Eliminate Negative Self-Talk to Find a Way
The struggle of negative self-talk is near and dear to my heart, because I was a negative self-talker for years. I actually thought that beating myself up inside was advantageous to me. My rationale was that it drove me to be successful, but the truth is that it also made me sad and, worse yet, not even able to appreciate the good times and successes.
Negative self-talk can actually create the very doom and gloom we are looking to avoid and even spin off unforeseen problems if not kept in check. After all, when we are not feeling good about ourselves, we tend to avoid taking necessary action. We might not even go for our dreams and if we do, we might not give it our all. Negative self-talk can easily lead to a life of regrets.
Fortunately, you have the power to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Doing so can turn around all kinds of situations. One of my employees shared how when she was looking for a job in 2008 during the great recession, she was given some wisdom that she turned into positive self-talk. Someone told her to focus on the fact there’s always room for the best. Although she felt doomed by bad circumstances, she continually reminded herself that there are always possibilities and openings for people who are the best. She ended up quickly finding a job, and a year ago I hired her and she is one of the best employees I have ever had. Why? Because she is confident, open to learning, and constantly growing, among other things. Her self-talk impacts her actions and produces results.
If you tend to fill your mind with negative self-talk, use this five-step step self-talk turnaround strategy. I developed it for myself, and I am happy that you can use it to achieve the success you deserve:
- Be aware. You can’t fix a problem if you’re not aware of the problem, but what are your thoughts when you encounter a problem? Do your thoughts sound like these? Oh, I just knew something like this was going to happen. No good deed goes unpunished. Even good things turn to crud. I should have seen this coming. I just won’t get my hopes up anymore because then I won’t be disappointed. You get the picture.
- Don’t fight it, embrace it. As Carl Jung, the renowned psychiatrist, said, “What you resist persists.” In other words, if you try to deny it, rationalize it, fight against it, it will persist. Have you ever been thinking negatively, become aware of it, and then just tried really hard to think positively? How did that work for you? If you’re like me, it just aggravates an already challenging situation. Instead, it’s more helpful to take notice of how you’re feeling and not resist it: “Wow, I’m really thinking negatively about things. It is amazing how much negative chatter is going on in my head.” When you truly embrace it, as strange as it may sound, it loosens its grip on you and you can start to let it go like watching clouds pass by in the sky. You might even smile about it.
- Be clear on where it came from. You create negative self-talk, which is actually good news because if you created it, then you can change it. How did you create it? I don’t want to play psychologist here, but negative self-talk is often a result of things that have happened in your past that may have caused you to draw some conclusions about yourself. For example, maybe you lost your job, and as a result you decided that you are not that talented. Or maybe you had a relationship that ended badly, and as a result you made up in your mind you’re not very good at relationships. In other words, the conclusions you chose were and continue to be disempowering conclusions from your past. The point here is to ask yourself why you think what you think and then tell yourself, “If I came up with those conclusions, I could have come up with different conclusions.” For example, in the case of losing your job, you could have decided they didn’t recognize your talents and as a result you learned so much about yourself that will empower you to get a better job in the future. In the case of the relationship that ended, you could have just said, “It’s their loss, good riddance.” So own up that you created the negative conclusions and self-talk. You did it to you. No one made you think that way. Take responsibility. This is good news because you are in control of you and you can do something about you.
- Give yourself an upgrade and create new positive self-talk. Like buying an upgrade package, create new self-talk and install it in your mind. Write down your new self-talk. “I deserve success.” “Things have a way of working out.” “I’m going to accomplish my goals.” I think you get the point. Write down the new positive self-talk so you can install it in your mind.
- Repeat the new positive self-talk—with emotion—until it replays automatically in your head. Do this over and over again. Emotions help give it meaning and help it get ingrained in your mind. Until that happens, fake it until you make it. Even if you don’t feel it, keep saying your new positive self-talk with emotion. Repetition is key—just like going to the gym. You don’t just go once and expect yourself to be healthy; you go over and over again. You know positive self-talk has taken hold when you don’t need to be conscious of it.
If you still doubt that self-talk is critical to success, consider this: Diana Nyad was the first person to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark tank. She did it at the age of 64. In an interview she talked about the power of the mind, explaining that she used a mantra, something she said over and over again, to keep her focused and help her deal with the pain and adversity. Her mantra was “Find a way.”
Think how profound that self-talk is. Find a way. Find a way to solve a problem. Find a way to make your job great. Find a way to be a great parent or great spouse. Find a way to succeed. We all have down days, and being negative is part of the ebb and flow of life. The key is that even on those down days, our self-talk can lead us to remember that there will be better days and the brightest days with the biggest reward are ahead of us. Why? Because our self-talk finally says we deserve it. Find a way!