Even the most positive, well-adjusted person in the world still falls victim to his or her own negative thoughts now and again. It’s human nature. It’s The Saboteur. It’s the price we pay for all that amazing human intelligence. But that doesn’t make it right.
Stop for a minute and listen to the voices in your head. Most of us have at least one or two on a constant loop, repeating the same negative —and often untrue— drivel day in and day out.
It’s such an unconscious pattern that many people hardly even notice it. They certainly don’t have to think about it. But it’s there, swirling around, causing all kinds of unspoken damage —things like stress, low self-confidence and fear of taking risks to name a few.
So why not hit the delete key on negative self-talk? Here’s how:
- Open Your Ears How can you improve a situation if you aren’t quite sure what it is? Before you can remove the negative self-talk, you have to sit with it and hang out. Get to know it a bit and let it be heard. This isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright painful. But, while you can consciously ignore these voices, your subconscious is at their mercy. So it’s time to bring them to the surface. Sit down with a piece of paper and start the conversation. Invite the voices to take over. Make notes and don’t try to argue or reason or counter the horrible things you are hearing. Simply be with them. But here’s the key: Set a timer. No more than 10 minutes should be spent entertaining these voices. Once the timer goes off, stand up and shake it off. Don’t fall into the rabbit hole. Keep the paper with you over the next few days. Listen closely to your mental musings. Write down the common phrases that come up—the ones that dampen your spirits and discourage you. Note that sometimes they might sound like the voices of reason. But always be sceptical. “Sabotage” is often disguised as “logic”.
- Reveal Limiting Beliefs Once you truly understand what you’re up against, it’s time to start peeling back the layers. What’s beneath this nonsense? Where did it come from? Sometimes, the source is easy to place. Some people say the voice is their father’s or grandmother’s or the voice of their third-grade teacher. But often it’s not so clear. All of your past experiences and mistakes just get rolled into a great big list of limiting beliefs—preconceived notions that keep you from moving forward in life. The beliefs are so strongly held that you actually treat them as facts. And these are the fodder for those nasty voices! Beneath every word of negative self-talk, there’s a limiting belief that blinds you to the reality of the world and tricks you into fear and doubt. Bring these beliefs into the light and do some analysis. Most won’t stand up to a critical eye.
- Stop Accepting It The sad truth of the matter is that if we spoke to others the way we speak to ourselves, they’d probably accuse us of emotional abuse. Those awful, punishing words we throw in our own direction would simply be unacceptable if we hurled them at others. And, more than likely, we wouldn’t tolerate them coming our way from anyone else either. Yet, every day, we let them bounce around in our most sacred space—our mind—taking root and growing into complicated webs of negativity. It’s time to declare a boycott. Take a stand. Start a revolution in your head. This doesn’t have to be a big, overblown act of defiance. Simply recognise that the thought patterns you’ve been living with are no longer welcome. Evict them. “Nice to know you. Goodbye.” You may be tempted to skip this step but please don’t. Trust that there is unbelievable power in this recognition and in making the decision that something is no longer OK.
- Affirm & Repeat The final step in this process is to develop a strategy for resistance. In the past, you’ve been complacent, letting the negative self-talk just happen. No more, my friend. From here on out, you’re going to implement some counter-measures. Since these voices are often so subtle as to go unnoticed, you need to create your own positive patterns of thought. The goal is to make these new statements just as unconscious as the current negative ones. And the best way to do that is through repetition. Create a list of four or five specific, short and simple affirmations. Try to keep them present as well, so instead of saying “I will…” say “I am…” For example: I am capable of meeting this challenge. I handle setbacks with grace and ease. I have the strength to overcome obstacles and reach my goals. Repeat your personal affirmations as often as possible throughout the day. They are mantras that should become completely mindless over time. Whenever you notice a negative voice, push it out with your affirmation. While at first this may take conscious effort, eventually, it will become second nature.
- I am capable of meeting this challenge.
- I handle setbacks with grace and ease.
- I have the strength to overcome obstacles and reach my goals.
When utilized consistently, these points will help slowly turn those voices in your head into more accepting, loving and encouraging allies. But beware that the negative ones will probably still hide in the corners, quietly waiting for the right moment to strike. So there’s never a point at which you can just tune out and consider your work done. Stay engaged. Keep working. And never let the inmates run the asylum.
Written on 2/23/2011 by Chrissy Scivicque. Chrissy trains others to manage their career path with a holistic point-of-view. You can find her at EatYourCareer.com, a blog dedicated to helping you create a nourishing professional life. Stop by and pick up your FREE mini-workbook to find out just how nourishing your career really is and how you can make it even more so. Photo Credit: Joe M500
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