How often do you notice that nagging voice in your head that reminds you of all of your faults? Maybe you’ve become so used to it that you’ve stopped realizing how hurtful it can be.
A couple of years after graduating from college I had gained a significant amount of weight. I had no clue where to start to lose it, but I was feeling pretty terrible about myself. In an attempt to remind myself that I needed to make some changes, I wrote “SARAH, STOP BEING SO FAT” across the mirror in my bathroom with a dry erase marker.
Every time I looked at the mirror I was reminded how disgusted I was with myself. This led to an immediate inventory of all that I disliked about my appearance and all of the ways that I had failed to make changes to lose the weight.
One afternoon my 5 year old niece was visiting and used the bathroom. When she exited the bathroom, she looked at me and said, “Sarah, stop being so fat.”
I was shocked! I had no clue how to respond. The comment coming from her actually stung pretty bad.
Her mother was just as shocked as I was and started to lecture her on what she had said. I immediately explained that she was just repeating the words that were written on the bathroom mirror.
My niece responded, “well that’s not a very nice note to write yourself!”
Such insight from a 5 year old!
I had become so accustomed to my self talk reminding me of my faults and insecurities that I didn’t realize how hurtful the message on my mirror actually was. It took the words coming from her mouth for me to realize that constantly perseverating on my flaws was making me feel even worse about myself and was leaving me stuck without motivation to make changes.
Our inner voice directly affects the way we see ourselves and the way we interact with our world. Left unchecked, negative self talk can quickly become our default, which can lead to increased feelings of worthlessness, depression and anxiety.
So how do we start to push back against negative self talk?
1.Listen to what you are saying to yourself
Do your best to become more aware of the commentary in your head. What is your go-to thought when things don’t go your way? What is your first thought when you mess up? Start to write down some of of these comments. Practice simply being aware of how you talk to yourself.
2. Change the language when you hear it
As you become more aware of the way you are talking to yourself, you will find that you can start pushing back. Every time you tell yourself a negative comment, stop and tell yourself a reason why that comment isn’t true. Bring to mind as many reasons as you can why the negative comment isn’t the truth. Commit to engaging in this process everyday.
3. Proactively use self-affirmations
Don’t wait for the negative comments to come. Start noticing all of the good things about yourself. If you start to retrain your brain to recognize your strengths instead of your weaknesses you will find that having yourself as an ally instead of an enemy leads to greater peace of mind. We have control over the words we tell ourselves and we have the power to change our default inner monologue. When we shift the language in our heads from negativity and criticism to kindness and compassion we open ourselves up to a greater sense of self and the opportunity for change.