5 Steps for Shifting Negative Self-talk
I work with a lot of women in my private practice, and a common theme is how hard they are on themselves. This is not surprising since many of us experience negative self-talk. Whether we are taught that by our parents or society, we have gotten the message that being hard on ourselves gets results. For example, if we work a little harder, than we will prove ourselves and get the raise, or extreme exercising and dieting will finally give you the body you have always wanted.
Negative self-talk, or our inner dialogue, is the critical messages we say to ourselves daily. Our inner dialogue can sound something like this, “Why can’t I get this right? I am such an idiot. I am too fat. What is wrong with me? I will never get all of this done.” The reason we talk to ourselves like this is we believe it will make us work harder, and keep us in line with our goals.
That negative self-talk, however, has the opposite effect. Instead, these thoughts can cause you to feel sad, mad, scared and overwhelmed. It can also trigger feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment and sadness. When this happens, you may find yourself avoiding whatever it is you have to do, or just shutting down.
Learn to Stop Negative Self-Talk
The good news is that we don’t have to do this to ourselves. You can learn to treat yourself more gently, learning to talk to yourself in a kinder way. It takes practice, but in time you will see that you can become your own therapist or best friend, and it will feel so good!
Below are some tips to help you get started:
Begin by noticing negative self-talk. You may notice the negative feelings first, such as sadness, guilt or shame. Now, ask yourself, “What is going on in my mind?” While beginning this process, it is helpful to write down your thoughts.
2. Talk Back to your Thought
What would you tell a friend if he or she were feeling or thinking the way you are just now? Practice being your own best friend by talking to yourself in a kinder and gentler way. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice it gets easier.
3. Comfort yourself with a physical gesture
Using a kind, physical gesture can have an immediate calming effect on your body. For example, patting yourself on the back, or putting your hand on your heart can be very calming. It also takes you out of your head and drops you into your body.
4. Find a positive phrase or mantra
Find a phrase or mantra that resonates with you, and helps you move past your inner dialogue. The other day a colleague told me a phrase she has been using when she gets blocked, or begins her self-criticism, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” This phrase allows her get out of her negative inner dialogue. When you catch yourself being self- critical such as, “I am horrible,” having a few phrases that you can quickly say to yourself is helpful.
Meditation can be very beneficial in practicing self-compassion. It helps to retrain the brain, so you can become more naturally kinder and gentler with yourself.
When I practice these tips with my clients, they almost always laugh, and say they never realized how hard they were on themselves. They also smile when I ask them what they would tell their best friend, because they would never talk to their friend the way they talk to themselves.
I hope this is helpful, and I hope you practice this with yourself. It is possible to be your own best friend!
Please share a comment below and let me know how it goes for you.
If this blog post resonates with you and you feel like you'd be interested in exploring the possibility of counseling, contact Jessica today!