The idea that we are our “own worst critic” is so commonly accepted that it’s almost a cliche. There’s plenty of reasons/excuses/stories as to why we speak so harshly towards ourselves. Maybe the negative voice in your head sounds a lot like your mother. Perhaps when you let yourself dream, the “old you that failed before” interrupts with evidence of why you can’t make it work. For all you know, the negative talk is something that has been there for so long now that you’ve forgotten that it’s not the natural order of things.
I can write you a million words about how wonderful you are. But really, what’s the point? Probably best to give you some tried and true, easy-to-apply-in-real-life tips on how to start combating (and beating) the Negative Nancy in your head.
- Start with getting real (and compassionate) with yourself. We all have negative thoughts. Some of us are plagued by them every single day for what seems like all hours of the day. Still others get them loud and clear when we are about to embark on something outside our comfort zone. You know that person you admire? The one that seems to have it all together? That person has negative thoughts as well. So cut yourself a break.
- Next, start taking some accounts of what you are really saying when no one is listening. I’m not talking about just noticing the thoughts. If we are exorcising these old, useless thought patterns form your head, then you, Sir/Madam Badass, are going to write those things down. But have fun with it, go get yourself a small journal, use your notes app on your phone, download an app that makes it easier to track.
I know what your thinking. Great! Now I have the thought in my head AND in my purse/phone/laptop. Twice as many! Nope. You’re getting ahead of me. Come back to the written thought. What can writing a negative thought do for you? Remember when you were a kid and you had a nightmare? Someone may have suggested that the way to get rid of the nightmare was to stop, look whatever was scaring you in the eye and say “I’m not afraid of you!” Apply the same logic here. We get to first acknowledge what’s in our minds so we can replace them with thoughts that work.
- Now comes the fun part that for some of us may feel odd and silly but go with it for a minute (or a year). Replace the thought with it’s complete opposite. First in writing, then out loud. For example, you are at a networking meeting and it’s your turn to introduce yourself. Identify the thought, “I’m so bad at speaking in front of people. This is nerve-wracking!” Write it down and ask yourself what the complete opposite thought is. Perhaps it can be “I’m great at introducing myself. This is fun!”
I get that this can feel phony and far fetched, especially if you believe the original thought to be fundamentally true This isn’t so much about positive affirmations as it is about INTERRUPTING the pattern. Humans are creatures of habit. Our minds are wired from an early age to look for patterns and create shortcuts. By interrupting the pattern you are giving yourself an opportunity to choose a different thought. Do this long enough and the pattern is permanently broken. So maybe the next time you stand up and introduce yourself the thought isn’t “I’m so bad at this” OR “I’m so good at this” but something neutral (or even positive) like “These croissants smell delicious!” When you disrupt the pattern, you create space in your head for something that feels better.
I’ll leave you with this. There is an old quote attributed to the Buddha that reads “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” I challenge you to take the next few months to question everything you’ve known to be true. Stop believing the negative thoughts you’ve been telling yourself all these years. As a thought experiment, tell yourself the opposite. It could change your life.
A great way to do life-altering things is to do them along-side people who are up to the same challenge. Coral Gables Hypnosis is always a phone call away. We are here to help so why not start with your complimentary initial consultation? Let’s change your world. Let’s start today!