One of the things that’s virtually guaranteed to destroy your calm and peace of mind is destructive self-talk.
What you say to yourself has a profound effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Have you had the experience of a little voice in the back of your head saying I look awful, I’m not smart enough, I can’t do it, people will laugh at me or it won’t work out? If you have, you’re not alone, but that’s small consolation when you’re battling with these thoughts, because they seem all consuming.
How we talk to ourselves, and in particular the negative things we say, has often built up over a lifetime, so much so that we’re often totally unaware of where our self-beliefs have come from.
What tends to happen is that your innermost beliefs originate from three sources. First, there are the things that people – especially parents, teachers and other authority figures – have repeatedly told you. Secondly, there are the experiences you’ve had in your life and the meaning you place on those experiences. And finally, there’s your own habitual way of thinking that tends to re-enforce the first two.
Many people aren’t consciously aware of how they think, or if they are, there can be a tendency to say well, that’s just the way I am, I can’t change what I think, I’m stuck with it. But that isn’t true. If you’re someone who thinks like this, think again, you really can change how you think, what you believe about yourself and how your internal dialogue plays out on a daily basis.
Downside of Destructive Self-Talk
The more you engage in putting yourself down with thoughts about what you can’t do or why you’re not good enough, the more you re-enforce bad feelings about yourself, like feeling anxious, angry, depressed or unhappy.
What’s more, these negative feelings tend to be all absorbing and often immobilize you, stopping you from taking action that could help improve your situation. So, not only do you feel bad, but you run the risk of getting stuck where you are. This in turn undermines your confidence and self-esteem, which in turn leads to more destructive self-talk.
If you’re locked into a cycle like this, you may think it’s impossible to get out, but you can…you just need to know how to do it.
How Your Mind Works
The way your mind works is that your sub-conscious is programmed to deliver whatever you focus on in your conscious mind. But there’s one big problem, because your sub-conscious can’t distinguish between what you want and what you don’t want.
So, if you’re worried about something, and you keep going over it in your mind, because you want to prevent it from happening, your sub-conscious tunes into what you’re worried about. But it doesn’t recognize that it’s something you want to avoid, it just gets to work delivering whatever you’re focused on.
Consequently, if you keep telling yourself, you’re not good enough or can’t do something, your sub-conscious mind will get to work to deliver whatever it is you’re worried about.
You’ve probably heard the quote from Henry Ford which says if you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re absolutely right.
What this means is that if you want to change something in your life, you have to switch your thoughts from what you don’t want (e.g. lack of confidence) to what you do want (e.g. self-confidence).
Your sub-conscious mind is incredibly powerful, but it takes its instructions from your conscious mind, so it’s imperative to learn how to switch from negative to positive self-talk. And it’s worth doing, because this single change can make a profound difference in your life, leading you away from conflict and misery to happiness and success.
Flick the Switch to Positive Self-Talk
We all have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, but many of them just flash across our minds so rapidly that we’re not even aware of them.
So, the first step in making the switch to positive self-talk is to become more aware of your thoughts and what you say to yourself. Start by turning your attention inwards and consciously noticing your thoughts and what you say to yourself. Notice how much of your self-talk is negative.
Once you have registered a negative thought, try and let it go like a cloud drifting by in the sky. One of the problems with negative thoughts is that we have a tendency to latch onto them, visualizing all sorts of dreadful outcomes. Then, before you know where you are, you’ve ramped up your anxiety level and feel totally stressed out.
If you can’t let the thought just drift by, call a halt to your mental wanderings by saying stop! to yourself. Enough is enough. If you allow your negative self-talk to continue, you run the risk of pushing your emotions into a downward spiral.
As you say stop! replace the negative thought with something positive. At the same time as switching your thoughts, it helps if you can visualize a positive picture in your mind of what you want and how you would feel if the positive outcome actually happened.
Going through this process can seem a bit strange at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes; a bit like switching channels on your radio or television.
If you find that you’re playing the same negative recordings over and over again in your mind, you can erase those negative thoughts with positive beliefs by repeating affirmations to yourself. Often negative beliefs take the form of not being good enough or feeling we can’t do something, in which case try neutralizing those beliefs with either of these two affirmations: I feel good about myself and I can do it.
Repetition is one of the best ways of neutralizing negative thoughts and beliefs, so look for every opportunity to say these affirmations to yourself. Ideally, write them down on a card and read them as often as possible during the course of the day, or make an audio recording that you can listen to while exercising or dropping off to sleep.
Lead a Life Worth Living
The good news is that you really can control what you say to yourself.
The more positive your self-talk, the more positive you feel about yourself.
And the more positive your feel about yourself, the more positive your actions.
And the more positive your actions, the happier and more successful your life will be.
It’s worth taking the time to get rid of destructive self-talk.
Bob Proctor “The Science of Getting Rich/How to Use the Secret Law of Attraction” DVD
Phil Gosling “Success Engineering” (2010) Tag Publishing