[with particular thanks to Claudia and Tatjana for letting me share a little of their stories]
Are you too hard on yourself?
Do you beat yourself up about learning Welsh?
My last post (about the frustration of not remembering words: Do you get frustrated when you can't remember a Welsh word?) has lead to a LOT of brave people opening up about the emotions they feel when they’re trying to learn - via comments here and on Facebook, and via private messages and email - and it’s stormy stuff, I can tell you.
Perhaps the most dangerous and damaging emotion of all is when you start to blame yourself - when you almost start to hate yourself - for things that you think aren’t working ‘properly’ on your learning journey.
It’s heart-breaking to see.
It distresses me more than anything else I have to deal with in the work of trying to help people become Welsh speakers.
If it’s something you do to yourself - we need to talk.
The truth is - it’s bullying.
It’s bullying yourself.
In this post, I’d like to offer you a way to STOP it.
Claudia hasn’t been here on the forum for very long, but it’s already clear that she beats herself up.
She talks about her ‘failing’ brain, and how it lets her down.
She was taught at school to compare herself - unkindly! - to other students. It left her feeling afraid of learning - afraid of being judged, of being told that she was less intelligent.
But she’s talkative and friendly - she’s brought up two sons successfully - she’s chosen to be a kind, loving and encouraging mother to them, even though she didn’t get that kind of support in her own childhood - she’s obviously a GOOD person, and she’s becoming well-liked here.
Do you think Claudia should be kinder to herself?
Do you think she deserves support and encouragement?
Do you think she should focus on what she’s already achieved, instead of comparing herself unkindly to other people?
Tatjana has been on the forum for a lot longer than Claudia.
Boy, oh boy, did Tatjana used to beat herself up!
Sometimes it felt a bit like watching a particularly violent gangster movie.
Tatjana had what is called a ‘fixed’ mindset - she believed that her brain was no good, and wouldn’t get any better, and that she was doomed to failure.
But - fortunately! - she was also VERY determined - and she stuck around, and put up with us telling her off for telling herself off, until she made some important discoveries.
She discovered that if she gave her brain the right input, it would adapt - it would learn.
She switched from a ‘fixed’ mindset to a ‘growth’ mindset - she came to see that she could change things - she could get better at things - she could, in fact, learn successfully. And now she’s a Welsh speaker.
Do you think Tatjana should have stayed stuck in a ‘fixed’ mindset?
Do you think she was happier when she was beating herself up?
Do you think she deserved to feel as unhappy as she used to?
So here’s something I’ve said to both Claudia and Tatjana - which I hope will help you as well.
If you see a little girl, or a little boy, playing in a park - just messing around, running, going on the swings, falling over, laughing, all that stuff…
Do you think that little boy or little girl deserves kindness? Encouragement? Praise?
Or do you think they should be told they’re not good enough? That they’re lazy, or stupid, or bad?
I bet you think they deserve kindness.
And you’re right.
Every child deserves kindness, and love, and support.
You were a child once.
You were a little girl, or a little boy.
And you deserved kindness, and love, and support.
Maybe you got it. Maybe, sadly, you didn’t.
But that child is still part of you.
That child still deserves kindness, and love, and support.
And now YOU get to decide if the child in you - if your brave attempts to learn Welsh - should be rewarded with kindness and support.
Do you remember how easy it was to see that Claudia and Tatjana should be kinder to themselves?
Do you remember agreeing that they should cut out the self-bullying?
That’s how obvious it is to everyone else that YOU should be kinder to YOURSELF.
So the next time you feel frustrated because you made a mistake… and you tell yourself that ‘a better learner’ wouldn’t have made it…
Or when you forget something you were getting right last week, and want to kick yourself…
Or decide that you’re ‘taking too long’ to learn, and you ‘should’ be going faster…
Please remember these 2 things.
Remember: everyone’s journey is different. As long as you keep going, you WILL arrive. It is NOT a race. And there is no ‘perfect average learner’ you can compare yourself to - there is no set amount of time learning a language is meant to take.
And remember: that child is still part of you. Be as kind to that child as you would be to any other child. Because you deserve kindness and support… and also because being kind to yourself will help you learn more easily, and make the journey more enjoyable.
Is there anything in particular you beat yourself up about with learning Welsh?
Let me know, and I’ll let you know if it’s a ‘problem’ that is actually more common than you think…