Defeating Negative Self Talk

Defeating Negative Self Talk

Here we are, the second week of 2019 behind us. At this time of year it seems like there is no shortage of articles reminding us that 80% of New Year's Resolutions are doomed to fail by the second week of February.  Is there anything that we can do about it? How can we maintain the positive momentum going?

Hearing the above statistic of course, can be nothing less than discouraging. Life, as we all know, is unpredictable. At times it can feel like there is far too much to do, and not enough time.  Moving from one worry to the next takes away focus from the mountain top in the distance. We move from fire to fire, attempting to get our lives under control. There is no wonder why across many cultures, there have been so many representations of the human inner struggle. The fight to choose good over evil. In a sense, choosing the things we know we should be doing over what we actually do instead.

In last week's post, I wrote about the power of self-reflection. Though the benefits of checking in with oneself about where we are in relation to where we want to be are a great planning tool, it is inevitable that we may also become discouraged by our inability to keep the promises we make to ourselves.  In this regard, we can become our own worst enemies. The feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy that come from realizing we have let ourselves down are not by any means new.

Wether we are aware of it or not, our circumstances are largely a result of a decision we've made. Really. Think about it. We gripe about our inability to wake up in the morning at a sensible hour, yet we fail to realize that our decision to binge on Veep until well past midnight played a critical role in leading up to that outcome. Good or bad, there is always a choice to be made.

The good news is that no matter how bad yesterday was, we get a chance to be better today and make better decisions than we did yesterday. And it can begin before even getting out of bed.

Will you predict failure in your future or success?

Where we put our attention, we put our focus. What do we want to shine a light on today? There are several strategies we can employ to be able to break away from the habit of breaking ourselves down and not being compassionate with ourselves.

Though there is no fast-track way to change the habit of negative-self talk over night, it is a manageable habit that we can begin to change over time. As a starting point, here are four simple steps to begin to curb your negative thoughts.

  1. Acknowledge your you are having a negative thought
  2. Realize thoughts come and go, like the tides, or seasons
  3. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, visualize the negative thought drifting away, as a leaf floating down a stream
  4. Replace your negative thinking with a positive version of it

Over time, you will slowly replace your old beliefs about your self with a new reality.

Another way to defeat negative self talk is to adopt, as a decision-making mechanism rule number two in Jordan B. Peterson's book 12 Rules for Life: An antidote to Chaos. In the second chapter of this book, Peterson encourages:

Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

In the book, Peterson reminds us that we all have faults. Yet despite our condition as fragile human beings, we generally tend to treat others, and even our pets better than we treat ourselves. A surprising statistic presented in the book is that people are far more likely to administer life saving medication to their pets than they are to properly administer medication to themselves.

One reason Peterson presents for this is that we as individuals are the only ones who are fully aware of all our own shortcomings, failures and flaws. Each and every day, we carry that weight with us. However, just as we have the capacity to be uplifting and forgiving to those we care about, we have the same capacity to be kind to ourselves and be forgiving for our past mistakes. As Peterson explains in the video below, think of it as the reversal of the Golden Rule. Treat yourself as you would someone you deeply care about.

Simply imagining yourself giving encouragement or showing kindness to someone you really care about will begin to change your perspective about why you are not so bad after all, and that even if you have made a mistake, you deserve the loving opportunity to try again.

Do you struggle with negative self talk? How do you deal with it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!