Stop The Negative Self-Talk (p.131)
[onehalf] We all talk to ourselves. I don’t mean the muttering under our breath we do when another driver does something that scares or angers us. I’m talking about the tapes that we all play in our heads, often subconsciously, that provide a running commentary on the state of our self-esteem. We have positive tapes that help us reinforce the strengths we’ve recognized and validated, and these give us confidence and courage. But most of us spend too much time listening to our negative tapes—the ones that use all those words like can’t, won’t, never, and shouldn’t. When we hear any of the following things echoing in our heads, or similar statements, we are listening to our negative self-talk:
- “Why should I bother trying to meet new people? Nobody likes me. I don’t have any friends and I never will . . .”
- “I don’t want or need anybody’s help. They don’t really want to help anyway; they just don’t want to do things my way . . .”
- “I can’t do this. I’m going to fail. Then I’ll lose my job, my family, my house . . .I’m worthless and nothing will ever change . . .”
“If I say what I think, people will judge me. They’ll think I’m stupid, uneducated, arrogant, or selfish, and they won’t like me . . .”
Many times, people don’t even realize they’re thinking negative things, and even if they do, they don’t always realize how detrimental listening to those negative self-talk thoughts can be. Many people whose thoughts are negative and self-critical would describe themselves as just being “practical” or “realists.”
If you analyze most of your negative self-talk, however, you’ll see two common themes: over generalization and negative filtering. The first is easier to spot because it uses words that distort even the smallest possibility into catastrophic fact. When you find yourself using words that only allow either/or situations, chances are you’re listening to an over generalization that will limit you in a negative way. Some common ones include these pairs: always/never, every/none, worthless/perfect, nobody/everybody, fail/succeed—you get the idea. The world is not made up completely of black and white. There are not only shades of gray, but tints and shades of every hue and color, and degrees of brightness. When you leave yourself no room for anything but an either/or action or thought, you set yourself up for a negative experience.
Negative filtering also does you a disservice. This is the natural human tendency to remember or notice the negative more quickly and vividly than the positive. Negative filtering is what’s happening when we listen to someone tell us nine things they like about us and one that they don’t, and conclude that they don’t like us. Negative filtering is what reminds us of the one time we made a mistake doing something and completely ignores the hundreds of times we did it correctly.
Negative self-talk keeps people from getting the help and feedback they need, and from establishing and maintaining personal relationships with others. Negative self-talk also keeps people from taking chances. Instead of seeing the learning potential and the opportunity to succeed at something new, negative self-talk makes people afraid of change and causes people to avoid any situation that may result in a negative outcome.
Negative self-talk is like a monkey chattering and swinging from vine to vine in your brain, tossing banana peels in front of you as you walk. The monkey’s antics and incessant jabbering keep you confused and unfocused. The key to stopping negative self-talk is to catch the monkey before you slip on the “What if . . .?” banana peel. To catch the monkey, ask yourself these questions:
- What proof do I have to support this negative thought?
- Are my thought patterns and the predicted outcomes always true?
- What is the worst that can happen if I execute my actions?
- What is so bad about the worst thing that can happen?
- Can I learn anything by trying, even if I don’t completely succeed?
- Is this an opportunity for a new learning experience?
Life coaching can help you keep the negative self-talk monkey from influencing your thoughts and behaviors by training you to reframe your thoughts into positive, or at least neutral, patterns. This empowers you and stops you from limiting yourself needlessly…
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