How often do you speak negatively to yourself or about yourself?
How often do you speak positively to yourself or about yourself?
Which question was easier to answer?
My sister used to say something whenever I said anything mean about myself. It usually went like this:
Me, “I look ugly in this shirt”.
Her, “Don’t talk shit about my sister like that.”
The first time she said it, I had to pause and think about what she had said. Then I laughed. Whether she realised she was doing it or not, very subtly she was bringing my attention to the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was “talking shit” about myself without even realising. Would I let someone call my sister ugly right in front of me? Hell no – but look how casually it could creep out my mouth about myself.
We live in a world where #selfcare is translated to lush bath bombs and face masks (and not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there’s more we should be doing to take care of ourselves.
Speaking kindly to ourselves and about ourselves will make more of an impact on our mental health (plus it’s free)!
Why do we let those words slip out of our mouths in the first place?
Is it a defence mechanism? I’ll say it before they do.
Is it fear? I’ll say it because they’re probably thinking about it anyways.
It is just familiar territory? I’ll say it because it’s comfortable to believe it
Most of us probably don’t even notice it. It’s likely just the reaction born out of an interpretation our brain has created of an event that has happened.
Or more simply put, Event —> Interpretation —> Emotion —> Response.
Using this framework, you could see how this would happen:
Event – You completed a work assignment and submitted it to your boss who then asked you to redo it because it wasn’t done correctly.
Interpretation – All of your hard work was for nothing because you have had to redo it. Your boss doesn’t think your work is good enough, so you must not be capable of your job.
Emotion – You’re frustrated with yourself because you now have to revisit something you thought was finished. You don’t feel confident in your ability to do the task because you tried and were rejected.
Response – You say, “I’m horrible at this, I’ll never be able to get it right.”
Whether you believe it or not, it all stems from low self worth. And the way to change it starts with the voice in your head. Start paying attention to this voice, and work to change the message to something more kind, and more realistic.
Using the example above, just because your boss has asked you to redo something does not mean that you’ll never be able to learn how to do it. In fact, studies show you will learn more from failing than from succeeding.
So what should you say instead in this scenario? What about, “I’m upset that I have to redo it but I’m still learning.”
You can also work to change your negative self-talk by viewing it from another perspective.
“I’m grateful my boss is giving me a chance to redo this. If it’s not correct, I want to learn how to do it properly.”
Change your negative self-talk by being more objective.
Below are some examples of how to flip the script in your head from negative to objective.
“I’m never going to be able to do this.” -> “I’m struggling to do this and could use some help.”
“I’m so stupid.” -> “I do struggle with math, but will try my best.”
“I’ll look disgusting in that shirt.” -> “That style usually doesn’t suit me as well as others.”
It is a process to notice and start correcting these patterns, but awareness is the first step towards change. If you’re struggling to see it in yourself, start with paying attention to the way other people talk about themselves. You’re likely to see a pattern with those who are confident and self assured vs. those who are not – the more fragile their state is, the more likely they are to have negative self-talk happening.
Remember, if you wouldn’t let others say it about your best friend – don’t say it about yourself.
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