Hi there folks, this week I’m going to tackle a subject close to my heart, and close to the heart of a great many number of you too, I think. Well it is, if the conversations I have with my friends are anything to go by. As you would have guessed from the title of this post, I’m talking about self-talk, and in particular negative self-talk. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the benefits of positive self-talk, mantras, talking yourself up, believing in yourself etc. In fact, my first major piece on this blog was about “faking it till you make it”, and don’t worry, I will do a follow up for next times post on positive self-talk and some tricks that may help you get better at it. But Self talk is a big enough subject to be split in two to do it justice.
First, when you think about the concept of negative self-talk, you may well think of the women in your life. Be they friends, family members, love interests, or colleagues, I’d be stunned if you’ve never heard one of them put themselves down. Dismissing a genuine comment of appreciation and approval about their intelligence, their personality, their looks or any other achievement. It may make you want to yell at them for not seeing what you see. This is the result of a self-deprecating mindset it seems that our society is still raising women to have, constantly trying to seem humble and modest. While those are not unvirtuous traits, left unchecked and unbalanced, they can lead to a deep seated and honestly held belief in their own unworthiness of praise.
Don’t think that men are any different though. In fact, men have almost as many deeply felt body issues as women, as well as a tendency to look at past regrettable and unedifying behaviours in a more negative light than necessary. Regarding themselves as not as fallible human beings very much capable of making mistakes, but as screw ups that have failed to live up to some idealised version of “Manhood” they have imposed upon themselves.
The point is that a whole heap of us suffer from this habit, creating a kind of background noise in our heads about what we have done wrong, how we could be fitter, what’s wrong with our bellies, in fact any number of things that we have told ourselves aren’t good enough. If I asked you right now what were the top 5 things about yourself that you didn’t like, I reckon that you’d be able to rattle off 5 without barely thinking. I actually think I’d have to stop most of you at 10 just because I need to get on to the next point. Am I right?
Now what if I asked you to name the top 10 things you loved about yourself? Not so easy, huh? Struggling to think of 5? I thought so.
This is not a healthy mindset! This is what happens when you spend years cultivating the “I’m not that special” type mindset. That’s bollocks! You are special, you are unique, we are all amazingly strange and different from each other and at the same time, all so incredibly alike. Which is in itself, is amazing!
So, how do we change this pattern of negative self-talk and create some space in our minds for some positivity? First you must identify the different ways you mentally bash yourself up. There may be other ways I’ve not listed below but here are the main culprits I’ve seen.
- Problem 1 – The denier: I mentioned this one at the start, this is the refusal to take any kind of compliment on face value. It often sounds like “Oh, don’t be silly, it’s just me” or “Look it wasn’t that bigger deal” or “It’s not like I did it alone”.
Solution – Take the credit when it’s offered. You did the work, reap the rewards. Don’t do the work for the praise or steal someone else’s due, but if someone gives you a compliment, take it.
- Problem 2 – The joker: I fall prey to this one a bit. The tendency to take a compliment comedically seriously. This comes out in 2 different ways, either overly effusive gratitude for the compliment e.g. “OH, my gosh, thankyou soooo much, it REALLY means the world to me you said that” *insert humorously fake sobbing* or, and this is my habit, the hilariously fake arrogance e.g. “I know, right?! I am pretty awesome!” These are problematic because they, like the denier before, totally strips the compliment of any kind of lasting encouragement or increase in your self-worth.
Solution – It’s the same as the previous one, just take the damn compliment. Someone liked what you did. YAY, that’s a good thing!
- Problem 3 – The grass is greener. This is classic failure by comparison. It presents as you would imagine, by beating up your self-image because Bill next door has a newer car, Jefferies got the promotion and the corner office, the high school bully gets to kiss the prettiest person in school and you don’t, so on and so forth. I don’t need to explain it, we’ve all done it to some extent. It isn’t good for you!
Solution- Stop comparing yourself to everyone or anyone for that matter. That is a slippery slope my friends, not only because it can lead to bitterness and resentment, but more importantly in this case, it will lead to a very damaging view of yourself. Comparing yourself to somebody else makes no sense when you think about it. They have a different story they are living. Sure, they may be headed in a similar direction, but they may have started in a different place. You just don’t know. Run your own race. Figure out where you want to go and work to get there, don’t worry about where others are, focus on what you need to do.
- Problem 4 – The Hamster wheel of Doom. I left this for last as it’s pretty big and pretty damaging. I also gave it a silly name because this is how we need to start viewing it, a scary and damaging, but ultimately silly and pointless waste of our brief time on the planet. The Hamster wheel of doom goes like this “I *insert your choice of mistake* therefore I am worthless” or “Such and such doesn’t want to *activity* with me therefore I am unworthy of all human interaction”. I know the way I’ve described it makes it seem silly, but if you stop and think about it, I’m certain you can remember a time when something like that went through your mind. Maybe it wasn’t that long ago, maybe some of that noise is going on in your mind right now. You want to know how I know? Because we all do it to some degree.
Solution – Get off the hamster wheel silly! If you notice yourself climbing back on, starting to run in circles, do one simple thing. Picture the hamster wheel of doom, complete with tiny hamster devil poking a tiny hamster sinner with a tiny hamster pitchfork, while the hamster sinner is running on it. If that doesn’t make you laugh and switch your thinking, I don’t know what will.
Good luck my friends, I truly hope that some of my thoughts on this subject help you see yourself as I see you. All beautiful, all special and all uniquely capable for personal growth.
Get Up, Get Out There and Get Awesome,
And if someone wants to draw the Hamster Wheel of doom image, please send it to me, I’d love to share it with you all.