Is negative self-talk holding you back?
By Celine Wallace
Wellness Expert and Founder of Sattva Soul Retreats
I think negative self-talk is an essential topic in today's society, with an endless amount of pressure on women from the media to look like they have it all together; aesthetically, financially, in our careers and our relationships, with a massive part of that coming from social media. Social media is full of photos of millionaires with elaborate success stories, jetsetters on tropical islands, bikini-clad models flaunting their bodies and everything in between. All of these pictures or articles are portraying a luxury lifestyle and trying to sell us a dream. Now, this is where negative self-talk comes in and can be dangerous because you can gloss over these pictures and say ‘Oh, I don't take any notice of this.' But, on a subconscious level, you are absorbing the information and digesting it. You can compare this to food, you can't eat something and say ‘Oh no, I'll have this coffee, but it won't affect me,' but on a physical level it will, and our mind is the same.
The mind is the most powerful tool we have, it's like a powerful programme that runs every aspect of our lives automatically and without us needing to give our conscious input.
What we read, watch or say repeatedly, will in time be accepted as the truth and carried out as a belief in our mind, whether it benefits us or not. Makes you stop and think what you're doing daily doesn't it? The reason why this is important is that the subconscious mind can't distinguish between positive and negative and that's where negative self-talk sneakily creeps into our psyche.
Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own skills, and how you can reach your potential. Here's an example, suppose that you had a fight with one of your friends and when you're finally alone, then these phrases come into your mind-
"Why did he/she do that to me, maybe he/she secretly hates me!!"
This is an example of the kind of self-talk that we all use from time to time and is totally normal, but it's not positive, and so we have to catch it and stop it in its tracks. When we're aware of negative self-talk, then we can turn it around and use it positively. It's actually a great way to start to reflect and use our inner dialogue to solve problems, instead of adding to irrational beliefs about ourselves. Another example, in case the previous one didn't resonate with you is, imagining you brought a new swimsuit online, and you love how the model looked in it. Now, you're at home and trying it on, but you don't like how it fits, and your mind is going crazy ‘Wow, I look so fat. Oh my god, it's bulging here and here.' This is a perfect example of how negative self-talk is creeping in and subconsciously comparing you to how you thought it would look, in comparison to the bikini models photo online. Sound familiar?
Now, we all have our own insecurities in life, but if you already have a strong belief that you are overweight, clumsy, ugly or whatever your contrary belief may be, then this inner mind chatter just reinforces the irrational ideas you already have and makes them worse. It's like that Tony Robbins quote ‘Where focus goes energy flows.' And, never has a more accurate word been said, because each time you repeat one of those inner negative phrases you are actually making your irrational belief stronger.
So, let's figure out how to deal with these thoughts when they pop up, so we can turn them around into positive self-talk, which is also called Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
How to minimize negative self-talk:
Catch your inner critic
Learn to notice when you're being self-critical so you can begin to stop. For example, notice when you say things to yourself that you wouldn't say to a good friend or a child.
Remind yourself thoughts and feelings aren’t always reality
Thinking negative things about yourself may feel like observations, but your thoughts and feelings about yourself can definitely not be considered accurate information. Your thoughts can be skewed like everyone else's, subject to biases and the influence of your moods.
Give your inner critic a nickname
There was once a Saturday Night Live character known as "Debbie Downer." She would find the negative in any situation. If your inner critic has this dubious skill as well, you can tell yourself, "Debbie Downer is doing her thing again."
When you think of your inner critic as a force outside of yourself and even give it a goofy nickname, it's not only more easy to realize that you don't have to agree, but it becomes less threatening and more easy to see how ridiculous some of your critical thoughts can be.
Think like a friend
When our inner critic is at its worst, it can sound like our worst enemy. Often we'll say things to ourselves in our heads that we'd never say to a friend. Why not reverse this and--when you catch yourself speaking negatively in your head--make it a point to imagine yourself saying this to a treasured friend. If you know you wouldn't say it this way, think of how you'd share your thoughts with a good friend or what you'd like a good friend to say to you. This is a great way to shift your self-talk in general.
Say it out loud
Sometimes when you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts in your mind, simply saying them aloud can help. Telling a trusted friend what you're thinking about can often lead to a good laugh and shine a light on how ridiculous some of our negative self-talk can be.
Replace the bad thought with a good thought
This is one of the best routes to combating negative self-talk: replacing it with something better. Take a negative thought and change it to something encouraging that's also accurate. Repeat until you find yourself needing to do it less and less often. This works well with most bad habits: replacing unhealthy food with healthy food, for example, and it's a great way to develop a more positive way of thinking about yourself and about life.