Chris Packham and Self Aversion

Chris Packham

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In an article in the Radio Times this week, Chris Packham co presenter of the BBC SpringWatch TV program told the interviewer:

“I actually don’t like myself, I never have. I see every error in myself and I analyse it, so when other people like me it generates a mixture of emotions – first of all suspicion, and then confusion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a self-harming or suicidal type, but I haven’t got an ounce of smugness in me. I’m a shy boy, always have been, and I like animals more than people.”

That’s an excellent* example of how lack of self acceptance show’s up in the way we speak about ourselves.

Imagine for a moment that his critic was on the outside, that he had a ‘friend’ who regularly told him “I don’t like you” or commented on every error he made and analysed it in great detail. I don’t think that would be much fun and you probably wouldn’t want to keep a friend like that around.

How does this resonate with you? Do you recognise something similar in yourself?

Most people would think that the way that you think is fixed, it’s too late, or even that it is natural. All these things are learned. It’s very unlikely that the newborn Chris Packham didn’t like himself or analyse every error, somewhere along the way he learned that about himself.

If you learn something you can unlearn it or learn something different.

If you have a thought like “I don’t like myself” from time to time you might like to try this little experiment.

  • ‘Step out of that thought’ as if it were an old pair of shoes.
  • Wiggle your mental toes
  • ‘Step into’ the thought: “I like myself, I’m a human being doing my best, just like everyone else”.
  • Try this idea on for size for a few moments.

What does it feel like to think of yourself in this way?

*I bet the experience isn’t excellent from his point of view

Thanks Sally for spotting the original article and letting me know about it.

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4 Responses to “Chris Packham and Self Aversion”

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  1. Daniel Sainty says:

    Interesting article.

    As a highly self-critical person (forgive me, I could’ve phrased that better)
    a technique I’ve developed with my own kvetching and acute self-analytical antagonising, both for myself and friends who are of a similarly self-defeating ilk, is to imagine you were thinking about a friend, acquaintance or colleague.

    Would you be so brutally critical or severely judgemental? Of course, you wouldn’t. So why not treat yourself as fairly as you would them? It’s plain decency and commonsense, after all.

  2. Andy says:

    Thank you and thanks for adding your own thoughts.

    Just so I’m clear about your technique – when you are talking to yourself, you imagine that you are a friend or colleague and that allows you to talk to yourself more considerately. Have I got that straight?

    I couldn’t agree more about plain decency and common sense. Unfortunately common sense can be harder to achieve than it ought to be.

    I’m working on some simple techniques for soothing that critical internal dialogue and I’ll write about it as soon as I’ve had a chance to test it with a few more people.

    Stay tuned.

  3. Andy, you know, Chris isn’t alone. At least the guy is somewhat aware of his self-perception.

    I have a friend who calls herself a “stupid idiot” all the time. She’s continued doling out the criticism she heard from her mom, as a little girl (of course!).

    I love your Stepin’ Out activity. It’s a great and visual way to begin to get kinder to ourselves.

    Natalie Hill

  4. Andy says:

    Natalie, I think Chris is unusual only in that he is aware of it and admits it so clearly in public. I think he is probably in the (mostly) silent majority.

    I suspect if you were to ask a room full of people “Who gives themselves a hard time?”, 80-90% of the hands would go up.

    Just reading about your friend made me wince. We are such good little tape recorders when we are young unfortunately we don’t get to choose what to listen to and record, then it’s hard to find the stop button to interrupt the continuous replay in later life.

    Thanks for your kind words about the Stepin’ Out – there’s more in the pipeline

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