I used to berate myself any time I perceived myself as being less than perfect:
- I’d stub my toe and say, “You are such a klutz!”
- I’d try on an outfit at the store and think, ”No way I could wear that!”
How we speak to and about ourselves
Speaking these thoughts to myself, I soon learned that these were examples of the negative thinking that are typical patterns for the human brain. Like the Velcro that we use these days to secure shoes and anything else we need to keep in place, our brains love to hang onto negativity. We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough in every possible way, continue worrying about the same situations, imagine the worst will occur, and picture things as being worse than they really are.
But, it seems that these vocal episodes with ourselves are actually more than what we might consider to be attempts to brush off our perceived inadequacies. A negative mindset narrows our thinking; small obstacles become huge barriers that seem impossible to overcome. In time, we don’t even try. Instead, we make it a habit to simply give up.
The impact of negative thinking
Barbara Frederickson, a psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, has conducted studies to test the impact negative thinking has on people. Her findings indicate that when you experience positive emotions you will envision more possibilities in your life, as opposed to the decreased potential imagined when you experience negative emotions.
We need to remember that self-talk is almost constant and becomes such a habit that we almost don’t even realize it’s happening. Plus, our subconscious minds listen to everything we say to ourselves. When we criticize ourselves, we are listening. When we say we’re not enough, not good or smart enough…we are listening to every word we say and think.
We may have learned as children that sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us. But the truth is, I think we all really learned that those words, so carelessly spit out of some bully’s mouth, are the words we still remember today.
Taking care with how we speak about ourselves
Therefore, it would be beneficial for us to tune in to exactly what we’re saying, when we’re saying it, and how we speak to ourselves.
- When you catch yourself having a negative thought, make it a point not to repeat that type of comment again. Instead, find a way to replace it with a positive thought, or a hopeful comment.
- Positive thoughts attract other positive thoughts, and negative thoughts attract other negative thoughts. Make it a point to say positive things to yourself when you look in a mirror, before you walk into a meeting, or before you start an important conversation.
- Rather than looking at a task as something you could never accomplish, try giving yourself a word of encouragement. Oh, yes, you can. Keep trying; you will find your way to the other side of this issue.
Does this sound crazy to you? Does it sound so silly? Think of it this way. If someone you loved needed to hear words of encouragement, what would you say to them? Your child...your spouse...your pet. What would you say? Now, say those words to yourself.
You matter. You count. You are important. And you are worth the effort.