Negative self talk is a common thread I noticed in clients early on. As they told me who they were, they also discredited and discounted themselves almost the whole time. It was as automatic as breathing. Sometimes people didn't want to seem braggy, or the bar they set for themselves was always moving, high and unreachable, or they thought they were subpar people who just couldn't get it together- they were fooling everyone and would be unmasked at any second!
It's diminishing. Exhausting. You might talk negative to yourself all day long.
Imagine yourself at a marathon. You pick a person and join them. You can see and feel the strain and struggle along with the joy and pride as the runner runs. You criticize them.
"You should have done mile 4,5,13, 16, and 17 faster. You never get it right. Look at you, even now your shirt is crooked and wipe that sweat off your face- people can see you! You know you should have done better. I'm not surprised though, you always do this."
Can you imagine doing that? Here is a person, getting through something hard or just even making it through the day, and your response to that is to berate them and tell them all the ways they suck and should do better. How great do you think that runner feels with your kind of support?
Why do we let that voice tell us what to do?
Most people think they are the only ones. They think everyone else has it together and that no one else is talking to themselves in these voices of doubt and shame. They think that the bar has to be so high because they are so far behind perfect, and everyone else has it together and they don't. Our unhealthy self talk has us believing the worst about ourselves.
What kind of world are we living in when we're walking around telling ourselves we are the worst?
To me, there are a few things at work here:
Negative self talk is a habit. It's on autopilot and you don't realize you're even doing it. You damage your self trust every time you do.
It seems helpful, motivating. People think they will fail without being complete assholes to themselves.
It's weak. Being kind to yourself is seen as a character flaw.
Let's deal with it.
Negative self talk is a habit, one that, once you notice you're doing it, can be changed. When you notice something, you go off autopilot and into having a choice. That choice gives you the opportunitiy to practice healthy self talk. Doing things like being encouraging to yourself, understanding. Supportive and loving. By choosing healthier self talk you build self trust, and that self trust builds self confidence, and self love.
It is not normal to treat anyone like shit, including and most importantly ourselves. My guess is you'd never talk to your best friend, child, or a stranger the way you talk to yourself. Why not?
It is not helpful, and if it were then why do we do it in secret? Self talk is typically not out loud. If it's so motivating and helpful then why hide it? Notice the next time you're talking to yourself- would you feel comfortable saying it out loud? If not, what would you change so it was?
Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest strengths. The belief that kindness is weak is outdated, tired, and stale. You wouldn't expect someone who got berated all the time to be amazing would you? So don't do that to yourself. Kindness creates confidence.
Healthy self talk is real talk. It is not pollyana, or toxically positive. It is not letting yourself off the hook. It is creating a relationship with yourself that is loving and supportive, also boundaried and firm. It is a safe place to go when you need encouragement and candid feedback. Most of all, it builds you up instead of tearing you down. It opens you up and leads to curiosity and learning rather than being right and winning.
The people we are inside shapes our world. When we are harsh and cruel to ourselves with our inner self talk it creates a closed fist inside us. We would never talk to anyone the way we talk to ourselves, and it's time we stopped talking to ourselves that way! By beginning a new way of communicating with yourself you change your most important relationship you have- the one you have with yourself. Healthy self talk creates a trusting realtionship with you, and that trust is priceless. Let's look at how to stop negative self talk.
How to stop negative self talk:
Notice how you talk to yourself. It may shock you, or you might already know that the voice narrating your days is harsh, or you might already be kinder to yourself than you think.
Take time to hear that voice and what it says, how it says it. Is it the way you want it to sound? Does it say what you need to hear?
Now that you've noticed, what would you change?
Practice changing it. Hint: this isn't just making everything positive. It is being a firm and kind supportive person to yourself. For example:
"I knew you'd screw that up, you always do. If you can't get this perfect you're a total failure."
"That didn't go like I planned, and I think I can figure out a different way to do it."
Now you try. Email me at amy@amyknottparrish to let me know how it goes!