In my blog article, Bye, Latisha! Evicting Your Inner Critic Part I, I used examples from my own life to demonstrate how an inner critic can sabotage one’s efforts to get ahead. In Evicting the Inner Critic Part II: From Negative to Positive Self-Talk, I’m going to discuss what negative self-talk is, how it can affect you, and what you can do to go from negative to positive self-talk.
SO, DID MY INNER CRITIC, LATISHA, COME BACK?
Of course, she did!
And nastier than ever.
The first clue that she was back was when I began to make excuses for not enrolling in a Chemistry class.
“I’m horrible at everything that has to do with calculations. I’ll never pass that class.”
The next clue was when my friend pointed out that a guy we passed by almost every day on our way to the student union liked me. I took one look at him, and immediately thought,
“Wow! He’s freaking hot. No way would he be caught dead with the likes of me.”
The final clue was when my best friend and I went bathing suit shopping for a weekend trip to the beach.
She picked out a really cute two-piece. I took one look at it, smiled then thought,
“I’d never fit my Orca size butt into that tiny, little thing.”
Living with Latisha in my head without putting her in check for as long as I did made it easy for her to return and once again mess with my thoughts.
It quickly became the same, old pattern of one beat down after another.
Latisha was one bad habit that had to be broken.
And broken it was.
Let me tell you how.
IT TOOK MORE THAN 21 DAYS
Contrary to popular belief, the 21-day rule for breaking bad habits isn’t realistic.
Negative self-talk is a bad habit that requires a consistent and conscious effort to break. The longer we’ve practiced the habit, the longer it’ll take to get rid of it.
Without awareness of the damage that something or someone is causing us, there’s no motivation for change.
So, let’s talk about what negative self-talk is and why we should be self-motivated toward the healthier alternative, positive self-talk.
WHAT IS NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
Negative self-talk is an internal dialogue that causes us to live in self-doubt, fear, anger, hopelessness, and even depression.
It trashes our self-esteem, which impacts our self-confidence, which impacts our ability to step out of our comfort zones and try new and exciting things, which impacts our mood, which impacts our self-esteem.
Negative self-talk isn’t good for our overall health and well-being, to include our spiritual well-being. It fosters in us a limited belief system that keeps us stagnant, and unable to fulfill our potential.
Negative self-talk is mostly learned in childhood from continuously hearing our caregivers, siblings and other agents of socialization criticize, judge, blame, shame, and bully us.
Because it begins so early in the life cycle, it becomes ingrained in us. The feelings it generates often turn into our “normal,’ causing it to take place automatically in response to certain cues without our conscious knowledge.
The good news is that we’re all capable of unlearning bad habits and replacing them with new habits that do serve us well, like positive self-talk.
WHAT IS POSITIVE SELF-TALK
Positive self-talk is a learned behavior that is the direct opposite of negative self-talk.
The former lifts you up and makes you feel good, while the latter makes you feel bad about yourself and your abilities.
Positive self-talk empowers and makes you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat, in total control over the outcomes of your life. While negative self-talk makes you feel like you’ve no control at all over the outcomes of your life.
In other words, things happen to you rather than that you make things happen.
INTRODUCING AND REINFORCING POSITIVE SELF-TALK
While some instances of negative self-talk are normal, it’s crucial for our overall well-being that we learn to recognize patterns of negative self-talk that are continuous and pervasive, how to interrupt those patterns, and how to introduce and reinforce positive self-talk.
If your thoughts make you feel bad about yourself and hinder your ability to fulfill your potential, now is the time to take action.
The following techniques can help you go from negative self-talk to positive self-talk when done consistently over a period of at least 10 weeks.
I used them interchangeably and they’ve worked for me.
- Name Your Inner Critic. Studies have shown that when we name our inner critic, we detach ourselves from it, making it easier to see it as the problem as opposed to ourselves. Call your inner critic by name and learn all you can about him or her by doing the following:
- Close your eyes and listen to your inner critic.
- What does it sound and act like?
- What tone of voice does it use?
- When does it show up the most?
- What feelings does your inner critic generate in you?
- Is there a reoccurring theme?
- Can you grow from what it is saying?
- Knowing the answers to these questions will enable you to be aware of when your inner critic is present, what about you it is targeting, and how to reframe the criticism, judgment, shame and blame into something positive that’ll help you continue to feel good about yourself and stay on track.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Tell Your Inner Critic to Stop and to Shut Up. It may sound silly, but it works. It’ll be a lot easier if you’ve named your inner critic as I did. Reframing the negative self-talk with the command to shut up helps to make you aware of the inner critic and it empowers you to stay in charge, so try the following:
- If you’re in an environment that allows you to do so, direct yourself to your inner critic by name and in an audible voice and tell it to shut up.
- Reframe the negative self-talk. For example:
- “Shut up, Latisha! This is a challenge right now, but I know that I can do it!” or
- “Be quiet. I have what it takes to succeed. Nothing you say is going to keep me from my goals,” or
- “Hush the hell up! You’re a liar. I can do anything I set my mind to.”
- If you’re in an environment that doesn’t allow you to use an audible voice, tell your inner critic to shut up silently, in your mind. Use the same approach.
- Don’t give up. Be persistent and consistent. It’ll work every time if you stay with it.
- Challenge Your Negative Self-Talk. Sometimes the negative things we think about ourselves and others are cognitive distortions that have no basis in truth. Just because we think the sky is purple doesn’t make it so.
- When a negative thought about yourself or someone else comes to mind, challenge it by asking:
- Is it true? What tangible evidence do I have to support it?
- Which part of the thought is rational?
- Which part is irrational?
- Could there be another explanation?
- If you find that there’s no factual basis for your negative self-talk, reframe it with positive self-talk such as the following:
- “So what if I made a mistake. I’ll do better next.”
- “It’s not a matter of laziness. I can do it if and when I want to.”
- “He’s a hunk and I’m beautiful inside and out.”
- “I struggled with chemistry in sixth grade, but this is college. I got this!”
- “So what if the two-piece doesn’t fit. I fit into this one and I look great!”
- “I’m not her. I don’t want to be her. I’m perfectly unique and wonderfully happy being me.”
Negative self-talk is internal dialogue that causes us to feel bad about ourselves and that sabotages our efforts to fulfill our potential.
It’s a learned behavior, a bad habit that can be broken by using techniques like the ones outlined above that challenge and reframe negative internal dialogue into positive self-talk, a healthy and empowering alternative.
The techniques I discussed are just a few of many that can be used to help break the habit and get you on track with healthier and happier outcomes.
In no way are the techniques a substitute for professional help, so please don’t hesitate to seek it. The most important factor is your overall well-being and success in life.
If you found this information helpful, or would like to suggest a topic of interest for a future blog, please leave a comment.
Say “Bye!” to your Latisha.