Negative self-talk is one of those things that seems to grow, slowly, over the years. We don’t really see it happening until it seems like it’s just a normal part of everyday life. But it’s holding you back. It’s stopping you from being your very best self. How can you take control and banish negative self-talk for good?
How we talk to ourselves matters
It may seem like second nature to tell yourself, “Oh, you stupid idiot,” when you forget something or drop something or break something. It might seem normal to criticize the few extra pounds you put on over the holidays. Since it seems normal, you might not even question the effect it has on your life.
Imagine how your life could change for the better if you could eliminate those negative thoughts!
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How we talk to ourselves impacts our kids
Of course, YOU are enough of a reason to practice positive self-talk, but some people will need a little extra motivation. So, I’m gonna’ do it… I’m gonna’ tug on those heart strings and ask you to do this for your kids.
How you talk to yourself impacts how your children talk to themselves. Children won’t do as you say, they will do as you do: if they watch you talk down to yourself, hear you complain about your stretch marks, your weight, or your hair, they will grow up doing the same. Children whose parents lack self-confidence are more likely to grow up also lacking confidence. On the other hand, kids with confident parents are more likely to grow up confident.
6 steps to banishing negative self-talk
I absolutely LOVE Amy Morin. A licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist who wrote the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, Amy is one of those amazing people who has touched my life for the better. Here, I’m going to share a revised version of her five-step approach to reversing your negative-self talk, with a sixth step added in for good measure.
Of course, since I’m a boudoir photographer, we’re going to look at this mostly through the lens of body image. But, negative self-talk can surround ANYTHING from your appearance to your abilities.
1. Recognize your negative thoughts and self-talk
When you’re getting changed in the morning and see your stretch marks looking back at you in the mirror, is your first feeling shame? Do you think you’re less beautiful because of them? Do you feel self-conscious and hurry to cover them up?
Morin explains that many of our thoughts are automatic – they pop into our heads without warning. Recognizing a negative thought is the first step because you need to know it’s irrational.
2. Uncover your underlying negative belief
Alright this might sound confusing but I promise it isn’t. You think about your stretch marks being ugly, or that your frizzy hair makes you look like a mess, but why does it matter? Who cares if you have stretch marks? How cares if you look like a mess? Isn’t looking like a mess OK sometimes – you know, when you’re running on two hours of sleep because of a stressful event, or something?
When most of us dig deeper and ask, “Why does this matter?” we find beliefs like these beneath it all:
- If I’m not always “put together” it means I’m lazy.
- I have stretch marks or a few extra pounds and it means I don’t take good care of myself.
- If I don’t look like a model no one will ever love me.
What negative beliefs are hanging around in the back of your mind, messing with your thoughts?
3. Look for evidence that your negative belief IS true
Literally write out your answers to these questions at least once. It’s a powerful exercise.
Start asking yourself, “Is this true?”
For example, if you think putting on a few extra pounds is bad and that it means you are ugly unlovable, etc. write out all the reasons why that makes sense to you. You might find that you have nothing to back it up. A lot of the time, though, we’ll find examples from our past that support our beliefs.
Maybe an ex-boyfriend or a parent may have negatively judged us based on our weight and made us feel unloved. That MATTERS. It’s part of what has shaped your thinking.
4. Look for evidence that your thought is NOT true
Now that you know all the reasons you DO believe this negative thing, let’s look at reasons you don’t have to.
What reasons might there be NOT to believe this negative thing about yourself?
This is where the real magic happens. It’s easy to let the patterns from our past tell us something is true – even when it’s not. What takes work is teaching yourself (literally training your mind) to believe something more positive, or even neutral.
Not sure what kind of evidence might mean your negative belief isn’t true? Start by asking yourself these questions:
- If my best friend believed this about herself what would I tell her to help her see that it’s not true?
- Does this thing (whatever it is) reflect on how good of a person I am? How caring? How strong?
For example, I might see my cellulite and think, “I look like a slob.” And when I dig deeper I might reveal that part of me believes having cellulite means I’m letting myself go and letting myself go means that I’m not trying hard enough. To prove my belief wrong I could easily point out to myself that I am a good mom and a successful business owner with a LOT on the go. OF COURSE I don’t have as much time for the gym as used to.
5. Create new, empowering beliefs
Alright, now it’s time to create new, empowering beliefs. In the world of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy they call these “balanced thoughts.”
The point is NOT to say that your belief is absolutely false. The point is to replace it with a more BALANCED belief.
Here’s how it could work in my example:
OLD BELIEF – Having cellulite means I’m letting myself go and letting myself go means that I’m not trying hard enough.
NEW BELIEF – I’m a busy mom and successful business woman who does her best to keep her family and career afloat. I want to take better care of my body but it won’t happen overnight. I’m doing the best I can and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
6. Reframe your negative self-talk
When you reframe a thought, your goal is to reframe the association you made. It’s time to start associating your thoughts with your NEW, EMPOWERED BELIEFS.
So, instead of thinking about being a slob when your hair is a mess you can begin reminding yourself that messy hair might mean that you care about your family and work hard to support them. Maybe you’re trying too hard and deserve a break, but you certainly are NOT a slob.
And those stretch marks you curse come bikini season? They aren’t about shame. Now, you can see them as a reflection of the warrior mom you truly are.
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