“Like food is to the body, self-talk is to the mind. Don’t let any junk thoughts repeat in your head.“ – Maddy Malhotra, Author
People think in words, and the words we say to ourselves can be either empowering or limiting, depending on what approach we take.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression you are your own worst critic, and for many of us, it’s true! While a little bit of self-criticism can be a good thing – by urging us to become a better person – there is a massive difference between saying, “I need to eat more vegetables” and “I’m a fat slob.”
Excessive self-criticism, in the form of negative self-talk leads us to focus on our failures and mistakes instead of the small things we could improve. These moments of negative self-talk, such as “I’m so stupid” or “I’m not good enough” are moments of self-destruction, which work to steal away our happiness and self-fulfillment.
When you practice negative self-talk, it can be truly damaging to your self-esteem and self-worth, and over time can be associated with higher levels of stress, unhappiness and even depression.
Positive self-talk is the opposite of self-destruction, and can be both a healing and empowering process. It is a dialogue that goes on in your mind, but also greatly affects your attitude and feelings of self worth. Positive self-talk is a space where you believe in yourself and are confident in your abilities.
How to master the art of positive self talk
The art of positive self-talk takes a lot of time and effort to practice effectively, and there are several things you need to know and do while you’re practicing it.
#1 You need to observe and assess the validity of what you’re saying to yourself. Over time, you will become better at seeing trends in triggers that cause your negative self-talk, and you’ll learn how to better deal with those. This observation of your self-talk will allow you to become aware of the thoughts you are having, and how they directly influence your emotions and actions. [Read: 6 big telltale excuses that get you nowhere]
#2 You need to learn to reframe your thinking and give the negative thoughts a positive spin. Sometimes, this can be the most difficult part because it somehow feels fake. But, when you reframe your negative thoughts to something more positive, you don’t allow yourself the space for self-destruction. [Read: 10 ways your negative thinking is ruining your life]
#3 You need to be aware of absolutes such as “I always” and “I never”. These phrases tend to be harmful because they create an instant limitation of you and your ability to change and grow. Avoid absolutes when you’re practicing self-talk by questioning yourself. Ask yourself how you got to this thought, or what would be a better way to overcome this particular challenge. This questioning technique is more proactive, as it limits negative thoughts and allows you a variety of responses to choose from.
This last practice of replacement is crucial to limiting negative thoughts and encouraging positive self-talk. You need to learn to replace your negative self-talk messages with something positive, and empowering. Use gentle words to refer to yourself and to situations, and don’t limit yourself by using “I can’t” or “I’m not”.
The most common destructive things we tell ourselves
Below are five common self-destructive things we say to ourselves through negative self-talk, and examples of how we can work against them by replacing the negative messages with the art of positive self-talk.
#1 “You are so stupid, ugly, useless, etc.”
This is the critic inside you that can often be the loudest and most damaging. It can tear your self-esteem apart in a second, and kill any dream or goal you were thinking of achieving. It tells you you’re not good enough, and that you don’t deserve happiness and success. This critic denies individuals their own self-worth, and value. To combat this critical self-talk you can say the following positive self-talk internally or aloud, “I am worthwhile, valuable and more than enough! I can and will do great things.”
#2 “I can’t do it because I’m afraid of failure, embarrassment, responsibility, etc.”
This form of negative self-talk is based on fear and shame, and stops us from aspiring to try new things or take risks. We all have our fears, but in order to live life to the fullest – with excitement and happiness – we need to take action instead of remaining unproductively frozen in time. Instead of saying I can’t, you should instead switch to a positive form of self-talk such as “I have the courage to act even though I am afraid.”
#3 “Why does this always happen to me?”
This negative self-talk practice is that of the victim. While we might not have control over everything that happens in our lives, we can control how we respond to these situations and challenges. If you choose the attitude of the victim, you are relying on someone else to provide your own happiness. You should instead change your self-talk to something along the lines of “I have the ability to make the most of every situation. This will pass.” [Read: 13 things you need in your life to make it better]
#4 “I wish I had what other people have.”
This negative self-talk stems from jealously, but we should always remember that envy is exhausting, and can leave us feeling empty and alone. It’s much better to be thankful for what you do have and say, “I am lucky! I have what I need, and I’m working towards what I want!” [Read: 10 effective ways to free yourself from jealousy]
#5 “I will never forgive this person for doing that!”
This negative voice is the un-forgiver, which can turn your mind, body and soul bitter from the inside out. Forgiving others and yourself is one of the most liberating things you can do! Instead of focusing on what you cannot forgive, focus on what you can and say, “I cannot control their actions, but I can control my own and choose to forgive …”
Perfection is overrated, here’s why…
Ultimately you need to embrace the fact that you are not, and will never be perfect. It’s extremely freeing when you stop holding yourself to unachievable standards. Perfectionism is destructive, and does not always guarantee success or happiness. People learn the most when they mess up and try again. So, it’s important to relax your standards, and give yourself the same empathy you’d give a friend. When you do this it will be easier to challenge the negative self-talk and focus more on positive messages.
We admitted that we’re often our own worst critics. Yet, now is the time to modify that rule. While we are creatures of habit, and easily fall into patterns of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, we need to switch it up. Instead of continuing to be our own worst critics, we need to teach ourselves to be our own personal support system. We need to respect ourselves, and never say anything that we wouldn’t want another person to say to us.
While challenging your negative inner voice, and practicing the art of positive self-talk can take time to get used to, eventually your mind will catch on. Your efforts will pay off in the form of strong self-esteem and respect for yourself and your abilities. It won’t happen overnight, but the more effort you put into replacing those negative thoughts with positive self-talk, the better you will feel about yourself. [Read: 5 steps to help you appreciate yourself even more]
By practicing positive self talk constantly and continuously, you’ll find that the things you tell yourself will branch out towards your personality and the way you deal with obstacles along the way. Be more compassionate towards yourself, and you’ll see the many positive changes this will bring you.
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