Do you ever take the time to stop and listen to how you talk to yourself? I often think that if I spoke to family and friends in the same way as I speak to myself, chances are I wouldn’t have too many of them left.
It is not uncommon for us to have a constant nagging, critical voice chatting away in our head telling us we can’t do this, we’re not good enough to do that — and basically just putting us down at every opportunity. Psychologists call this dialogue “negative self talk” and it is something that we are all guilty of at one time or another.
This inner critic thrives like a weed in a garden: You don’t have to pay it too much attention but it naturally gets watered, and, unless you pull it up, it has the potential to take over the beautiful plants and flowers. Our critical voice has the potential to destroy our self-belief and make us feel unworthy. It can drag us down, and, in severe cases, can lead to depression. We find ourselves constantly comparing ourselves to others who seem to exude confidence and conviction, while in the background our little voice nags away, and our conversation with ourselves plays over and over. “What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I do that? I wish I was like her….” and so on and so forth.
We have all been there, right? We know how it goes.
But did you know that just by changing the odd word here or there, we can change the whole story we are telling our self about our self? In the words of motivational author Louise Hay, “You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
Here are some tips to help you change the conversation.
1. Try replacing “I can’t” with “I don’t.” For example: “I don’t eat meat” as opposed to “I can’t eat meat” sounds as though you are making the choice rather than it being a restriction. To say “I don’t” is empowering, and more of an affirmation.
2. Instead of saying “I hope”, try using “I wonder.” While hope is generally considered a positive word (which of course it is), it can lead us to one acceptable outcome with no room to adapt. The author Susan Jeffers says that replacing “I hope” with “I wonder” allows us to get comfortable with uncertainty. It opens our mind to the possibility that things may not always work out the way we “hope” but allows us to “wonder” what if.
3. Is it true? Is this my truth? When that little voice comes calling, telling you can’t do this or shouldn’t be doing that, ask yourself is this my truth? Vincent Van Gogh said, “If you hear a voice within you say you are not a painter, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Just because you think something does not make it true.
4. Why not? When you start with the negative self-talk, listen to it for a moment. Some self criticism can be a good reality check and not always a bad thing. But when the voice starts hollering like a spoiled brat, just answer it with “why not?” So, when confronted with the “you can’t” answer with “why not?”
Remember, if we wouldn’t be so dismissive and derogatory about another person, then we absolutely have no right to talk to ourselves in that way.
Ultimately, we need to not take our inner critic too seriously. Allow it to have its say and then quietly and firmly tell it to jog on!!
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