“Idiot! What is wrong with you?!” That was the first thing that I heard myself say when I missed a turn. I was going home after running some errands. Since I was in an unfamiliar area, I turned my GPS on. GPS that hasn’t been updated since I bought my car. The rain was pouring down hard, it was right around school-traffic time and I could barely see where I was going (not that it mattered since I didn’t actually know where I was). What should have been a 20-minute drive home, turned into a 40-minute ride.
I didn’t need to rush, yet that 20-minute delay made me really upset. Why? Well, now that I think about it, it wasn’t the delay itself, it was just me, being frustrated with myself for missing that turn (and another one after that).
As the rain slowed down a bit, I took a few deep breaths and thought to myself: “well, there’s nothing I can about missing that turn, beating myself up won’t help here“. So, I put on an audiobook that I meant to finish few days ago and made the best of that 40-minute drive. Every day, as I drive home from work, I’m surrounded by so many familiar things, so taking a long drive through those roads and places I’ve never been to, was a nice change. Turns out, missing an exit and getting home 20 minutes later than planned isn’t the end of the world. It certainly isn’t worth calling yourself stupid or telling yourself you’re an idiot.
How do you talk to yourself?
Are you always being kind, loving and understanding? Do you criticize yourself a lot? Tell yourself you can’t do something, that you’re stupid or that you’re not good enough? Most of the time, the things that we say to ourselves, aren’t very positive. What’s even worse, we don’t really see anything wrong with that. It’s become somewhat of a second nature to us. Negative self-talk feels normal, natural, but how often do we praise ourselves for doing something well?
Chances are, you wouldn’t say those things to a friend or someone close. A lot of us though, don’t have a problem with being unkind and even nasty to ourselves. To change that, you need to be mindful of your self-talk.
Be mindful of your self-talk. It’s a conversation with the UniverseDavid James Lees
To be mindful of your self-talk, means observing your thoughts and feelings, without judgment. It means to step “out” of your thinking process and direct your attention to the present moment. That’s where you acknowledge that those self-criticizing thoughts, are just that: thoughts.
PAY ATTENTION TO + ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR THOUGHTS
Or, in other words, acknowledge that inner critic. Until you recognize and acknowledge those negative thoughts and their patterns, you might not even be aware they actually exist. They’re often repetitive and pretty much always unproductive. I’ve had these self-berating thoughts going through my head ever since I can remember. I never thought of it as neither a negative or a positive thing; I just thought it was normal, or that it’s just the way I am. Once I recognized that those self-critical thoughts don’t serve me at all, I started paying attention to where they came from. You might find that those negative thoughts come from fear- fear of failure, fear of your past, not being good enough, fear of your future. Ask yourself: “what am I afraid of?” or “how do I attack myself?“
When you notice and acknowledge those habitual patterns- be mindful of them. Simply observe them. So, when you think “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do this, I give up” you recognize that it’s just a thought: “I’m having a thought that I’m not good enough“, “I’m having a thought that I can’t do this, I’m having a thought that I want to give up.” It’s just a thought, not your truth.
… from that inner critic. A little self-criticism is healthy, but once it becomes excessive it can inhibit you, limit you and stop you from doing the things you want to do or try. If, you constantly tell yourself “I can’t”, eventually you’ll believe it. Separating that inner critic from yourself can help you take it less seriously. Some psychologists say that giving your inner critic a name can help even further; Dr. Tamar Chansky says that “naming it something goofy adds a bit of levity, which helps break through the emotional hold that anxiety has on you. Over time, this short circuits the whole anxious cycle.”
LET YOURSELF FEEL
Mindfulness involves awareness; paying attention to and accepting present moment. Once you’ve identified those thoughts, allow yourself to feel them. Surrender. It’s something you probably often deny yourself. This isn’t always easy to do- avoidance is the opposite of mindfulness and whenever you feel pain, you want to bottle it up and suppress it. Resist it. We usually look to distract ourselves from those negative emotions. Being still, just with your thoughts, your emotions can feel very uncomfortable. Avoidance though, can intensify those negative feelings and it can stop you from learning from your thoughts and emotions.
FIND COMPASSION + FORGIVENESS
Learn to be on your own side. Find self-compassion and forgiveness. Self-compassion will help you predict emotional reactions to negative events in your daily life. Research has also proven that high levels of self-compassion are associated with less procrastination and higher motivation.
Here’s what really changed my perspective; I started thinking of myself as a little girl. When I start noticing that my self-talk becomes even slightly negative or limiting, I think “would I say this to my 8 or 10-year old self?” This really puts things into perspective. You wouldn’t tell a little boy or girl that they’re a failure or that they’re not good enough, or, that he/she is an idiot. You probably wouldn’t discourage them from following their dreams. So why do that to yourself? You can also try writing down those self-critical thoughts. Look at them and ask yourself “would I say this to a friend?“
If you notice yourself being self-critical, try to remember that beating yourself up for making a mistake will only make you feel worse. Don’t let self-criticism weigh you down. Accept those feelings and thoughts for what they are, and let them go. At the same time, remember that it’s okay to acknowledge all the things you do well. Take some time to recognize all the things you’re good at, things you’ve accomplished. Don’t be so harsh on yourself.
Do you find that you engage in that negative self-talk often? How do you deal with those negative thoughts or feelings?