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Have you ever wondered how your negative self-talk sounds like in person?
If your friends talk to you like your negative self-talk does, would you still be friends with them?
Recently, I saw Dove’s video about the inner critic and I love it. It shows us what our inner critic sounds like if it were to talk out loud. Even though the video is about physical differences, we can see how our negative self-talk attacks our behavior, personality, and actions.
Take a look at the video below and decide:
“Do you still want negative self-talk in your life?”
Here’s a Great Example of Negative Self-Talk:
Here’s how to stop negative self-talk:
1. Be aware.
There are two things you need to be aware of:
- Whenever you have negative self-talk.
- The differences between you and your negative self-talk.
To catch your negative self-talk, set an hourly timer on your smartphone. Whenever it rings, check what you are thinking at the moment. It may be annoying at first, but it’s truly effective because it disrupts your negative thinking pattern.
I used to set alarms at work years ago. Even though they interrupted my work, they made me realize how negative I was. The negative self-talk was so natural and automatic that I was unconscious of it. It’s like a hidden app running in the background of a computer.
To not disturb your colleagues, set your alarms to vibrational mode.
You are not your negative self-talk.
Another thing you need to be aware of is you are not your negative self-talk. Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual leader, said, “If you aren’t aware of it, you are it!” You are separate from your negative self-talk.
Some called their negative self-talk the ego. Some called it the inner critic. Give it a name, so that you know you aren’t your negative self-talk.
2. Ask yourself “Who does it belong to?”
We acquired most of our negative beliefs when we are young. Kids don’t know how to discern what’s right or wrong, but they picked up subtle behavior, words, and actions from their parents easily. When they see their parents judging themselves all the time, they thought it was the right thing to do.
But the truth is judging ourselves doesn’t make us better. In fact, it makes us feel worse and more unlikely to take action to change and improve ourselves.
Does your inner critic sound like someone close to you?
Asking questions like “Who does it belong to?” not only helps to disrupt the mind, it separates you from the source of your negative self-talk. You may start to realize that some of the things you are agitated about aren’t even something you care about in the first place. Once you have this awareness, you have the power to drop your criticisms.
Whenever I discredit myself for a job well done, I know the voice comes from my dad, not me. He probably gets that voice from my grandparents too. But now with that knowledge, I always remind myself not to believe in that voice and not let it influence me.
3. Write down what your inner critic tells you.
Writing down your self-criticism helps you get everything out of your mind onto something tangible. You would be able to see how mean your negative self-talk has been to you when it’s on paper.
Writing it down on paper is a form of release too. It helps you to process and reflect on what has been said. And when you can see your negative self-talk, you could do something about it. Either rephrase what was said to you or find ways to improve in that area.
Let your inner critic know you don’t appreciate its criticisms.
You can also write a letter to your inner critic. Tell your inner critic you don’t appreciate their criticisms. Tell it not to treat you like this and tell them you are in control. It’s not like scolding them off or being a critic yourself. It’s about standing up for your rights and your value. Let them know their place.
I recently wrote an open letter to my inner critic and it felt great!
4. Ask yourself “Would you say this to your best friend?”
Sometimes, it’s difficult to see how damaging your negative self-talk is even though you have it written down. One way is to imagine saying these remarks to your best friend.
Ask yourself, “Would you say this to your best friend? Would you say this to a 5-year-old? Or random people on the streets?”
If you wouldn’t, why do it to yourself?
You know how awful it felt to be the receiving end of the criticisms. So why do you accept your negative self-talk for all these years? If someone were to approach you and tell you all these mean things, would you believe what they are saying or would you stand up for yourself?
5. Challenge what your inner critic tells you.
For each criticism you are aware of, ask yourself whether what your inner critic tells you is true. Whenever your inner critic uses words such as “always”, “never” or “nobody”, most of the time it’s just exaggerating and creating drama.
Consider the opposite perspective.
When you say “I’m ugly”, don’t just think of things you don’t like about your physique. Think of things that you like too. If you want to judge, give yourself a fair judgment. Consider two sides of the argument.
When you say “I could never do it”, don’t think of reasons why you can’t, explore possibilities where you can do it. Instead of focusing on the problems, focus on the solutions.
Question your inner critic, don’t think it’s right all the time. Just because the thoughts come from your mind doesn’t mean you have to follow everything that it says or do whatever it tells you to do. The real you is the person behind these voices. Remember you have the power to make the final decision.
6. Change your language and your tone.
Be more compassionate to yourself. Use kinder words to yourself. For example, instead of saying “you must do this” which sounds like a threat, say “I could have”. It opens you up to more possibilities.
Develop an inner translator that translates every mean language to love language.
Your inner critic is very good at picking out mistakes, use it to improve areas of your life that needed some upgrade. However, your inner critic doesn’t know how to put the message across kindly. Criticizing you harshly doesn’t make you feel good.
It’s your responsibility to teach your inner critic how to talk to you. Develop an inner translator. Every time your inner critic condemns you for something, rephrase its message more nicely. Translate judgments to constructive feedback.
And ask your inner critic to change its tone. Instead of putting you down, teach it to encourage. Teach it how to make you feel inspired to change.
7. Be grateful.
Because we are so focused on our imperfections and what we lack in, we allow our inner critic to take control. If we are grateful for the things we already have or possess, there would be less opportunity for the inner critic to bring us down.
Develop a gratitude routine.
Every morning, I will start by writing three things I’m grateful for in my journal. You can be grateful for your gifts, the good things that happen to you, or what you have in life. It could be as simple as having clean water to drink or being alive.
At the end of each day, I will write down the successes I achieve during the day. It could be little successes like “I wrote my blog post today” or “I’m mindful of my feelings today”.
It doesn’t take much time to do these routines. I spent about 5-15 minutes on each exercise. Just write down whatever comes to mind and feel the gratitude feeling.
8. Know the cue and your reward.
Negative self-talk is a habit. And according to Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, to break your habits, you need to know your cues and rewards.
Examples of cues that could trigger negative self-talk:
- When a mistake is made.
- When someone criticizes you or your work.
- When things didn’t work out as you planned.
- When people reject you.
- When you feel lonely.
I was giving tuition to my student and I realized his cue is making mistake. Whenever he made a mistake, he would scold himself out loud. For myself, I realize I felt lonely whenever I was in large groups. Being a highly sensitive person and an introvert, it’s tough for me to talk and get people’s attention in large groups. Whenever I felt left out from a conversation, my inner critic would tell me that “no one likes me”.
Contrary to what most people think, there are rewards for negative self-talk.
Rewards are much harder to pinpoint than cues. In my previous post, I explore why someone would enjoy negative self-talk. It’s actually comforting to reaffirm your own negative self-beliefs. Punishing yourself for mistakes also creates relief. You won’t feel so bad and guilty after you have punished yourself.
Other rewards could be a good story to share with your friends, wanting approval, or wanting to be the victim.
9. Be present.
After I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I realize negative self-talk belongs to either the past or the future.
Negative self-talk thrives by bringing you back to the past or into the future.
Think about it. “I’m always making mistakes”. “I never get this right”. Aren’t you thinking about the times when you make mistakes and get things wrong? How about “I shouldn’t have done this”? You already did something and you can’t change the fact that you did it.
Doesn’t they all belong to the past?
And when you say “I have to do this” or “I must do this” aren’t you worried about the future? Aren’t you predicting what would happen to you in the future?
Thinking too much about your past and your future would keep you stuck. It keeps you from seeing what is present right now and creates unnecessary suffering.
That was one main reason why I had depression last year. My head was too much into the future. I was worried about not having enough money to support myself. I started having panic attacks and it prevented me from taking the action I needed to take at that moment in time.
Catching yourself whenever your thoughts bring you back to the past and future. That alone is already powerful enough to stop your negative self-talk.
10. Embrace your imperfections and differences.
The next topic for my 2016 Self-Love Project would be acceptance. To love ourselves, we need to learn how to embrace our imperfections.
Although sometimes change is good, you have to recognize there is something you can’t change or are more difficult to change. For example, your looks. It’s difficult to change your height or the tone of your voice. Before you change anything, learn to accept your differences. Be okay even if it’s imperfect.
Accept your differences, then decide if they are necessary to change.
When you embrace your imperfections, see if you still need to change them. Sometimes, when you accept who you are, you begin to see that what you wanted to change isn’t that important after all.
And if it’s still something you want to improve on, then decide if it’s changeable and worth your effort. Then, go ahead and make the necessary improvement. But don’t lose sleep over it and worry about it. Just take the appropriate action one step at a time.
Need more help? Here are some books to help you overcome your negative thinking and self-talk.
Featured Photo Credit: thirteen / lauren rushing