What’s that thought running through your head? Neuroscientists estimate that humans have, on average 70,000 thoughts per day. Far too many of those thoughts are filled with negative chatter. For some of us, up to 80% of our thoughts can be negative self-talk.
- “Why did you say that?”
- “You look old, fat and ugly.”
- “You messed up big today.”
Whatever the specific script, you get the message. It ain’t pretty.
What damage does negative self-talk cause?
We tend to say horrible things to ourselves. Things we wouldn’t say to our worst enemies. It’s not surprising that those constant messages have an impact – even after a short period of time. For most people it plays out in three ways:
- Erosion of confidence
- Low self-esteem
It all goes on without you even being aware it’s happening.
Unchecked negative self-talk is just one belief system that can hold you back from your goals and dreams. The good news is that by being emotionally intelligent and self-aware, we can challenge these belief systems and get ahead.
Happiness is a choice
Imagine if somebody said, “If you wave this magic wand, you will be happy.”
What if you put a new belief system in place where the magic wand is replaced by adopting a belief system where happiness is a choice.
Because it is.
We sabotage ourselves and sacrifice our happiness by blindly accepting the negative thoughts. Instead, we could choose to be happy by being aware of negative self-talk and managing them.
How do you get the little troll to shut up?
The very first step to managing your negative self talk to be aware that it’s happening. It’s like an illness. If you ignore the symptoms and let it fester, it won’t go away on its own.
Once you are ready to admit that you are targeting yourself with some pretty nasty messages, go deeper:
- Examine your thoughts for clues to understand what you are actually worried about or wanting
- Go through the exercise of asking yourself what you are thinking, feeling and wanting
- Develop affirmations to respond to those thoughts and desires
- Dismiss the negative as simply a thought and not the truth
Show these three belief systems the door
There are so many different beliefs we use to sabotage ourselves and hold ourselves back.
We get caught up with the need for perfection. We may believe that we have to be perfect to get the job or perfect to be a good leader or to even try. Poppycock.
Perfection is not attainable. Instead, work on modifying our expectations of yourself and others. When you give up the false narrative that you aren’t good enough, you will be open to so many more opportunities. You may not always be successful, but you will be far more successful than never trying at all.
Along the same veins, give up on your all or nothing approach to work and life. Forget the idea that if you can’t give something 100% of your effort or attention, you shouldn’t do it at all. In fact, maybe even a 50 or 60% effort will get you the results you need.
The third damaging belief system that needs to go is the one where you rely on others for approval. Also known as the ever frustrating experience of believing “I’m only successful with approval from the one person who will never give it to me.” With this belief system, you hand over your self-esteem to someone else to manage. Do you really want someone who doesn’t love you completely to decide on your success?
Look to others and be gentle with yourself
While you don’t want others to define you, it may help to look at the people you admire. Identify what you admire about them.
The look within and recognize those qualities within yourself. Look hard. It’s in there. Even if they are only just developing. Like a diamond in the rough.
Sometimes you just have to reach out and ask others. Those you trust. Not the person who doesn’t give love. Ask them specifically if they see those qualities in you. Ask for specific examples of when you demonstrated those qualities. Write them down. Read them often.
The fact is that no one is ever good or as bad as they think they are. Start by taking your self-criticism with a huge grain of salt. Use it to gather information about what you are thinking, feeling and wanting but then move on.
We operate on confirmation biases where we look for information to confirm the beliefs we already have. Instead of unconsciously deciding those biases are true, decide if you want to continue to believe them.
The next step is to actively work to contradict those biases. Keep practicing until you believe it to be true.
Own it, love it, live it