Raven Learns to Challenge Negative Self-talk
Photo Credit: Todd Ellingburg, Beadwork by Misty Lynn EllingburgRaven was a great flier with a keen eye for catching her prey. One day, Raven was soaring high up in the fathomless sky when she spotted, far below, a reptile prowling through the grass. “That looks like a good meal,” Raven thought, noting a feeling of hunger in her belly. With stunning grace, she slanted her wings sideways to stalk her prey. But when she got close to the slimy, green reptile, it darted away and eluded her claws. “Dang it!” Raven thought. “I’m a terrible flier. I’ll never be able to catch anything! Why am I so stupid?”
Raven was experiencing the damaging effects of negative self-talk. When she said this to herself, she immediately felt guilty and sad, and flew away to her nest with an empty belly, feeling discouraged and alone.
She was sitting in her nest when her friend the salmon swam by. “Hullo, Raven!” he called.
“Hmmph,” Raven said.
“What’s wrong, Raven?” Salmon asked, splashing his tail merrily in the cool, refreshing river waters.
“I was trying to catch a lizard to eat for my dinner, but when I came up on it, it darted away. I’ll never be good at anything,” Raven bemoaned, nestling up into herself until she looked like a feathery black ball of despair.
“Listen, Raven, you shouldn’t say those things about yourself. You’re a great flier. Anyone who sees you fly can see that. Just because you say to yourself that you’re a bad flier doesn’t make it true.” Salmon splashed around a little more, swimming in a circle and smiling as he did. “Sometimes I second-guess myself or think I’m a bad person. But then I wonder--are my thoughts factual, or just interpretations? Actually Raven, you’re a good flier. You just need to learn a different way of looking at your situation.”
“Well, I don’t see how, when I clearly have evidence to the contrary. After all, I am hungry,” Raven said, but she was listening to what her friend the Salmon spoke of.
“Think of it this way,” Salmon said, “If you were looking at the situation in a positive light, what might you say to yourself?”
Raven shrugged, but she looked a little bit less tense. “Well, I guess I would say that I’ve found and scavenged a lot of other things to eat in the past...”
“That’s right,” Salmon said. “And thinking negatively about yourself won’t help you achieve your goals.”
“True...” Raven agreed, thinking about all the times she’d flown beautifully. Just missing one catch didn’t necessarily make her stupid. Maybe her situation wasn’t as bad as she was making it out to be.
Salmon smiled, and at last, Raven returned his smile. “You’re right, Salmon. I am a good flier. And I’m not stupid. In fact, I think I’ll go scout out a berry patch for dinner now.”
“Good idea,” Salmon said, and with that, he dipped his head underwater and swam away, thinking about the importance of speaking truth into one’s own life
Misty Lynn Ellingburg (Shoalwater Bay) is a student at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in English (concentration Literature) and minoring in Professional Writing. She has two brothers and two sisters--Brandt, Shana, Hope, and Hunter. Her mom, Lory, is a Tribal artist, and her dad, Todd, is becoming fluent in Salish, a local Tribal language. Her favorite Native writers are Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie. She even met Mr. Alexie in Seattle at a book reading where she got his autograph and a picture taken together.