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Most of us have been mentally talking to ourselves for our whole lives. We’ve started doing this the second we learned about words and their meanings and how meaningful – and powerful – words could be.
And often these are the kinds of self-talk we engage in:
You don’t know what you’re doing.
You don’t know anything.
I’m going to take a guess this is the kind of self-talk you have, too. The cautious ones. The wary ones. The doubtful ones. Negative self-talk.
How Negative Self-Talk Developed
I read an article somewhere that says the negative self-talk dominating our minds got its root, first and foremost, from our parents. You know how as kids we were always told to keep away from this and that because it’s dangerous? To keep quiet and let the adults talk? To not disturb the old lady across the street? To not disturb anyone?
I’m sure our parentals had good intentions. They were only trying to teach us good manners. But as children with inner worlds still developing, we absorb everything handed to us. We’re basically Spongebobs! As we grow and take in and process the world we see with our eyes, our inner world is building itself too. And all those loving cautions and wariness and doubt?
They embed themselves into our mental blueprint quite early on. Soon enough, we find out there are societal expectations and standards that the rest of the world somehow follow. These too embed themselves into our mind. And, lo and behold, our own little inner critic is born. Kinda like a Powerpuff Girl, don’t you think? And actually,
The Power of Negative Self-Talk
There are studies that have proven constant negative self-talk leads to increased stress, and worst case scenario, anxiety and depression.
Negative self-talk can limit you. It holds you back from your true potential, and get this, it can be self-fulfilling. You constantly tell yourself you’re not good enough to do or be something, chances are you’ll talk yourself out of even trying.
The worst part is that negative self-talk can do all these in sneaky-ninja style. Self-talk is habitual and it happens so fast, you won’t be able to consciously catch everything. But your subconscious does, and it absorbs everything it catches. You may live your life unaware that your self-talk is actually hurting you and affecting the way you see yourself. So here are 3 key steps to challenge negative self-talk.
HOW TO DEAL WITH
NEGATIVE SELF-TALK IN THREE KEY STEPS
1 | Be Mindful
Notice what you mentally say to yourself every day. Negative self-talk is a sneaky ninja so being able to suss it out and feel its presence is important. Being mindful of your thought process and what goes on in your head will help in this. I learned that negative self-talk often appears in either one of these three scenarios:
When you encounter something new. It could be a new face or a new challenge or a new idea. Negative self-talk is wary of changes and new things. I’d even go far and say, it’s afraid of change and new things. Which is why it pops out whenever there’s one, and it will do everything in its power so you won’t go anywhere near the change or the new thing.
When your self-worth is being measured. It could be submitting an art for an art contest. It could be passing a major exam. It could be talking to your boss about a project you were assigned for. It could be as simple as picking the outfit of the day. Depending on what you feel measures your self-worth, negative self-talk will be there to criticize you.
When you’re in a stressful situations. We are often at our most vulnerable when we’re in a stressful situation. And sneaky ninjas like your negative self-talk are trained to sneak in on other people in order to get their job done.
It can appear in other scenarios too. And by becoming more aware of your thoughts, you’ll be able to spot negative self-talk before it can do anything else. Besides, ninjas do their work best when they are able to sneak in. Take that element of surprise out of its hands with mindfulness. Rachael Kable is my go-to for anything mindfulness. Her blog and her podcast, The Mindful Kind, is jam-packed with tips and advice on living a more mindful life.
2 | Know Negative Self-Talk’s Worth
Ask yourself: Is this negative self-talk factual or farfetch? Does it matter now and will it matter in five years? Is it helpful to what I want to achieve or is it hurting me? Is this something I’d say to a friend?
That last one in particular is something I find incredibly helpful.
I mean, think about it. When your friend goes to you saying, “I don’t think I can do this.” What do you do? You encourage them. You motivate them. You tell them, yes you can. You definitely don’t go, “Yeah you’re right. Don’t do it.” But isn’t it so weird that we treat ourselves differently?
We expect more highly of ourselves, yet we also know our flaws and imperfections far more than we know anyone else’s. Which is why we’re so harsh. This is exactly what negative self-talk thrives on. So if it’s factual, if it matters, if it’s helpful and if it’s loving, then the negative self-talk is good in a way. But more often than not, the opposite is true. Be sure that it ticks all the boxes.
3 | Create Reframing Exercises Regularly
Reframing your unhelpful negative self-talk is important if you want to challenge it, and ultimately deal with it in a healthier way. You can do this by changing your mindset, journaling, even talking to a friend or maybe a professional. I find that Tim Ferriss’ Fear-Setting is also helpful here, if you’re all for practical and visual way of dealing with negative self-talk.
The key here is to do it regularly. You may never get rid of negative self-talk completely. And you don’t have to! You just have to practice dealing with it and reframing it with something more helpful and more loving. After all, the only way to deal with sneaky ninjas is by constantly practicing your own defenses and counterattacks.
You got this! I believe in you.
How do you deal with negative self-talk? Have I missed out on something incredibly helpful? Share it in the comments below!