I used to have trouble deciphering what “negative self-talk” meant and how to determine what was constructive and what was not. In the beginning, I only pulled out the really major negative messages with words like stupid, lazy, worthless, etc. I had no idea that there was more to negative self-talk than these obvious problems.
Why Does Negative Self-Talk Matter?
This whole idea stems from the principle that we all spend most of our time with ourselves. Therefore, a lot of time we are talking to ourselves even if it’s not verbal, it is inside our heads. So it’s important to pay attention to what we are saying to ourselves.
On one hand, we have to tell ourselves what we need to work on to stay motivated and to grow. On the other hand, we can be our own worst critics and make life hard for ourselves if we are sending negative messages.
Then I came across an article about this principle. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.
I think this really simplifies the whole concept for me. I know that I wouldn’t tell a friend she was fat, ugly, or stupid. Those were obvious before. But then I took this to a deeper level.
How can it be applied?
There were some nitpicky things I was piling on to replace the toxic comments I had thrown out. Instead of telling myself, “You are fat.” I was saying, “You should exercise every day to get thinner.” Instead of, “You are worthless.” I was saying, “You need to make more money to be worthy.”
When I thought I had removed the negative self-talk, I had only replaced it with more covert negativity. I didn’t even recognize it as negative. They weren’t horribly awful phrases. But they held me to an impossible standard and diminished my worth regardless. All while I thought I was being productive.
Removing the Modal Operators
A lot of these toxic statements were the ‘should, have to, need to’ variety. These are modal operators that identify the “rules” we have often created for ourselves. I didn’t see this as negative self-talk until I thought about applying it to a friend. I wouldn’t tell a friend, “you really have to xyz.” I would give them options. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?
So I started looking at sentences like these and changing them. “I am worthy no matter what. My worth is not determined by my productivity.”
So How Will I be Productive Without Them?
It may seem like creating ultimatums for ourselves would make us more productive, but it’s just not true. We are more likely to stick to a new habit when there are positive emotions associated with it. For example, “I am working out regularly because I love myself and take care of my body.” Its a much more open and accepting way to live and it doesn’t require beating myself up.
It was so freeing to just change those statements and get rid of a little bit more of my negative self-talk. It’s amazing how much lighter and energetic I feel when I’m not tearing myself down.
This is just one example of the ways I used to beat myself up and hold myself to an impossible standard. Negative self-talk doesn’t serve anyone, its time to let it go. Let me know if you can relate!