Be Nice to Yourself You Little Shit I Swear to God

Jen McGregor

You don’t have to be grateful for the present moment. Maybe the present moment sucks. Let yourself be scunnered. It’s part of the full range of human emotions.

Be Nice to Yourself You Little Shit I Swear to God is a humorous spoken word guided meditation for those of us who might know how to give gentleness but have no idea how to receive it. A new concept in mind-management for people who want to curl up in a ball and die of cringe when some soothing voice tells them they’re loved.

You don’t get your validation from anonymous voices. You know who you get it from? You. That’s right. You are going to validate yourself and we are going to sit right here until you do so you can start by taking some deep breaths because those lungs aren’t going to fill themselves.

Jen McGregor is a writer, dramaturg and director, trained at Mountview and mentored by Rob Drummond through Playwrights Studio. Her play Heaven Burns won the 2018 ART Award. Writing credits: Sons of God (Piccolo Theatre of Milan, Italian tour) The Premorial (Birds of Paradise/Perth Theatre), Ghost Stories (Pitlochry Festival Theatre), Divergent Sounds (City of London Sinfonia/Southbank Centre). Jen’s work explores themes of self-invention, death fear/death drive, and finding your place in a world in which you don’t easily fit. 

Humour, irony, and slant-telling the story of my own experiences with neurodivergence and mental ill health are the tools that have got me through a lifetime on the schizo-spectrum.

I’m very bad at self-soothing/being soothed, and often respond better to a little congenial antagonism than to more conventional forms of comfort, so I wanted to see whether I could make something that would feel right for others who struggle to be straightforwardly soothed.

Listen

https://vimeo.com/874967692

Transcript

Hey you. Yes, you. Breathe. Do it. Okay? In, out, in, out. You know how it’s done. Just get some respiration going. If you’re capable of giving me back chat, you’re capable of taking a couple of breaths, aren’t you? Right. So, if you’re worrying that I’m going to start in with all the let your worries float away with the outbreath, you are safe, you are loved stuff.

Don’t stress. I’m not. I’m a disembodied voice. I have no idea what’s worrying you, or whether you should take it seriously. I don’t know whether you’re safe. You could be precariously balanced on a crumbling ledge above a pool of ravenous crocodiles, for all I know. And if you are, and this is how you’re choosing to use your final moments, well, cool, I guess.

What you do in that situation is your choice, and honestly, you’ll probably still reduce your stress levels a tiny bit by taking some deep breaths, so you might as well, right?

My job is to get you to be nice to yourself. And I can tell from the fact that you’ve chosen to listen to something entitled Be Nice to Yourself, You Little Shit, I Swear to God, that you’re going to make that difficult for me. I mean, if you’re the kind of person who actually is nice to yourself. I mean, consistently, on a regular basis, I doubt this would have appealed to you. But apparently it did. So now the work begins.

First things first. If I’m meaner to you than you’re comfortable with, If you aren’t enjoying this, you can just stop listening. I am, as I’ve said, a disembodied voice. You’re not going to hurt my feelings. And yes, of course, there’s an actual human out there who provided the voice and the text. But that person is not here. It’s just you and me. Nobody will ever know if you just take the headphones off and do other things with these precious minutes of your life.

I’m guessing that if I start in with all the positive affirmation stuff, all the you are worthy, you are valid, you will achieve your goals stuff, you’ll immediately throw your headphones at the wall. So let’s try something that might be more our speed. Here goes.

You are alive. And there are probably people who would prefer it if you stayed alive. You may or may not achieve your goals, but you’re not going to let voices in guided meditations talk to you about achievement because this is about you breathing and hydrating and being nice to yourself and not about you producing value under capitalism, so fuck that.

Also, you can change your goals if you want to. You know that, right?

You’re allowed to fear change. Change can be terrifying, and people who say they don’t fear it are probably full of shit. But even when you’re scared, you’re still going to take the occasional sip of water, get your shoulders down from your earlobes, and fucking breathe, okay?

You probably don’t radiate positivity. You give off infrared radiation. It’s not the same thing. If you want to feel like you’re putting something good into the world using the energy you give off, hug a cold person. Consensually, obviously. You deserve to be treated respectfully and to have your needs met. Everyone does. There’s nothing you can do to make yourself so awful that you don’t deserve those things. Genuinely, nothing. Take it up with the International Declaration of Human Rights, if you don’t agree.

You don’t have to be grateful for the present moment. Maybe the present moment sucks. Let yourself be scunnered. It’s part of the full range of human emotions.

You’re not a magnet for abundance. That would be weird. You’d be walking down the streets with other people’s worldly goods flying out of their hands and their bags and all the merchandise out of shops and within seconds you’d be buried under a pile of it. Why would you want that? Maybe there’s a happy medium somewhere between denying yourself opportunity because you think, mistakenly and quite wrong headedly that you don’t deserve it, and making claims that can be easily disproved by your being able to walk past Argos without dying.

Believing yourself to be the worst person in the world is actually kind of arrogant when you think about it. And if you just felt a pang of emotion as your brain went, Oh no, that means I’m arrogant! Then that immediately precludes you from being the worst, because if you were the worst, you wouldn’t have thought that, would you?

And if you didn’t have that pang, it’s either because you know you’re not really the worst, or you know that you really are. But the latter is statistically incredibly unlikely.

Maybe you don’t make decisions that align with your highest vibrations or whatever, but honestly, who can even say what that is? Are you doing your best? I don’t mean your best as in doing what you’re capable of on the best day of your life when your luck is in and you’re feeling fantastic and everything just goes well.

I mean, are you doing the best for whatever today is? If you are… Well done, you. Keep doing that. And if you’re not… Honestly, I think you probably are, I think you just like convincing yourself that you’re worse than you really are, so pack it in and be realistic. And if you’re really not doing your best… You’re almost certainly no more shit than anyone else.

Are you still breathing? Did you think I’d forget about that? And I don’t mean little shallow breaths so your shoulders can work their way back up again, I mean actual, proper breaths. And I bet you’re holding all your attention in sneaky ways to convince yourself that you’re not, aren’t you?

Go on. Prove me wrong. Are your feet flat on the floor, or are you balancing on the edge of them, or wrapping one leg around the other like some weird snake trying to eat itself? Enough of the Ouroboros routine. Sort your feet out. And your knees? Let me guess, probably locked as if you’re an actor playing a robot in a ’50s B movie. Free your knees. Let them move.

Is that a spine, or is it a corkscrew? You know that your vertebrae are meant to stack up, right? They’re not meant to look like a blueprint for a rollercoaster. So stack em. Feel that? That’s the sensation of your lungs actually having space to operate. So your tension is probably hiding out in your jaw now, thinking it’s been clever.

Loosen it. Let your jaw hang. Maybe give it a rub with your fingers. You could do that on your shoulders and neck too while you’re at it. If all this breathing and aligning is making your body more comfortable but making your brain squirm, a little neck and shoulder massage is a great way to do painful things to yourself while also doing something beneficial. You complicated little shit. You still feeling stressed? Your problems haven’t magically vanished? Well, duh. I’m a disembodied voice. I’m not magic. I’m here to get you to do a few basic things to calm your sympathetic nervous system. That’s a lot, but it’s also tiny. I’m like the bay leaf in the recipe of your wellbeing.

Some people will think I make all the difference. Some people will think I make no difference at all. Anyway, the point is that hopefully you’re a bit better oxygenated, and maybe you remembered to drink some water. I’m not going to tell you to go and have a bubble bath about your problems. If that helps you, you probably already know that and don’t need me to tell you. And if it doesn’t help you, why would I waste my breath?

But you could try doing something nice to yourself. Yes, that’s right, you heard me. I said to yourself and not for yourself. You want to know why? Because if I tell you to do it for yourself, you’ll go, Oh, but I don’t deserve it. I suck. Why would I do nice things for myself? So I’m not telling you that. I’m telling you to do something nice to yourself.

Because you’re actually doing it for everyone else, right? You’re making yourself feel incrementally better, so that the rest of the world will find you incrementally easier to deal with. If you won’t take a shower for your own wellbeing, do it for the person next to you on the bus. If you won’t eat food for your own wellbeing, do it so that next time you have to talk to someone, you’re not doing it while hangry. If you won’t take good advice for your own wellbeing, do it so that I get to feel like I’ve helped someone a tiny bit.

Yes, I did say that I was a disembodied voice who had no feelings and wouldn’t be upset if you stopped listening, and yes, that was and is still true. But if you’re listening to this, it probably doesn’t make a difference whether I tell you I have feelings or not.

You’re probably still going to treat me like I have, because you’re probably the kind of person who apologises to the coffee table when you bump into it, so let’s harness that somewhat overdeveloped emotional intelligence and buy into the idea that I’ll feel really happy if you just actually look the fuck after yourself for once in your life.

Because maybe you’re right. Maybe I will. And maybe you’re thinking, Well, you’re not really a disembodied voice. You’re the voice of the actual human being who wrote this and that person has feelings, probably. Yes, obviously, I am the voice of the writer, figuratively and literally, and yes, the writer wrote this specifically to target the kind of probably neurodivergent smartypants who would look at something with this title and be drawn to it.

Which means the writer also knows you’re probably going to listen to this whole thing again. And anticipate the questions about whether you’re locking your knees or whatever. And you’ll unlock your knees specifically to thwart those questions by being one step ahead of the voice. Because you never got the praise you should’ve for your memory and pattern recognition, and now that need for praise manifests in behaviors like that where you’ll know that you’re doing things right, and you’ll feel good about listening to an imagined not you being told to correct something you’ve already corrected.

And you’ll enjoy undermining my disembodied authority, because there’s a bit of you that just really loves finding ways to break the rules without actually getting into trouble. Because you still want that praise. Even when you’re being subversive. That’s fine, because you know what? You’re actually still doing what I want you to do.

Because if you’re breathing, and straightening your spine, and relaxing your shoulders, you’re still being nice to yourself. Even if you’re doing it in an attempt to thwart me, because you can’t help being a little shit about things. So you are, in fact, being nice to yourself. You little shit. I swear to god.

Revolution Commissions

This project is one of our ‘revolution’ commissions for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2023. We commissioned five artists to create new work to address our festival theme and challenge established ways of thinking about mental health.