“You live the words you tell yourself in your mind.” — Dr. Magdalena Battles
Everyone has an inner private voice or inner critic.
Negative interpretations about life, other people, and ourselves are drawn from limited experiences which may have only ever happened once before.
Conclusions about things, situations or people can be based on minimal evidence.
Generally, it’s not uncommon for many of us to express the opinion that this is what always happens to me.
Consider the following examples where the inner critic raises its ugly head:
- You make a rare mistake with the budget forecast presentation. You then judge yourself as incompetent and never to be trusted again.
- You take the wrong exit at a roundabout. You judge yourself as an idiot who is a hopeless driver.
- You forget to pack the kids lunch box and you’ve suddenly become the worse parent ever.
- The steak is tough so you must be the worse chef in the world.
When you engage in this type of negative self-talk it makes you feel bad about yourself. More importantly, it can be very harmful to your mental health and wellbeing.
From a similar perspective consider overgeneralising. We all do it in one form or another.
Generally something happens in your life that leads you to perceive a situation as being worse than it actually is in reality.
For example, have you ever thought or said anything like:
- “I always end up in the slowest checkout line at this supermarket.”
- “Why are the buses always running late?”
- “Why does everybody get in my way when I’m in a hurry?”
- “I’ll never find someone who cares.”
Why do I think this way?
At times, we can tend to be very severe with ourselves as we engage in negative self-talk. Ironically, because we are engaging in a negative conversation with ourselves we don’t have a referee to keep the game fair.
This way of thinking is conditioned by influential people who impact our life. If you constantly have a parent growing up who shouts at you for doing things wrong then you will tend to believe every time you make a mistake there is something wrong with you.
Through my own experiences growing up I can strongly relate to this outcome.
When I did things wrong as a child my mother was very prone to lashing out with verbal abuse. When you get called ‘useless’ by your prime care one too many times the mud starts to stick and you begin to believe this is your truth.
It becomes the baggage you carry into adult life.
So how can we overcome this negative self-talk and reframe the conversation?
Our private voice inside us is our coach. And like all good coaches they would say it starts with developing a strong sense of awareness.
When you wake in the morning you need to watch the tone of your inner dialogue especially when things start to go wrong.
You need encouragement not blame.
You need to use language that serves you best. You need to decide how you want to speak to yourselves and hold yourself accountable.
To achieve that outcome journaling can be one the best way to learn how to redirect your brain if you want to change a habit and negative beliefs.
The power of the journal
Like anything in life if you want to remember something important you need write it down.
In order to bring about change, you have to think and react differently. This takes time; however journaling provides a stepping stone on the path to positive thinking.
A recent article in ‘Better Humans’ offered a unique new framework for journaling derived from cognitive psychology.
The basis of cognitive journaling:
- First, describe the emotional and mental events in the way they appear to you using objective methods.
- Then, you document the observed connections between your emotions, thoughts, and circumstances.
- Finally, these methods will enable you to challenge your ways of thinking and discover how you can start feeling better by changing your thoughts.
My experience to positive self-talk
I have used journaling for over 10 years on a daily basis to help me overcome my tendency to be negative in my self-talk. I call it my ‘Cheap Therapy.’
I recently wrote a blog that explores all the benefits from journaling.
You only need 10 minutes a day to reap the rewards.
Try it out and let me know how you go!