What is Negative Self Talk?
We all have an inner critic. It likes to remind us of all the supposed mistakes and bad decisions we have made. Some of us listen like we would an annoying sibling and then let it go, moving on, both mentally and physically. Some of us (I was completely in this category), ruminate, ruminate and then ruminate some more. We give so much power to our inner critic that the negative comments play on loop inside our head so much so that we start to solely focus on these ‘mistakes’. If left unchecked, at the very least it can make us feel bad about ourselves and at the very worst, can make us feel completely worthless.
How do you know if you are giving too much time to your inner critic?
About 3 years ago, I had very little confidence in my abilities and as such, I had stopped enjoying life and was just going through the daily routine without really experiencing the day. Looking back, there was nothing wrong but I was completely self unaware. I did not question anything, least of all the thoughts which were popping into my head.
Do you find yourself:
- Thinking about the same thing over and over again. Say for example, you made a small mistake at work and for the rest of the day, you mentally keep beating yourself up over it.
- Looking for outside validation. Someone to tell you that you are doing a ‘good job’.
- Feeling miserable about who you are.
- Constantly comparing yourself to others wondering why you can’t be more like them.
- Looking for quick fixes to improve yourself; your body, your job, your intelligence etc
If you can answer yes to more than a few above then it is time to turn the volume down on your inner critic and start learning ways to improve your self talk.
Step 1: Take a step back
When you find yourself ruminating, take a step back and think. What evidence do I have that what I am worrying about is fact? Most of the time, it will be something internal rather than external that has us thinking in this negative way. Remember, you are not your thoughts. You can choose not to believe what your inner critic is telling you.
Step 2: Give your inner critic a name
I learnt about this through researching Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for anxiety but it works well in this scenario too. If you give your inner critic a name, you are removing yourself from the equation. You are forcing yourself to see that you are not your thoughts. Compare ‘I am rubbish at this, why do I even bother?’ to ‘Oh Jenny, at it again, telling me I can’t do this, well I am going to prove your wrong!’
Step 3: Alternative perspective
When your inner critic is in full force, try to change your perspective on the situation. Is there another way that you can view this situation? I am big believer that there is a lesson to be learned in every situation we find ourselves in. So instead of concentrating on the negative, think about what you can learn from the situation.
Step 4: Accepting who you are, imperfections and all
What I am going to say might seem paradoxical but if you want to grow and make changes in your life, it is vital you accept who you are right now. Not once you’ve lost a few pounds or have found the perfect job, house, partner etc but you right now. This is because to be able to make changes and grow, you need to believe in yourself, have determination and perseverance and you cannot do that if you don’t like who you are.
Like all things worth doing, accepting who you are takes time and practice but it is worth it. Try one or more of the following:
- Write what you are grateful for each and every day.
- Write or think about 1 different thing each day you like about yourself.
- Understand that you are the best at being you. There is no-one out there like you. When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, remember this.
- Celebrate the wins, no matter how small.
- Ask close family and friends to note down or say what they love about you and read them when you need to remember that you don’t have to believe the thoughts which pop into your head.
Nobody is perfect
Some of us struggle with our inner critic more than others. I truly believe that these people are the ones who have an image in their head of who they should be, what they should look like, act like etc. When they don’t match up to this ideal (because who will?!) then they are even harder on themselves as they feel they are somehow not living up to expectations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You are incredible just the way you are. You were not made and should never aim to be perfect. You are you, there is only one of you so be you and be proud of who you are, imperfections and all.
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