We all speak to ourselves from time to time. That voice in your head giving commentary about the things happening in your life is self-talk. Did you know that most people are dominated by negative self-talk, and this negative form of self-talk stops them from reaching their full potential and hampers a lot in their lives?
We are naturally programmed to give more focus upon the negative, which is why the media is dominated by news of doom and gloom. However, things don’t have to be this way. You can take control of this self-talk and direct it in ways that support you and propel you to be your best.
How Do You Know You are Engaging in Negative Self-Talk?
Negative self-talk takes several forms and you need to identify those manifestations. Here are four types of negativity that you should look out for and arrest before they start controlling you.
Personalizing. In this type of negative self-talk, you take everything personal and heap blame upon yourself for whatever has gone wrong. You never accept that other factors could have had a hand in the unfavorable outcome, and so you mentally beat up yourself.
Polarizing. Here, the tendency is to look at things from one of two extremes, the bad or the good. Most times, the bias is towards the bad, and one doesn’t have any room for grey areas or middle-of-the-road perspectives. Obviously, this will frequently give you reason for unease because there will always be something to flip your thinking about a situation to the negative end of the spectrum.
Magnifying. Magnifying occurs when one is predisposed to always see things from a negative angle. A new road is built, and all they see are gory accidents happening on that road! Such people are hard to be around because their toxicity infects the mood of everyone. Imagine being that person to yourself in your inner dialogue. What harm can it unleash in your personal and professional life?
Catastrophizing. This is when you constantly expect the worst in everything and everyone. Someone is excited about a new relationship? It will not end well, is what a catastrophizing person will think, and voice. You got a new job? There goes your freedom and peace of mind! Negative self-talk of this nature can drive one to extremes, because it leads you to be pessimistic about everything.
How to Nurture Positive Self-Talk
We have mentioned that humans are generally predisposed to dwell on the negative, but we also have the power to choose to flip our self-talk to positive mode. Here are some ways to reorient your self-talk in a more positive direction.
- Remove Negative People from Your Circles
You have probably heard that you are the aggregate of the five people you spend most of your time around. The attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of those around us rub off on us, and we soon become a classic example of “birds of the same feather flock together.”
It is therefore crucial that we remove or reduce the number of negative people in our circles. Those negative people are an infection, like a rotten tomato, and that infection soon spreads to all around it. Reducing how much time you spend with people steeped in negativity therefore reduces the negative input your mind receives, which will in turn give you an opportunity to flip the switch to positive self-talk.
- Practice Gratitude
You can also curb the magnitude of negative self-talk by practicing gratitude. For example, every night before you go to sleep, write down five or so things you are grateful for regarding the day that is just ending.
It could be a compliment you received from a stranger, a nice meal you had or even the money you had and were able to pay you monthly bills on that day. There is so much to be grateful for if you set your mind to it. For example, do you know how many people are desperate because they just can’t get a job, and yet here you are taking yours for granted? How many people are critically ill and cannot take a walk in the park? How many people are unable to have kids yet you see yours as a headache? Be grateful for what you have and more good things will come to you. Most importantly, practicing gratitude will wire your self-talk to be more positive.
- Speak Positively When Interacting with Others
How you talk to others is a reflection of how you talk to yourself. You see, you cannot give what you don’t have, can you? So, the more you complain and see nothing good in others, the more your inner dialogue will be full of complaints about yourself.
Always offer encouragement and positive statements to others. Compliment the janitor on always keeping the facility spotlessly clean. Thank your team member for completing a needed report in time. Thank your spouse for helping around the house. Even if it is someone’s duty to do something, you can never go wrong by appreciating them.
With time, the nurturing way in which you speak to others will translate into the way you speak to yourself when no one else is listening. Be positive when talking to others, and your inner voice will gradually speak positively to you.
- Frequently Analyze Your Emotions
Self-talk affects our emotions. For example, when you bungle a sales presentation, your inner voice may say you were never cut out to be in sales. Such negative self-talk will trigger negative emotions like despair, hopelessness and sadness each time you think of your work as a salesperson. This can quickly cause a cascade that results in missed sales targets, unbecoming behavior towards colleagues and clients or even degenerating into alcohol or substance abuse.
It helps to periodically check in and establish how you are feeling. If negative emotions are observed, trace back to the self-talk which triggered those emotions. Consciously switch your thoughts to more positive emotions, such as a recent pay-raise you secured, or the new baby that your family has. Do anything to get you positive once again.
- Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Does your co-worker buy a new flashy car every two years while you are stuck with a 6-year-old minivan? Don’t feel bad about your circumstances, because you don’t know the full story of your coworker. They may be deep in debt to their eyeballs, while you have been prudent and have stashed away a decent sum for your retirement.
Besides, there will always be people who will be or seem to be more successful than you are, just as there will be people who will be or seem to be less successful than you are. Be glad you are where you are, and work to improve yourself. Stop making unfair comparisons of yourself to others!
In closing, being aware of our self-talk can empower us to make needed adjustments so that we speak more kindly to ourselves and lift ourselves up, instead of putting ourselves down. If you aren’t kind to yourself, who will be kind to you? Try out the approaches discussed above and shift from negative self-talk to positive self-talk. Your confidence and self-esteem will improve, anxiety and stress will go down, your motivation will improve, your productivity will definitely improve and the quality of your relationships will improve (everyone enjoys being around a positive person). Those are worthy results to go after. Carefully choose how you speak to yourself; an important person (YOU) is listening!