By Michael Lawrence Green
What is self-talk?
Self-talk is that internal voice in our head that perceives every situation. Some call it our inner critic, which can be positive but too often it can flip to a “dark” or negative side. On the positive side, the thought can flow to … I’m enjoying this situation; I’ll prepare and do well. On the negative side it can flow to … you’re going to fail; You won’t be good at it; you’re such an idiot. Self-talk tends to include our conscious thoughts (or beliefs) as well as our unconscious assumptions. Negative self-talk is a driver of stress and low self-esteem. Research has shown that people under continuous stress suffer with memory problems. Moms, in particular, who are bombarded with so many activities, choices, frictions, and other variables, tend to suffer with stress and low self-esteem.
In some cases, our negative self-talk is true; however, in most cases it’s unrealistic, unfounded, and self-defeating. Elements of negative self-talk build themselves on our past failures or mistakes. The problem is that negative self-talk doesn’t take into consideration that we might have changed, matured, had similar successes, or other factors. The negative self-talk just searches out the failure. Then when you attempt something and struggle just a little bit, the inner critic jumps on the bandwagon and says I told you so!
Sometimes, listening to the negative self-talk can help you make prudent decisions and aspire to become better, however, most of the time it stops you from achieving extraordinary results. If you listen to your negative self-talk too often, it can drop you into extremely low self-esteem, depression, and/or paralysis. If gone unchecked, it can become a runaway freight train.
There are 4 types of negative self-talk:
- Filtering – Magnification of negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive ones.
- Personalizing – When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself.
- Catastrophizing – Always anticipating the worst.
- Polarizing – See things only as either good or bad. No middle ground.
While it’s never easy, here are some strategies to reduce negative self-talk:
Question your negative thoughts – Sometimes asking yourself about your negative thoughts can help you put things in perspective and get you back on the positive path. Here are some potential questions to ask yourself: What is my evidence for this issue? What if I look at this situation from another angle? Is this situation really as bad as I’m making it out to be? Is this thinking really helping me feel good or achieve my goals?
Know your triggers – We all have triggers (typical behaviors, words, activities, thought patterns) that thrust us into negative self-talk. Jeff Riggenbach, PhD, Counselor, and noted author suggests that we must first figure out what those things are that trigger our negative self-talk. Riggenback suggests that you should start by thinking back to your most recent down-in-the-dumps episode. Identify the thoughts and events that started your spiral. What behavior did that cause? Look at other previous episodes. Were there commonalities? Once you recognize your negative thought patterns, you can challenge them and create new positive approaches to those triggers.
Explore the opposite reality – Stress relief expert Mort Orman, MD advises looking at things from the opposite angle can help you find the elements that make the opposite true. It also helps you find events that support a more positive position. For example, if you’re thinking “I’ll never lose weight,” flip it around and tell yourself, “I can lose weight.” You’ll end up surprising yourself by finding evidence to back up your new position. Challenge yourself to look for anything that would make this valid or true. Think of moments where you succeeded and allow your muscle and core memory to take over. This thinking will help you reduce those negative thoughts and help you start building positive ones.
Embrace your imperfections – Too often we beat ourselves up for our imperfections, however, our imperfections make us who we are. In addition, many of our imperfections are our strengths and we apply them in other ways. According to Brene Brown, a professor from the University of Houston, almost all of the successful CEOs and athletes she has interviewed do not link their triumphs to perfectionism, but rather the acceptance of their faults and the will to move on. These, according to Brown’s interviewees, are the things that have brought them to their much-yearned success.
Practice positive self-talk: It’s important to counter negative self-talk with the positive. By practicing positive self-talk every day, positive thinking becomes a habit which in turn reduces the negative intrusive thoughts. Mantras that you repeat are a great way to ingrain positive self-talk. Things like … “I’m a super smart person” or “No challenge is too big for my phenomenal skills” work well. Positive self-talk practice might seem a little crazy at first, but over time it becomes natural. As the old saying goes, it takes 21 days to create a habit. To reinforce the positive statements try putting notes on your wall or mirror, post on your Facebook page, or other places that you frequently check.
Certified life coach and noted author, Belinda Anderson, suggests a few different mantras such as:
1) I am capable; 2) I know who I am, I am enough; 3) I know with time and effort I can achieve; 4) I choose to be present in all that I do; 5) Each step is taking me where I want to be.
If you focus some time every day on reducing negative self-talk you’ll reduce stress, accomplish more, improve memory, and enliven yourself and those around you.
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Michael Lawrence Green founder of MEMORY SPRING is a loving father and public speech expert who currently resides in Northern California. A graduate of California State University, Northridge, Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis on Finance. Michael is passionate about helping people reach their personal and professional goals while maintaining an attitude of gratitude.