“You can’t do that, who do you think you are? You’re going to fail and no one will respect you, so you might as well stay on the couch and do nothing.” How would you feel if a friend said this to you? Would they deserve the title of best friend? Um, absolutely not! But we sabotage ourselves this same way all the time through negative self talk.
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
What is negative self talk?
To be honest, I’m pretty good at spotting negative talk from my friends. It’s that point a text conversation where I start to feel heavy and sad. I’m even sharper at recognizing it from my family. That instant where one statement from my partner or relative and suddenly the glow is gone from the fun planned. It’s harder to identify when it’s our own brain showering us in gloom and doom.
There are many different ways we talk to ourselves internally. I’m the type who has a constant inner monologue running, sort of narrating my day and turning over ideas. I promise I’m not crazy, my brain just processes like that. I problem solve, rehash conversations, plan ahead all in language that is just constantly streaming through my brain like the stock numbers at the bottom of CSPAN. It’s easy to get down on yourself and become your own worst critic, because hey, you’re always there. No hiding anything from yourself.
Now don’t think you’re off the hook if you aren’t an internal-monologue-brained person. Nope, negative self talk can also creep up in other ways. Think about how you talk about yourself to friends. “Oh, I could never do that.” “I wish I was as beautiful as her,” “I’ll do that someday, if I ever get my act together.” Mmhmm, see how negative those statements are? You’re putting yourself down without even realizing it.
Ouch yeah, I do that…so what do I do about it?
Let’s stop for a second before we jump into that. I want you to breathe into this moment of self awareness. It isn’t easy to grow and we deserve to recognize ourselves for it. Great job!
Ok, the second is over.
Your First Assignment
Now you didn’t end up with this negative self talk overnight, and it’s not going to be fixed tomorrow. So what I want you to do first is to just notice it. We’re going to grow that self awareness a little by mentally keeping track for a couple days. Monitor that monologue or anytime you describe yourself to someone else. When you catch the negativity, just think “Oh look, NST.” Not judgemental, not critical. Literally just like you would say “Oh, a yellow car.” We’re trying to tag it, we’re NOT going to engage in more self criticism.
Time to Redirect the River
So hopefully you’ve completed the first assignment and you have a better sense of your negative self talk rhythm. Is it in the morning? At night when you can’t sleep? When you’re hungry? When you’re feeling vulnerable? I like to write down what I’ve noticed in my journal, but even if journaling is not your thing it is important to process your data from all those “NST” moment’s.
Our brains are really smart (shocker!) and like your dog always finds the quickest way to the treat jar, your brain tries to complete tasks as efficiently as possible. So all those put downs, criticisms and other general self directed negativity over your entire life has taught your brain to respond to certain stimuli in the same way. It’s basically a one way stream straight to gloom and doom land. A veritable lazy river full of neuron’s tubing their way to put downs.
So…redirect the river. Tell those guys the ride to gloom is closed. We’ve found a better way.
When you observe yourself engaging in self criticism, whether internal or external, here’s what I want you to do. I’ve done this for a while now and it’s really helped me. Imagine I heard about an old classmate who is having great success. Immediately the thought jumps into my mind, “Gosh, I’ll never be as successful as her.”
Show that lazy river who’s boss! Try adding this on instead of wallowing in feelings of loser-ism. “Well, I don’t really know that for a fact. There are a lot of opportunities in the world and I have something unique to contribute. I’ll find my own success since I won’t give up.”
For real though, doesn’t that feel better? I don’t know about you but I’m sitting a little straighter, holding my head a little higher, and ready to get to work. It sounds cheesy at first, but if you keep at it, before you know it those neurons will have made a shiny new slip-n-slide straight to positivity.
Keep Practicing Everyday
Remember earlier when I said this will take time. I 100% meant that. I’m 2.5 years into my own self awareness journey and I can tell you it’s worth it, but it isn’t automatic. I’ve adopted the language of yoga, started calling it my “practice.” You will take steps forward, and you will take steps back, but what counts is that you’re trying to limit your negative self talk. Over time you will definitely see the growth! So go forth and reroute that river! You can do it!