The Worrier, Inner Critic, Victim, and Inner Perfectionist* show up in our heads all the time.
These mental bullies show up to tell us: You are doing it wrong. You are flawed. You are not enough.
We need to kick these freeloaders out of our minds. Their messages send us spiraling into difficult and dark emotional places. They are like a bad habit that we need to break.
Is it time to soothe your inner Worrier? Is it time to quiet your inner Critic? Is it time to end the cycle of seeking external rescue from your inner Victim? Is time for your inner Perfectionist to understand you are enough?
(Hint: yes, it’s time.)
We all experience these mind gremlins, those little jerks who pick away at our self-esteem, create a roller-coaster of unhelpful thoughts and unproductive behaviors, and hold us back from living a peaceful and joyous life.
Those little buggers are called Negative Self-Talk. And you can decrease the impact they have on your mood, thoughts, and behaviors by implementing a couple of strategies:
- Recognize them. Notice without judgement or criticism. Be aware when they show up.
First and foremost, you need to begin to increase your awareness of your inner, negative self-talk. And then understand they are NOT the truth or reality:
What is negative self-talk? Negative self-talk are all the little thoughts that creep into our inner dialogue that are heavy, skewed, and toxic. They are the thoughts and feelings in response to an external event and lead to action or reaction, which sometimes includes shutting down, lashing out, or avoiding. This type of self-talk can be automatic and subtle. They can show up as words, images, and phrases. They are usually irrational, but we say them to ourselves with authority, so they seem real or true. Usually, negative self-talk is learned way of speaking to ourselves, like a bad habit!
Why is it important to catch the patterns of negative self-talk?
Studies show that people who engage in negative self-talk tend to experience a higher level of depression and anxiety. Negative self-talk creates more stress and worry in their life. The negative self-talk can feel like standards individuals can’t seem to achieve so these thoughts can also lead to guilt, overwhelm and a decrease in self-esteem.
What does negative self-talk look like?
Raise your hand if you have ever thought or caught yourself saying out loud; “I should…”, “I never can…”, “I ought to be able to….”, I must not….” or “I have to….”?
Don’t worry no one is looking…but I see you. I see you because at some point we have ALL thought or said these types of messages to ourselves or maybe even said it out loud to others. As you may know or can guess, these thoughts are not a helpful response to an event. They do not provide clarity, they don’t motivate us, they don’t support our needs or desires and don’t celebrate our talents and gifts.
How do I hear this from my clients?
- I should always be on top of all things in my life.
- I should know better by now.
- I should be perfect as partner (parent, employee, friend, etc.).
- I never can do it right. I can’t do it perfectly.
- I ought to be able to handle (or control) this better. I must not show my weaknesses.
- I must not give in to my temptations. I have to be stronger.
- I have to fix this/him/her/them.
- I have to make this amount of money (have this type of relationship, this type of job, be this type of parent)
So, now that you can recognize these stinkers, what do you do after you catch your negative self-talk?
- Take a moment. Slow down. Take a few deep and cleansing breathes.
By the time you have notice Negative Self-Talk, difficult emotions within you have already been activated. Unfortunately, the logical-based side of your brain is sort of asleep at the controls. Your emotions are driving the train. We need to calm the body so an “all clear” message can be sent to the mind. If you are really wound up, you may need to engage in a longer deep breathing, meditation, progression muscle relaxation if you notice any physical tension, or even distraction to calm the body and mind.
- Question the message of the self-talk. Challenge the self-talk. Be the boss of you.
Start by asking yourself questions, as an open observer, without judging or criticizing self (again!): Why is this is showing up for you now? Do you really believe this? Is this a message you have heard from someone else (parent, spouse, another adult)? Where did this self-talk come from? Does the self-talk provide relief or create more pain? How is the self-talk unrealistic or unfounded? Do any of your expectations need to be re-evaluated? Why wouldn’t you say these types of things to those you love?
- Create a new stream of self-talk. Begin a new habit of being gentle and loving to yourself.
Create a new habit, a new healthier practice of positive self-talk. Shame, blame, criticism, and unnecessary guilt truly is not self-supportive. Talk to yourself with love and compassion. Treat yourself in a tender and kind way. You deserve that. Reframe those common negative self-talk statements with a more accurate reflection of the event or situation and move on. A statement that is positive, affirming, and supportive.
Positive Affirmation examples could include:
- I am responsible and in control of my life. I can’t control all situations, but I can control my actions.
- It’s never too late for growth. I grow one step at a time.
- My pace is perfectly suited for me. All things unfold in their own time.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes I learn, sometimes I move on, sometimes I shift expectations.
- No one can do everything perfectly all the time. I do the best I can and am proud of who I am.
- It’s okay to be upset when things don’t go as planned. I can express my feelings safely.
- I am creating new strategies to old problems.
- I am only responsible for myself and my actions. I do not have to care take for or change another adult.
- I appreciate all my achievements. I am grateful for what I have in this moment. I can celebrate—me!
Practicing these strategies consciously and consistently will transform your bad habit of negative self-talk into a new habit of being in supporting yourself. You will find your self-esteem improving and experience a decrease in your anxiety and depression. You will begin building the resiliency muscles to assist you in handling life’s ups and downs. You will begin seeing solutions instead of only being blinded by roadblocks. You will have new opportunities to take action to create your ideal life. And best of all, you will finally see how absolutely wonderful you truly are!
So, give it a try! Your mind, body and spirit will thank you.
If you need any support reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how I can support you with transforming negative self-talk.
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*Adapted subpersonalities, based on Reid Wilson’s book “Don’t Panic: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks”.