Would you say to another person the things you say to yourself in the solitude of your mind?
No? Then you may be the victim of negative self-talk.
You know that nagging little (big?) inner voice that never seems to shut up? The one that’s always giving you lectures about what you should be doing, what might happen if you don’t, or reminding you about things you’ve already done? The one that is constantly blasting you with opinions and possible outcomes and warnings and “should haves”, “could haves”, and so on and so forth?
THAT is Negative Self-Talk. The mean and rotten words you say to yourself in your own mind that usually nobody can hear but you. I say usually because I have known many people (and used to be one of them) that have allowed that self-talk to manifest into spoken proclamations about themselves. And not always in a postive way.
I’m sure you know of at least one or two people who are constantly putting themselves down. That used to be me. Maybe it’s you right now. But, one thing is certain – it is a very unhealthy habit to have.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychologist, compares self-talk to the “equivalent of sports announcers commenting on a player’s successes or failures on the playing field.” The difference is that usually the athletes never hear the TV or radio commentator’s voice, but you most certainly “hear” what kind of monologue is going on inside your own mind.
When someone is confronted with their own negative attitude towards themselves, they often-times say that they ‘cannot help it’ or feel that they have no control over what they are thinking (and often saying). They may truly and honestly feel that they cannot change it or that the negative self-talk is true. People who have been verbally and psychologically abused will sometimes become so beaten down that they do eventually believe all the horrible things they’ve heard said about themselves by the abuser.
Negative Self-Talk may be the first reaction to any mistake (real or imagined), embarrassing moment, or the very thought of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. Think about the last time YOU tried something and failed. Perhaps you experienced negative self-talk telling you how stupid you were. Maybe you don’t even have to do anything wrong to hear that negative voice telling you that you’ll just mess things up anyway.
If this sounds familiar, I want you to know that you CAN change your thinking habits and turn that negative self-talk into positive self-reinforcement.
Once upon a time, I was riddled with self-loathing because of I had constantly been told I wasn’t good enough, that I would never amount to anything, that I was only good for one thing (making babies), that other women were better than me (at everything) and that I was worthless. I went through several abusive relationships – mental, physical, psychological – you name it, I had it done to me. I slowly became almost completely convinced that these people were right about me. I mean – how could they not be? Everyone seemed to see me exactly the same way, so it must be right. Right?
I eventually had enough. Deep down I knew I wasn’t those things. But, it took an amazing amount of strength to begin re-training my brain to accept the fact on a daily basis that I WAS good enough and I WAS worthy of love.
I admit – part of me simply wanted to prove everyone wrong, too.
The first thing I had to do was become aware of my own thoughts. So many of us simply allow our subconscious thoughts to just run rampant and accept them as facts. However, our subconscious thoughts are not always right. They are often just regurgitated thoughts of someone else that have been repeated to us over and over until we accept them as truth.
Basically, we have to do that same thing, but to ourselves with HONEST truth. And we have to do it intentionally.
Making it a point to pay attention to every one of our thoughts can be exhausting at first. Learning how to speak to ourselves in a loving and caring manner can seem alien and uncomfortable in the beginning as well. But, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. The easier it becomes, the more we find ourselves rejecting the negative and embracing the positive.
Filling your mind with positive affirmations about ourselves; who we are and who we want to become is just one of the steps needed to overcoming negative self-talk. One of the most effective ways that I found to learn the truth about myself was to read what God says about me in the Bible. That was an enormous eye-opener and helped me to accept the positive affirmations more readily than if I were simply trying to convince myself of something because I wanted it to be true.
Bible verses like the ones below that tell me GOD’s opinion of me (and YOU) helped me to accept those facts about myself because if God sees me that way, who am I (or anyone else, for that matter) to argue.
I am God’s child.
I am Jesus’ friend.
I am a whole new person with a whole new life.
2 Corinthians 5:17
I am a place where God’s Spirit lives.
1 Corinthians 6:19
I am God’s Incredible work of art.
I am totally and completely forgiven.
1 John 1:9
I am created In God’s likeness.
I am spiritually alive.
I am a citizen of Heaven.
I am God’s messenger to the world.
I am God’s disciple-maker.
I am the salt of the earth.
I am the light of the world.
I am greatly loved.
These verses come from the New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.
There are also many books on the subject of turning negative self-talk into positive self-reinforcement. Two that I found particularly helpful are Beauty For Ashes: Receiving Emotional Healing and The Mind Connection: How the Thoughts You Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior, and Decisions by Joyce Meyer.
I encourage you to check them out and really spend some time with them. Absorb them like a sponge. Allow them to permeate your being – just like you did all that negativity. I promise you, this medicine tastes much more sweet than the bitter lies you’ve been digesting.
There is a way out of the abyss of negative self-talk and the depression and sadness that go hand-in-hand with it. It will not happen overnight and you will probably have set-backs, but the work you put into it will have such an amazing and happy outcome. There will be many life-lessons learned along the way, but you will be so glad to have learned them.
Here’s to the journey!
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