Learn to change your internal messages.
“I am fat.”
“I am stupid.”
“I am unlovable.”
What do you say to yourself? Come on, be honest. I said at least one of the above phrases to myself this morning.
It’s disheartening that many strive to be kind to others, but then ditch that kindness when talking to themselves. The worst of the worst comes back to mind, accentuating every flaw and broadcasting each mistake. I understand. I’m guilty of this transgression myself. Every. Day.
You deserve as much kindness as everyone else. Just because no one else hears what you say to yourself doesn’t make it okay to be unkind. You deserve better, and the following simple steps will help you get there.
“Take care what words you speak that follow ‘I am.’ In so speaking you create your life.”Alan Cohen
The first step to changing your internal messaging is to pay attention to what you’re already saying. You may find that much of your negative self-talk is something you do without thinking.
You pick up much of your internal dialogue in childhood. If you constantly heard statements about being overweight, lazy, or unintelligent, chances are you’re still repeating those messages.
For the next five days, write down those statements. Document every internal message that passes through your mind. What do you think when you look in the mirror? What do you say to yourself when you make a mistake? How do you describe your performance to others?
Write out everything you say about yourself, including the private statements made only in your head.
The second step is to analyze the messages from step one. Look at each one and objectively ask yourself:
- Is this statement true?
- Is this statement kind?
- Would you say it about someone else?
- How would hearing it from someone make you feel?
This can be a painful process. You may have been repeating the same messages for decades. Now, facing the reality of how damaging the statements are may be disturbing.
I’m a smart man. I spend much of my free time learning new things. Almost to the point of obsession, I’m a voracious reader who follows world events while keeping an eye on pop culture.
Even so, when I talk to myself, my first words are often telling me how stupid I am. With age, I’m learning to do better, but echoes from my past stay with me. You will no doubt have a similar experience. That’s why step three is so crucial.
For step three, pick three of the statements from step two. Pick the ones that were repeated most often or are especially damaging. For this step, you’re only picking three.
As you look at each statement, imagine a way to make it a positive message. Here are a few examples.
- “I am fat,” could be, “I’m working toward my ideal weight.”
- “I am stupid,” could be, “I’m learning new things every day.”
- “I am unlovable,” could be, “I am loved,” or, “I love myself.”
The point is to reframe the comment into something encouraging. Try out various phrases until you find one that feels comfortable. Then use the new mantra until you banish the negative version from your mind.
For the next week, each time you hear one of those negative messages, say the reframed content out loud. When you gain mastery over the first three sayings, repeat the process and pick three more.
Most people make false “I am” statements all the time. Pay attention to the words you say to and about yourself. Those statements matter just as much as what you would say to anyone else.
To help you keep things in check, remember to observe what you say, analyze it for accuracy, and reframe the negative into something positive. Watch how your mindset changes as you make better choices.
Until next time, keep fighting.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: Why is negative self-talk harmful?
Negative self-talk not only affects your mental health but can also lead to harmful physical effects due to the stress and anxiety it perpetuates. It lowers self-esteem and can make you feel incapable and unworthy, hindering personal growth and improvement.
Q2: How can I recognize negative self-talk?
Negative self-talk usually includes absolute statements like “I always mess up” or “I can never do anything right.” It’s often overly critical and focuses on perceived weaknesses and mistakes.
Q3: What if I can’t think of positive reframes for my negative thoughts?
If you’re finding it difficult to think of positive reframes for your negative thoughts, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They can provide support and teach you strategies to combat negative self-talk.
Q4: How long will it take for me to change my internal messaging?
The process varies for everyone. It requires patience and consistent effort. Over time, as you consciously work on changing your negative self-talk to positive, you might notice a shift in your overall perspective and attitude.
Q5: What if the negative message seems true to me?
Remember, negative self-talk often exaggerates our flaws. Instead of focusing on the perceived truth in the negative message, try to focus on progress and growth. You may not be where you want to be, but you’re taking steps to improve, and that’s what matters.