“Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take it’s place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it. Equally important, don’t allow anyone else to dwell on your mistakes or shortcomings or to expect perfection from you.” ― Beverly Engel,
Did you know that what you say to yourself often shapes your thoughts and your reality? Stop and do a check-in. What dialogue does your inner voice most often indulge in? Does that little voice motivate you?
Does your inner voice serve your purpose? Or, does it whisper words of negativity?
Does it harm you rather than help you? Is it more an inner-critic than an inner-voice?
When it enters the realm of unreasonable negativity you're indulging in negative self-talk. This is only going to drag you down.
We will all experience negative self-talk at points throughout our lives. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but no matter what it looks like it brings us stress and anxiety. If you're not careful, that stress will spread to the people around you.
Here's what you really need to know.
Your negative self-talk can trick you into believing it's grounded. I'm not very good at this, so it's safer for me to avoid it.
Your negative self-talk can be cruel. I never get anything right.
Your negative self-talk can feel realistic. I didn't get the job, so I guess I'm not good at interviews.
Your negative self-talk can be total fantasy. I'm probably going to fail so I will never progress.
These musings often sound familiar – like a critical friend, boss, teacher, or parent. It's easy to start believing them when they mimic words and ideas that have already been expressed to you.
Negative self-talk tends to catastrophize and blame. It's inner dialogue that limits your progress, derails your abilities, and prevents you from achieving your potential. Negative self-talk is a thought that lessens your ability to effect positive changes in life. It isn't just stressful; it's stunting your success.
Negative self-talk can be damaging. When you focus on the negative it kills your motivation. It makes you feel helpless and it's likely going to contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression. The consequences of negative self-talk include perfectionism, depression, relationship challenges, and limited thinking.
If you want your self-talk to shape you in positive ways, then you have to learn how to minimize the negative aspects of your self-talk. Here are some ways on how to achieve that.
Catch The Critic
You can't stop your inner critic from running loose unless you pay attention and catch yourself in the act. If you notice your inner critic saying things you wouldn't say to a friend or loved one, then stop it in its tracks.
Sometimes it's hard to remember this, but your feelings and thoughts aren't necessarily reality. You may believe them to be astute observations, but they aren't always accurate. Just like anyone, your thoughts are subject to bias, mood influence, and can be skewed.
Your inner-critic has a special skill – it has the innate ability to find the negative in any and every situation. If it weren’t so maddening it would be almost impression. Give it a nickname so it's easier to dismiss it. Negative Nancy, Detrimental Dennis, whatever it is – when it starts the negativity cycle, you can simply dismiss it as [nickname] doing it again. It makes your inner critic seem less threatening and also helps highlight how silly some of those thoughts can be.
When you find your inner critic emerging it can be difficult to stop the chatter. In this situation, try to alter the language. Instead of saying I hate this say this is difficult. Instead of saying I hate try, I don't prefer. It's about toning down the intensity of the language your inner critic is using. You can mute the power of negative self-talk by forcing it to use gentler language.
Be Your Friend
When it is at its worst, your inner critic sounds like your nemesis. It says things that you would never say out loud to someone else. So, use that recognition to your advantage. When you catch your inner critic at it again, imagine yourself saying that to a friend. You wouldn't! This is a great way to correct negative self-talk.
Remember your thoughts are your own, but they do not describe you. Because you think or feel anxious, does not mean that you are anxious. It means you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, not that you are anxiety.
If you are self-aware and mindful of behavior, then you can exercise choice over what you do right now. You can act not in response to the pressure of your thoughts and feelings, but because we are aware of what we value. The noticing is what is key. If you don’t notice what’s happening, then you can’t have a choice over how you respond to any situation.