Hello and Happy New Year!
I wanted to start the year on a positive note. Reflecting on 2018, I realised that one of the most positive changes I made was altering the way in which I speak to myself on a daily basis. The significant difference this has made in my life inspired me to share it with you in the hope that it will also help you.
‘Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.’
Lisa. M. Hayes
Initially I thought to myself there is no way I will be able to write a full blog post about this topic but a few sentences in, I realised that there is an array of information to consider while discussing self-talk. Self-talk is not something I gave much attention until about half way through last year, when I first began to notice that it was having a negative impact on my life. Surprisingly, we have up to 50,000 thoughts a day. These thoughts form an inner monologue that runs throughout the day and often into the night.
The words we use to speak to ourselves can have a huge impact on all aspects of our life; if these thoughts are mainly negative it can have a long-standing harmful effect on many components of our health and well-being. If you are constantly putting yourself down and negatively critiquing yourself you will eventually start to believe these negative connotations as being true. It can also have an influence on your own ability to progress and achieve goals. Your own sense of self-worth is something which needs to be protected and cared for.
I first began to notice my own self-critical talk half way through last year. In all honesty, when I actually began to observe it, I was shocked that I spoke to myself in this manner without even being conscious of it. As always, knowledge is power and once I brought the realisation into my conscious mind I quickly put strategies in place to begin to change this negative thinking pattern.
The positive impact this small change can have on your life is so worthwhile. It was over the Christmas period that I realised how much this small adjustment in my daily life has really stood to me and helped me overcome a lot of unnecessary worry, judgment and self criticism. Over the Christmas period, two comments were made which would usually floor me but on this occasion I was able to reflect and realise that the person saying this to me had no context to make such an observation. As a result of the work I had been doing on having positive self-talk, I was able to take what they said with a pinch of salt as I felt supported by myself to not allow it to impact me in the way it might have previously.
I also noticed after the indulgence of Christmas I had a single thought of ‘oh you shouldn’t have overindulged so much’ and within seconds I stopped myself and literally said out loud ‘that kind of talk doesn’t belong here anymore’. I realised that the memories created with friends and family are so much more valuable and important than worrying about feeling bloated. Usually a thought like this would lead to some extreme exercise plan however this time things were very different. With self-compassion and when I felt ready to get back to normal life, I just recommenced my usual exercise routine and my regular relatively healthy nutrition. This may seem like a small change but to me it holds huge significance as it proves to me that I have my own back and that it is more important than anyone else having it.
If any of this resonates with you, once critical self-talk is recognised it is important to attempt to change this inner voice to one that is caring, kind and encouraging. This is not going to happen overnight but with time it can change and transform your own inner sense of self-worth.
What I did to change it and what may also work for you:
- Acknowledge your inner voice:
Catch your critic. Begin to listen to your self-talk. Observe what you say to yourself throughout the day, in the morning as you get dressed, in work as you go to an important meeting, in the evening when you collect your children, when you greet your partner after a day of work. For the first few days, I actually intentionally counted how many times I caught myself saying something negative to attempt to see how big an issue I had to counter act. This voice was an habitual over thinker, worrier, people pleaser and worst of all the biggest criticiser . Like anything, it can be difficult to admit that you are your own worst critique. With time and effort the changes which you can create in this aspect of your life will stand to you in the most difficult of times. Encountering failure or criticism for instance is much easier as having a sense of your own self-worth softens these blows that life and people so often throw at us.
- Ask yourself some questions to challenge these thoughts:
- Is this fair?
- Is this kind?
- Is this necessary?
- Would I say this to my best friend?
- Is this actually true?
- If someone else said this to me would I be hurt by it?
In doing this you may realise that the thoughts and feelings you are having aren’t always realistic or fair. It can help gain some perspective. If a lot of these answers are negative then it may mean that you need to do some work on this area of your life.
- Give your critical self-talk a nickname:
I haven’t personally done this but I know it is a common intervention that therapists advice. Niall Breslin illustrated this very well in his book ‘Me and My Mate Jeffery’. Jeffery was the name he gave to his critical self-talk. This can make facilitate your understanding that you don’t have to agree with your inner thoughts which in turn lessens the power they may have over you.
- Make positive affirmations part of your daily practice:
I have found positive affirmations really helpful in so many areas of life but particularly while creating change with self-talk. Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. It can be helpful to put these little reminders around the house to encourage you to speak positively to yourself; stickers on mirrors and quotes as screen savers on your phone. Getting used to repeating positive sentences to yourself is really effective in combating negative self-talk and it also creates a positive habit. You can make up your own or use some of these which I have used:
- I am healthy happy and whole.
- I am worthy of the life I desire.
- I am kind and gentle with myself.
- I will treat myself as I would my best friend; with love, compassion, support and a positive attitude.
- I know who I am and I am enough.
- I choose to think thoughts that serve me well.
- Each step is taking me to where I want to be.
- The universe is encouraging and rooting for me to achieve all that I desire.
- My body is my vehicle in life, I choose to fill it with goodness.
- Reword negative thoughts into something positive
If you have a dominant negative thought attempt to reword it into a kinder thought. For example, if you find that you are overly self-critical about certain body parts instead focus on a body part that you love. Train yourself to love yourself from within which always shines bright on the outside.
Positive self-talk, like everything, if it isn’t practiced regularly it can be easy to slip back into old habits and continue the cycle of self-criticism. Initially it might feel strange and challenging but once you keep practising, it will become natural to you. Let me tell you, it is well worth the effort.
Honestly if you can change the thoughts from negative and judgmental to cheerful and supportive it can increase your self-confidence and curb negative emotions. It is a worthwhile step towards bettering yourself and improving your own sense of self-worth. Over the long-term, your self-talk creates your reality. This new habit will help to bring the things you want into your daily life.
I hope you enjoyed this and that it will lead you on the right path to finding a more compassionate approach to yourself. Have a lovely weekend and speak kindly to yourself and one and other.