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You live with an ever-present companion-you! You spend more time with yourself then with anyone else. In face, you spend all your time with yourself. This internal companion talks to you continuously, virtually nonstop even when you're sleeping! As a consequence, you have more influence over yourself and more ability to create your future than anyone else.
This internal companon is you talking to you, inside your mind. You are the creator of your internal environment. You guide yourself, criticize yourself, give to or withhold from yourself, belittle or support yourself. The internal you feels like a distinctly different person speaking to you, but it is really you inside, talking to you.
Many will recognize these thoughts because you have heard them all your life; I'm not smart enough, something is wrong, I can't do it, I never finish anything, this is too hard, change takes too long, etc. You may have initially formed these negative ideas about yourself from things you heard initially from a parent, teacher or someone who was in authority over you or they were decisions you made in reaction to some event. Now, as an adult you have incorporated them into your own personality. In effect you don't need those people to tell you what to do anymore, they are living inside your own head!!!
These thoughts surface when you are faced with doing something that
is counter to what your mind thinks you can do, or has a negative opinion
about. Think back over some times that your own ideas or thoughts about
what you could or could not accomplish got in the way of something you
Can you imagine if you had someone following you about all day criticizing every single thing that you did? It would literally drive you crazy! Yet this is what we do to ourselves and more often than not we don’t even know we are doing it.
The power of self talk
Thoughts precede moods so if you think unhappy thoughts you feel unhappy. Self talk is your thoughts making themselves known to you. Hearing somebody else talking negatively is bad enough so imagine how much more hearing your own inner voice is. If you tell yourself you are a failure, guess what, you will be! If you tell yourself you can succeed then you have a much improved chance of succeeding.
Negative self talk can lead to low self esteem, no confidence or even
depression and this leads to more negative thought. A vicious circle.
What is Self Talk?
How does self talk affect you?
Negative self-talk can lead to low self-esteem, bad grades, unhappy relationships, and poor performance in sports or other activities.
One way to deal with NST is to stop it before it starts. Begin by gaining an awareness of your negative thoughts and then use a cue (a word or a gesture) to stop it and to clear your mind. So, as soon as you notice a negative thought going through your mind, do something to change your train of thought. For example, you could say the word STOP, snap your fingers, or wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you have a negative thought!
What is negative self talk?
Focusing only on problems: This is the essence of complaining. We dwell on the problem, instead of solutions. Instead: Assume most problems have solutions, and ask "How do I want this situation to be different?"
Catastrophizing: Every bad thing that happens is a horrible disaster. Instead: Be realistic in your assessment and stop scaring yourself. Yes, bad things do happen, and many bad things are often inconveniences, mistakes, and foul-ups---not necessarily traumas, tragedies, or disasters.
Expecting the worst: "What if he doesn't like me?" "What if I don't pass the exam?" Expecting the worst does not encourage you to behave effectively. Expecting the worst only promotes anxiety. Instead: Ask questions that presuppose positive outcomes. "How can I make a favorable impression?" "How can I prepare for the exam?"
Stereotyping: By putting others, and ourselves, into preconceived categories, we avoid thinking of people as unique individuals. This leads to strained relationships, and gives us an undeserved sense of superiority or inferiority. It also often deprives us of opportunities to know and understand the giftedness of those whom we stereotype. Instead: Remind yourself that we are all human beings, with unique personalities, each having qualities and shortcomings.
Shoulds: Should, ought, must, have to... used carelessly, these words presuppose rules and standards for behavior that do not exist in reality. They imply a consequence for noncompliance, and often evoke quilt. For example, according to the law, we "should" obey posted speed limits, or pay a fine. Is it equally true that "I should be smarter than I am." or "I ought to be married by now."?--Of course not! Instead: Replace the words should, ought, or must with the word "COULD" and realize the gift of choices.
Thinking in Absolutes: We exaggerate reality with words like "always," "never," and "everyone," as in "I always eat too much--I will never be slim." Instead: Replace exaggeration with words that more accurately reflect reality. Example "I often eat more than I need, but I can change that."
All or Nothing Thinking: We distort reality by thinking only in extremes. Our efforts become total failures or complete successes---with nothing in between. Example: "Either I lose two pounds by Sunday, or I quit exercising." Instead: Chunk down your perceptions to see the parts of the whole, which can be positive, negative, and in-between. Give yourself options or choices whenever possible. Example: "I want to lose two pounds by Sunday. Even one pound would indicate that exercise is helping. If my weight stays the same, I'll experiment with variations in nutrition and exercise until I reach my goal."
Negative labels: Negative labels are the tools we use to lower self-esteem in ourselves and others. Example: "I'm stupid," or "I'm fat." When we say phrases like these often, they become a part of our identity and we can begin to dislike who we are. Instead: Remember, people are not their faults or shortcomings. You may engage in stupid behavior occasionally, but that doesn't make you a stupid person. Change your negative "I-am" statement into a statement about behaviors. Example: "I make unhealthy choices when it comes to food." It's easier to change a behavior, than to change your identity.
Blaming: We assign guilt, instead of solving the problem. If we can blame others, then we can feel vindicated in a wrong-doing, and avoid responsibility. Instead: Focus on what YOU can do to promote a solution to the problem.
"Yes but..." Arguments: When someone offers a possible solution to our problems, we "yes but..." and list reasons why the proposed solution won't work. "Yes but..." says "I'm really not listening to you right now." Instead: Open up to new possibilities and consider alternatives. Really listen to advice and give it a fair hearing, before dismissing it so quickly.
Overgeneralizing: This is similar to stereotyping and thinking in absolutes. It means that we take a single instance or occurrence, and generalize it to numerous other situations. Example: "Joe is a nice man, and he doesn't want to date me. Therefore: No nice man will ever want to date me." When misused, this kind of generalizing can lead to illogical conclusions. Instead: Ask yourself whether there could be exceptions to your generalization. Does a single occurrence mean it will happen every time?
Now you know what negative self-talk sounds like. Negative self-talk is usually a mixture of half-truths, poor logic, and distortions of reality that perpetuates negative emotions, such as pessimism, guilt, fear, and anxiety. It often occurs when in times of emotional turmoil, or when we are going through stress or a personal transition.
When you catch your negative self-talk, take a deep breath, relax, and remove yourself from the situation. Get up and stretch, or take a walk, or get a drink of water, in order to interrupt your train of thought and get out of the negative rut. Write down some of your negative thoughts and then ask yourself "Are the things I'm saying true? Are there other possibilities and meanings that I could get from these circumstances?" Then replace your negative thoughts with realistic, positive thoughts---and write those down too. Soon you'll stop that self-talk in mid-sentence.
Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D
What the Research Shows
Author Adam Khan shares a story in his book Self Help Stuff That Works of how Randall Masciana, M.S., found out what kind of mental strategy most improved a person's performance when throwing darts. Masciana asked his dart-players to try everything from mental imagery (visualizing hitting the target) to Zen meditation (clearing the mind of extraneous thoughts). Masciana discovered that positive self-talk was the best technique for improving the dart thrower's ability to hit the target. This kind of positive self-talk is very simple -- it consists of talking to oneself in a confident, reassuring, positive, friendly way. Surprisingly, positive self-talk works better than anything else!
In her American Journal of Nursing article, "Making Self-Talk Positive", McGonicle defines "harmful" negativity as being "awfulistic" - where everything is viewed as being catastrophic, "absolutistic" - using "must," "always," "never", or "should-have" statements in one's self-talk. It's generally healthier to refrain from all-or-nothing thinking, discounting the positive, emotional reasoning, and personalization and blame.
In her book Your Body Believes Every Word You Say, Barbara Levine recommends that we examine our seed thoughts for signs of mindless cliches and other negative elements, so we can replace these thoughts with something more constructive. Regardless whether our thoughts are positive or negative, Levine suggests that we reflect upon how we are feeling when these kinds of self-talk statements arise. We can then discover which thoughts help us feel better, so we can pay more attention to those thoughts more often.
Positive self-talk has been associated with reduced stress, which has been shown in numerous health studies to affect our health. Both thoughts and self-talk are based on beliefs that we form early in life. As I've now witnessed first-hand, beliefs shape our self-talk, which in turn affects our self-esteem... and our quality of life.
How to help yourself
We need to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk we're willing to let ourselves accept. You can't draw on a chalkboard if there's an eraser following close behind. That's what negative self-talk is....it erases the good, and replenishes it with bad.
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