1991 marked a very influential time in my childhood. I was 12, in the 7th grade, most likely wearing braces, bangs, glasses, MC Hammer pants and scrunchies. This was the year Bill Swerski’s Superfans showed for the first time on Saturday Night Live. My life was forever changed. “Da Bears” chant, along with the shimmying “Da Bears” dance, became a mantra in my home. My brother Chris owned a shiny navy blue Bears jacket just like was worn on the skit. It made us Chicagoans proud, and laugh, a lot.
In this skit, which you should totally You Tube if you’ve never seen it, a group of men sat in a bar hosting a talk-show all about celebrating the Chicago Bears. Chris Farley regularly revived himself amidst a heart attack by pounding his chest while overeating Polish sausage and drinking copious amounts of beer. (I too at this point in writing am wondering why my parents allowed me to watch this at the so impressionable age of 12…but that’s a whole different blog! 🙂 Love ya ma.) Anywho…There would always be a question provoking deep reflection, for example: If Coach Ditka were to fight a hurricane, who would win? Followed up with a secondary question: But what if the hurricane was named, Hurricane Ditka? The talk show hosts would all gasp and struggle to answer, but always decide that Ditka in fact would be the victor.
This same season of SNL: REM played “Losing my Religion, Chris Isaak sang “Wicked Game”, Dana Carvey joined the cast, Steve Martin boasted himself in the 5 Timers Club, and a new character emerged named Stuart Smalley.
Stuart Smalley was characterized as a person with low self-esteem. He dressed in pastels and wore a sweater tied around his neck while speaking with a lisp. The skit was intended to seem like a television show called “Daily Affirmations” and Stuart was the host. The end of each “episode”, Stuart would turn to the mirror, look at himself and repeat this mantra (you may already know…), “I am good enough. I am smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
I liked the skit. Thinking about it now, after studying the brain for the last two years, I realized that although we were laughing AT this character, and making fun of this goofy guy lacking confidence, he was in fact right.
Our minds are most negative to ourselves. Our own mind tells us things about ourselves that we would never actually say outloud to any other person. Our minds are hyper critical of our decisions or words we say. How often have you been embarrassed by what you have said to someone else? For me this happens daily, but we all know I should just talk less! Duh.
There are two lessons here to hold on to in order to help. The first is to realize this behavior is narcissistic. Other people are consumed with their own narcissism to be perseverating on what you said or did. To think that others are constantly thinking about you is highly egotistical, but totally normal for us humans. If we can recognize our negative thoughts as being selfish, we may be able to move past them much more quickly not allowing brooding, perseverating, and depression to settle in. Remind yourself next time you feel embarrassed by what you said or did that the other person has moved on and you can too.
The second lesson, and less popular method is that positive self talk works. Stuart Smalley’s character reflects on the fact that society thinks that people using affirmations are weak, and less-than and nerdy. Goodness, the character’s name is “SMALLey”. After watching shows like this, and many other portrayal of self-compassion as wimpy, people become more critical of themselves than of any person they love. This seems “right” to do per societal norms. It is NOT.
The magazine “Psychology Today” has an article written by Dr. Guy Winch encouraging us to “nurture self-esteem.” The article titled, “The Seven Habits of Emotionally Healthy People” conveys the practice of nurturing self-esteem as one of the 7 these habits. When we feel self-critical the best response is to use “self-compassion.”
It is so simple to think that you would pump up your friends and family when they feel down. (FYI: That SNL skit with Hanz and Franz didn’t emerge until 1999.) You’d easily say to a friend or even a co-worker, “You are so kind,” “It wasn’t that bad”, “No, you are really good at that. I’ll help you keep practicing.” How can we show others such immense compassion, but we think it’s right to be so down on our own selves?
The next time you find yourself drowning in self-loathing brooding about something you said or did in the past, imagine how you would help a friend going through the same thoughts.
And if it helps, end with, “…and doggone it, people like me” because they do!