I like to think of myself as a positive person. I try to see the good in people and look on the bright side. I believe that some good has to come out of a bad situation and that no matter how bad things may seem, they will get better. I choose to believe that there is a reason for everything and if it doesn’t make sense right away, it will eventually.
Unfortunately, despite all this positivity, that doesn’t mean that I am immune to negative thinking, especially when it comes to self-talk. When I was a high school student, negative self-talk became like a frenemey. I’d come down hard on myself for not getting perfect on a test or messing up during a presentation. If friends would go out for lunch and not invite me, I’d assume that I had done something wrong. When I lost the student council election for president, I told myself it was because I wasn’t funny enough or smart enough or popular enough. In all of these situations, my immediate response was to blame myself, find fault with myself or assume that I wasn’t good enough. I started to set-up camp in Negative Self-Talk Town on a regular basis.
We can be pretty critical of ourselves, don’t you think? Could you imagine if you said the things you say to yourself to one of your closest friends? You’d never be so harsh and abrasive to your friends and you’d never judge them so critically. Even when they act silly or make mistakes or say things that they probably shouldn’t have said, you would always treat them with kindness and respect. So why is it that we don’t give ourselves the same treatment as we do with others? These kinds of words can grant you an express pass ticket to Negative Self-Talk Town.
Usually Negative Self-Talk Town is an unscheduled detour on the road to where you want to go. The thing about Negative Self-Talk Town is that you’re not supposed to live there. You may pass through on your way out of your comfort zone, heading towards a new adventure. Maybe you’re headed towards Opportunity, Creativity, or Vulnerability. Suddenly, your GPS loses its connection and you end up off-course, in “the bad part of town”. It’s desolate, lonely and dark. You hate it there; you never feel welcome and yet it feels like it’s designed to keep you going in circles. But then, you find a signal. It starts out weak, threatening to go rouge again, but with some perseverance to make it to your destination, it gets stronger until finally, you’re on the road again.
I figured growing up would help me tame this negative voice, but I don’t think it ever truly goes away. Every time I start a new project, or share my writing, or establish new relationships, that negative voice grips on to any piece of insecurity it can find. It’s like the annoying younger sibling that taunts you and follows you around. You can never truly shake them off, so instead you have to learn how to deal with it, how to turn that annoyance into your friend.
The question now is: how do you get rid of that negative voice in your mind that tries to ruin your day?
I’m not an expert, but I’ve discovered one trick that has yet to fail me. I start from a place of gratitude. Each day I think of at least 3 things that I am grateful for. My loving husband. A roof over my head. Food to keep me nourished. The next day, I think of three different things. A job to go to. Free time to practice my writing. The homemade curry in my refrigerator that my mom made for me. Before I know it, I have a long list of blessings in my life. Some of them are small, like the sun shining on a day I need to be outside, and others are big, like money to pay my bills. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant those things may seem; focusing on what you have instead of what you lack can be a real eye-opener. It’s hard to think you’re worthless when you’ve got a list a mile long that proves the contrary.
When that voice pops up, questioning my ability, my talent or my worth, it can ruin my entire day. But, I can choose not to listen. You always have a choice to not stay in Negative Self-Talk Town. Once you’ve arrived, you can choose to turn around and go back the way you came. When self-doubt and my inner critic pop up, I kindly ask them to leave. If the voice says, “Why are you even bothering, this blog post will never be perfect,” instead of giving in and casting it aside I choose to push forward and remember that there is beauty in the imperfect. When I worry what people will think of me or what they might say, I focus on what I think about myself and decide that’s the only person I truly need to please.
It’s not easy banishing self-doubt and changing your inner dialogue. It’s a choice. Every day I wake up and I choose to be happy, to be kind to myself and to not let my fears get in the way of trying. It takes practice. You know the phrase, “fake it till you make it”? I believe changing your self-talk is the best example of this. You’ll start out small – a compliment here, an acknowledgement there – and start training your brain to listen to the positive messages. Eventually, you won’t have to remind yourself of how amazing you are – you’ll just know. If you can fill your mind with positivity every day and choose to focus on the good and ignore the negative, eventually, you can actually trick your mind into believing what was true all along. That you are Strong. Intelligent. Kind. Worthy.