We don’t always realize it, but what we think – we feel. When we are constantly telling ourselves we are not good enough, smart enough, or only focusing on the negative things, it begins to change how we feel on a daily basis.
But what can we do?
The first step toward unraveling negative self-talk is to identify it. Sometimes our negative thoughts are so automatic we don’t even recognize them for what they are. Paying attention to what you’re telling yourself is the first step toward changing it. One way to do this is to write your self-talk down for a week or two. You may find a pattern that you can untangle and shift in a more positive direction.
Don’t believe everything you think. When you have a negative thought, tell yourself to “Stop!” or “Thinking!” Then, test it by asking yourself questions like:
- What evidence do I have, if any, that this thought is true?
- Would my best friend say this to me?
- If I were in a better mood, would I still see things this way?
- How can I interpret this situation more positively?
- What’s the worst that could happen if I do this? The best thing?
- Will it matter in a year, or two or three?
- Does this thought bring me closer to my goals or just get in my way?
Once you’ve learned to recognize negative self-talk, and test those thoughts that stand in your way, you’ll want to replace them with something more positive.
- Focus on the goal: If you’re unhappy about a situation, ask yourself what steps you can take to help solve the problem.
- Watch your language: If you’re not at your best, think, “I feel stupid” (or unattractive or whatever) rather than “I am stupid.”
- Don’t confuse feelings with facts: You may think, “I don’t have any friends,” when the truth is you’re simply feeling lonely.
- Let your light shine: Remind yourself that you are as deserving as anyone else of love, success and the other good things in life.
- Give yourself a break: If you make a mistake, remember that it’s OK to be an imperfect human — just like the rest of us.
Remember that you are trying to change thought patterns that have probably been in place for most of your life. It takes time and practice, so be gentle with yourself!