Everyone I met in my life wants unlimited opportunities, better relationships, a healthy body, a forgiving heart, a sharp mind, amazing skills, and financial security… If we all want these things, how come we can not accomplish them?
I think the reason why many of us can’t accomplish them is that we have a critical inner voice inside our head that tends to be negative and convincing.
Our inner voice is trying to convince us that we are not smart enough, strong enough or good enough to do what we want to do in life. This invisible enemy is harmful and it inhibits us from pursuing the life that we deserve. It leads to anxiety and depression.
If we want to reach our potential, we have to take control of this inner voice and learn how to tame it and transform it into a positive force.
It is important for us to learn more about this negative self-talk before we can tame it to become a helpful positive force. Let’s start with the 4 different types of negative self-talk.
Types of negative self-talk
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are four types of negative self-talk:
You magnify the negative aspect of every situation. For example, you gained 3 pounds this week. You focus on this, and you ignore that you have lost 20 Lbs this month.
you always blame yourself for everything. For example, you hear that your soccer practice got canceled, and you assume that it is canceled because no one wanted to be around you.
You always expect the worst. For example, you have a flat tire in the morning, and you automatically assume the rest of your day will be horrible.
You either see things as perfect or horrible. For example, you get mad at your son, and you lost your temper; therefore, you are a horrible parent.
Next time you catch yourself talking negatively to yourself, ask yourself:
- Am I filtering the positive out of this issue?
- Am I blaming myself for something that I have no control over?
- Am I expecting the worst of this?
- Am I seeing things as black and white?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a step back and consider what you can do to turn your thinking from negative to positive.
It is important to take control of these thoughts before they can become beliefs. A Belief is something that you are certain about, and you have no doubt that it is true. The sooner you address these negative thoughts, the sooner you can move your life and business forward.
3 Steps to End Negative Self-Talk
It is clear that negative self-talk hinders your progress, and prevents you from living the life that you deserve. So let me share with you three methods that I use on a daily basis to overcome this innate habit.
1. Respond to Your Inner Voice, Don’t Ignore It
“Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take its place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it.” Beverly Engel
Erica Ariel Fox wrote a brilliant article in Harvard Business Review about negative self-talk. She stated that the toughest conversations any of us can have are the ones that we have with ourselves.
She mentions a story about Dominique, a high performer executive who has great self-confidence, but a critical inner voice. Dominique commands everyone’s attention, and respect, but not her own.
Dominique has a serious problem when she talks to her captivated audience, she has an inner voice in her head saying “Why they should listen to you?” “I’m a fraud”, “I can not do this.”
Erica Fox realized that Dominique inner voice will impact her performance if she does not learn how to turn it to positive self-talk.
It is clear that Dominique is filtering out all of her positive abilities, and polarizing the situation. She has a lot of good things to offer and she is not a fraud. So, the author gives her one enormous advice,
“Do not ignore your inner voice, respond to it.”
Erica Fox found out that most executives do not shy away from having hard conversations with anyone, but they avoid having difficult conversations with themselves.
She advises people not to ignore their negative self-talk, but to respond to it. If your inner voice says, “That was terrible parenting”, you can respond, “I’m not a perfect parent, and I’m okay with it.” This will make you feel awkward at first, but it gets easier with time.
Instead of ignoring your negative self-talk, respond to it kindly. Practice positive self-talk every day. Do not allow negative self-talk from robbing you from your potential, and to leave you feeling powerless.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
“The way you choose to think and speak about yourself (to yourself and others), IS A CHOICE! You may have spent your whole life talking about yourself in a negative way, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue that path.” Miya Yamanouchi
Do not say anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend. We often say things to ourselves that are unkind, unfounded and untrue.
When you are passed for promotion, be kind to yourself. When you forget to drop your clothes at the dry cleaner, be kind to yourself. We all make mistakes, we are all imperfect, we all have bad days, but it does not make us bad people.
When Jon Gordon was 29 years old, he was facing a divorce, his wife was tired of his negativity. He made a decision to change. He developed a positive mindset and he started to drown out negative thoughts with positive words.
This approach saved his marriage and changed his life. He encourages his readers to be kind to themselves and to be positive. Gordon understands that being positive won’t guarantee that you will succeed, but he knows that being negative will guarantee your failure, and destroy your relationships.
If your friends canceled a dinner plan, do not assume that no one wants to be around you. Do not personalize everything. Stop personalizing events, and start framing it correctly. Your friends canceled your planned dinner because they are busy and it has nothing to do with you.
Be kind to yourself, and stop personalizing everything.
Always choose to be kind to yourself. If you are having a hard time being kind to yourself, surround yourself with positive kind people who are willing to support you and provide you with immediate kind feedback when you start having negative thoughts. Extensive research shows that positive people surround themselves with positive friends that help inspire them to be and stay positive.
3. Stop Trying to Be Perfect
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” Leo Tolstoy
If your goal is to be perfect, you will fail. Do not expect perfection.
No one is perfect. Embrace imperfection. The key to a positive mindset is progress and not perfection. If you expect perfection, you will be allowing your negative self-talk to seep back into your mind.
As a perfectionist, you will strive to keep everyone happy, and that is an unrealistic goal. Every time you have an argument with someone, you will keep replaying the conversations in your head over and over. These conversations will be negative in nature. If you want to stop these negative self-talk, stop trying to be perfect.
Most perfectionists keep comparing themselves to other people. This habit is an official invitation to your negative self-talk to reenter your mind again. Do not compare yourself to anyone. You will always find others who are better off than you.
Instead, focus on being grateful for the great things that you have.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed this in his bestselling book Airman’s Odyssey,
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Be content of what you have, and stop worrying about comparing yourself to others. Always be grateful, when you catch yourself with negative thoughts, think of all the things you are grateful for family, friends, home, car, health, everything.
The Bottom Line
Next time, you catch yourself being negative, do not ignore your inner voice, respond to it kindly and give up the need to be perfect.
You’ve got this!
Originally published at https://www.lifehack.org on June 4, 2019.