3 Steps To Bust Negative Self-Talk: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up For Good
Negative self-talk is a vicious cycle: It’s often a result of low self-esteem and also feeds it. It makes you feel like something is wrong with you, cuts off your self-worth and can lead to anxiety and depression.
“I just can’t do anything right”
“It’s true, I’m just not lovable”
“Nobody likes me”
“I just don’t matter”
“I’m really too lazy/stupid/insert bad trait”
Sounds familiar? Almost everybody knows negative self-talk. But these thoughts are just a perception you have adapted about yourself and far from reality.
How negative self-talk affects your reality
Negative self-talk simply makes you feel bad. And your emotions attract circumstances into your life that mirror exactly how you feel – which then confirms what you were thinking before. And the cycle begins again.
Let’s say you made a mistake in your job. Instead of just correcting it and move on, you start to beat yourself up and think things like:
“My boss thinks I can do nothing right. What if they fire me? I am really useless. My teacher was right, I am stupid…”.
Your thoughts about yourself make you feel bad and you are so caught up in your negative self-talk that you make the next mistake. Now your boss asks you to be more aware – which then confirms what you were thinking before:
“See, I just can’t do anything right. I have to work harder and get better!”
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Some brain science: The RAS
Your subconscious mind holds about 80% of your total consciousness and is responsible for at least as much of your behavior and actions. Almost every decision you make is determined by your subconscious mind – before you can even think about it.
And that is good: If you had to consciously think about every decision and move you make, you were simply not able to do anything. Your brain receives 11 Million bits of information per second. That is an incredible number and way too much to consciously process. So you have a natural filter mechanism in your brain. It’s like a secretary who only lets the important messages through to the boss – aka your conscious mind.
This secretary is called RAS (Reticular Activation System). The RAS gets its orders on what is important from your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind makes its decisions based on your belief system.
Which means: If you believe that you are wrong and can do nothing right, your RAS will let all the information pass that confirms your belief and block everything that doesn’t match your belief system.
You see what you believe
Your subconscious is like a computer – it doesn’t judge if a belief that you hold is supportive or not. It only acts out the programs which are stored on its hard drive. And these programs are our beliefs. So even if there is plenty of evidence that you are worthy and can do things right, this evidence doesn’t even reach your consciousness.
And this works in both ways. When someone deeply believes to be worthy of success, and that it comes easily – guess what. Yes, this person will be super successful. Based on this belief system the RAS will show all the opportunities around being successful and reaching goals easily and effortlessly.
Same goes for love, money or your health, and fitness – your beliefs determine your whole life
When you believe that you have to hustle 24/7 in order to be successful and that it would be counterproductive for you to take a break or make space for self-care – then this will be your reality. Your subconscious mind doesn’t know that you run straight into a burnout. You may even feel the symptoms, but your belief system pushes you to work harder and ignore your body until it’s too late.
Negative self-talk is the needle that grinds the ruts into your subconscious programs. Every thought that you repeatedly think, becomes a belief.
The power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle
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The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself by Shannon Kaiser
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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
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How to bust negative self-talk for good
So how do you change your subconscious programs? Here are 3 steps to help you bust your negative self-talk and replace it with constructive and supporting beliefs that will eventually become your new programming.
Step 1: Recognize your self-talk
The first thing you have to do in order to break the negative self-talk cycle is to notice that it is there.
We think around 60 000 thoughts during the day and most of them are automatic and go unnoticed. Being aware of your thoughts is the first step to change them.
But how should you monitor so many thoughts? It’s actually quite impossible to be aware of each thought. But luckily, that is not necessary. You can use your emotions as a gate. If you feel bad, you must have thought something negative before. Your thoughts trigger your emotions, so your emotions are a clear sign of what is going on in your mind.
Observe what is happening in your mind in typical situations that make you feel bad. Mostly it’s minor things like someone canceled, you forgot something or something else didn’t go as planned which kick off negative self-talk:
“I can’t do anything right”
“I’m just not good enough”
“I have to learn more, be better, faster, smarter…”
Extra Tip: Have a journal handy where you can write all these destructive thoughts down. It can be hard in the beginning, because we tend to say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t even say to our worst enemy. Don’t judge yourself!
Negative self-talk lives from your denial. So the more you bring it to light, the less power it has over you.
Step 2: Negative self-talk is not who you are
Negative self-talk can only live as long as you think that it is a part of yourself. But it is not. Nobody is born with these negative voices that tell us we are not good enough and have to work harder. We pick up on these voices as we grow up – mostly from parents or teachers – and often use them as motivation to be better. Meanwhile, it might work to beat ourselves up to get better – it is not a long term solution.
So if you notice that you beat yourself up, be aware that this voice is not a part of you. It is just a voice of many that are babbling in your mind. Nothing that this voice says is actually true. We learned to identify with our thoughts, but our thoughts don’t reflect reality. They are just thoughts. When we de-identify with them it is like we lift a curtain in our brain that lets us see clearly on who we really are.
Meditation is a practice that can help you to calm your mind and detach from your thoughts. You don’t need to be a yogi to meditate. Five minutes of stillness during the day can make a huge difference.
Step 3: Reframing
After you got aware of what you are thinking and detached mentally from it, you now have the power to change your thoughts – aka your self-talk.
If your main belief is, that you can do nothing right, and you notice these thoughts coming up, talk back and tell yourself that you actually do things right.
Search for evidence to support your new belief. Did you make a coffee this morning? The presentation went good? Did you help someone out? You do many things right every day. Train your RAS to change its filter paradigms by actively thinking positive about yourself and searching for evidence for your new belief system.
The more you practice these 3 steps, the better can you transform your negative self-talk into a positive and supporting belief system. It is on you to form a new reality. And you deserve to live a life free from criticism, judgment and negative self-talk. It is such a great feeling when things start to get easy, just because you think differently about yourself.
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