Breaking Free from Negative Self-Talk
Removing the toxic filter from life
(FULL DISCLOSURE: NONE of this is written to fish for compliments. ALL of this is to shed light on what I know I’m not alone in doing)
For what it is worth, the concept that I am introducing to you, my lovely reader, was heard through the grapevine (which is mainly comprised of a myriad of books and podcasts—from which I am never 100% certain of where I heard information) and has been thought about ever since by yours truly- as it has always rung true to me.
I, even still in my early 30s, have fallen into a loop of mindlessly scrolling through Social Media and comparing myself to pretty much every girl I see then following through with some solid negative self-talk, all justified by the commonplace “we are our own worst critic!” from time to time. Although I have never been one to be an overachiever, I somehow have perfected being my own worst critic. It is not uncommon for me to start a question with “I might just be dumb, but…” or when I find out the answer to a question (that I should NOT have known the answer to; or maybe I should have) I respond with “I’m an idiot, thanks.” Not to mention the countless times I’ve referred to myself as “this fatty” or referenced my “tree trunks” (a.k.a my thighs).
And then I wonder why I am so apprehensive to do simple things like set goals for myself or follow through with plans- let alone do something as simple as wearing shorts or a swimsuit in public. The ever-looming fear of failure’s voice is loud and echo-y inside my head, and how in the world can I stifle that?! After all, I’m just a big dummy (and have you SEEN my love handles?!) and should just settle with my familiar because I can’t fail there… right?!
Then one day I heard something that blew my mind, thought process and existence so far out of the water that I couldn’t go back.
On the topic of negative self-talk, a therapist told their patient that when they go to reach for negative self-talk, take a second and picture your young self. Yourself in a time of complete innocence—without worry, ready to take on the world, excited to start something new.
I personally like to think of myself when I was about six years old and went through a phase of wearing a purple sweatsuit and a matching purple Mighty Ducks hat- backwards of course (Hello 90s, nice to see you!).
Now take whatever negative thought you had about yourself—you’re dumb, you’re an idiot, you’re not going anywhere, look at those love handles & tree trunk thighs—and direct it towards that version of yourself.
That’s right, look into the giant eyes of that six-year-old Mighty Ducks and sweatsuit-loving self, and give it a few swift, verbal gut punches, and maybe a verbal shin kick while you’re at it. Take the wind out of that sweet, innocent girl’s sails.
Let me tell you—nine times out of ten, you can’t. You won’t. You don’t want to hurt that little girl—you're little you. You don’t want to let him/her down or make them feel like they’re not good enough. So on the flip side of that, why are you doing it to yourself? You’re a capable, brilliant, beautiful, wonderful adult and there is still wind in your sails! It might be little puffs right now, but they’re still there, and once you adjust your sails (eliminate that negative self-talk and open your mind to how great you are) you’ll notice your wind picking up (confidence growing, ability to ask questions, open your mind) and set sights on new destinations on the horizon.
Negative self-talk, while extremely easy (almost second nature to most) to slip into, is so absolutely detrimental to your psyche, and can lead to such things as limited thinking, perfectionism (and not the good kind of being a perfectionist), feelings of depression, relationship challenges, and so much more- not to mention that people who engage in negative self-talk are far more likely to live high-stress lives.*
Let’s also not forget that we are living in the age of digital editing; the kind of digital editing that is available via the ease of an app- so anyone can do it. Those pictures you’re seeing posted? I bet there are at least 5 more that were taken where it didn’t look “just right”. There may be a filter on it. It may even be FaceTuned (I dove into the world of FaceTune for the purpose of this blog and holy moly.) Dove has a pretty freaking bomb ad that shows the effects the pressure of social media (not to mention the entertainment industry) has on young women but it can easily apply to women & men of all ages! The importance of reminding ourselves (and the younger ones we love) of these filters in life cannot be stressed enough. If we can find tactics to help us eliminate negative self-talk, or at least shift it, for the time being, it’s taking one giant leap to help us become better people to ourselves, and better people to those around us.
Try out the "Little You" tactic the next time you feel yourself venturing down that dark path. You never know—the little cheerleader you have been looking for all along might just be the younger version of your most capable self.
*Outside research I did on Negative Self-Talk and its effects as well as additional ways to combat it was pulled from the following articles:
(Follow me on Instagram at @ec.from.cle)