Sticks & Stones: Negative Self-talk

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If day in and day out, I said to my friends or family members:

“I don’t know why you even bother, you’re never going to accomplish……….”

Or

“You’re stupid, lazy and good-for-nothing, no wonder you can’t…….”

And on and on and on, they probably wouldn’t want to be my friend much longer?!  And rightly so! But, we’re stuck with ourselves, and often that’s who’s talking to us like that!

Most people don’t realize it, but as we go about our daily lives we are constantly thinking about and interpreting the situations we find ourselves in. It’s as though we have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we perceive every situation. It’s the soundtrack to our thoughts, and our brains are listening very carefully, no differently than it listens to the words of others and has a reaction, emotion and brain/ memory firing according to what it hears (think the act of learning, conversation, sweet nothings, commands, etc). Some of our self-talk is a neutral easy-going kind of banter (“I think I’ll have waffles,” “cute shirt,” or “I wonder what Mary is up to tonight?”); but then there’s the dark side…

Have you ever noticed yourself talking down, criticizing, or holding yourself to an unrealistic expectation? Of course everybody has their bad days, where they do something foolish, feel awkward or regretful and then move on, but generally we should be doing a lot more cheering ourselves on than bashing ourselves for our mistakes! Life is t-o-u-g-h and we are all just doing the very best we can….we need to remind ourselves of THAT, and not of every single time we fail. There is a time and place to challenge yourself, but that should not ever replace recognizing that you are trying, succeeding, growing and learning too. If you find yourself constantly judging, critiquing, and generally hating yourself, you are at risk for lower self-esteem, decreased activity and productivity, depression, inability to concentrate and a negative outlook on life which will poorly reflect on you and negatively affect your relationships and responsibilities….which will likely begin the negative-self-talk-cycle all over again!

If this all sounds too true to you, you aren’t alone. Although it’s sad to say, we tend to be our own worse critics. We tend to be able to see the good in others (our friends, family members etc.) and dwell on our own less positive points, and it is hard to recognize our good side and pat our own back…especially for just trying or being brave or keeping calm. There is no question that in rough world, we have to be on our own side! So how can we possibly start to change the way we treat ourselves? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Be gentler with others. The way we treat other people is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves; the ability to forgive or have patience extends to others and yourself and it’s a great habit to get into….once you are easier on others, it’s easier to be easier on yourself!Ÿ
  • Actually believe that no one is ever perfect. Even the people you think are perfect are not. Trust me. You need to allow yourself room to grow and learn and make mistakes sometimes. Apologize and forgive yourself when things go really really wrong. The act of forgiveness is difficult but also can give a sense of freedom and growth.
  • Try to concentrate on the positives. This is FAR easier said than done, but we need to recognize and appreciate our efforts and our positive traits especially on days when we feel the worst. This takes time and practice, and we need to remind ourselves a lot, but there are positives and life’s “little” things and gratitiudes can take us a long way too!
  • Set realistic expectations of yourself. Don’t set yourself up to fail, if there is something that you feel you need to change then work towards it but don’t expect yourself to accomplish the impossible or to make major changes in a day.
  • Take a step back. Try to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to see your good points if you think about how your friends or family view you. Ask yourself, “how would they describe me? What qualities do I have they appreciate?”
  • Work at ways to build your confidence. Often, it is when we are feeling insecure, judged, vulnerable, anxious or undervalued that we use negative self-talk. Work at learning about situations, building your skills, recognizing your strengths, practicing and building a support system in order to feel more confident and competent in these situations.
  • Be around people that are nice to you! Often, we repeat the messages we hear from others (or worry others might be saying). Choose friends, colleagues and social situations that celebrate and support you! Nobody needs frenemies and they’ll bring you down long after you leave their presence. Stick to those whose words will uplift and bring joy to you no matter what kind of say you are having!
  • Have a “go-to” mantra or phrase that you can repeat during stressful, negative or difficult times to replace negative thoughts and keep calm in your mind. Create your own meaningful phrase or use a popular quote that makes you smile or feel positive! Some examples are:

* This too shall pass

* You have enough. You do enough. You are enough

* I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough for today

* You are smart. You are important. You are kind.

*I think I can, I think I can…

*Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

*Faith does not make things easy. It makes things possible

* I will try.

We can learn a lot from children…check out this little girl who’s got positive self-pep-talking down to an art! Enjoy the smile:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kKswLd65Ws