and improve your relationships with other people.