- ‘I could never carry this off.’
- ‘You’re so smart; I wish I could be as clever as you.’
- ‘I don’t have what it takes.’
Do you recognise any of these statements? I know I do.
Back in 2012, I was 23 with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I hated my job and did not see a future in it, had no romantic relationships, and found that friendships were hard to come by.
It seemed to me that I was stuck. However, instead of taking action, do you know what I did?
I berated myself. I found fault in nearly everything I had ever done that led me down this path. ‘How did I get here?’ I would ask myself, repeatedly. After months of recrimination, I was exhausted. My mental strength was at its lowest; I was beaten.
It was only when a friend commented on my negative self-talk that I realised what I was doing. By being unkind to myself, I was self-sabotaging.
We usually agree that one should be kind to strangers, friends, and family. But what about ourselves?
It is easier to understand and empathise with others, but what if we extend that courtesy to ourselves as well? Can we stop negative self-talk? How can we unlearn years of doing this?
If, at one time or another in your life, you too have caught yourself indulging in shaming or putting yourself down, here are some tips that helped me.
Five tips for dealing with negative self-talk
Start by beginning to understand when you are spiralling. The next time you have a negative thought, catch yourself. Acknowledge that this is your negativity talking. This allows us to be objective and step back from the situation.
Judge yourself tenderly
Talk to yourself as if you were a friend. For example, if your best friend made a mistake, what would you tell them? You would probably be gentle with them. Maybe you would let them know where they went wrong without eroding their self-esteem.
This brings me to my next point.
Avoid generalising and focus on the incident. Avoid phrases such as:
- ‘Oh, you couldn’t do this; you’re so stupid.’
- ‘You’ll never be good.’
These are destructive sentences and can leave us feeling defeated. Rephrase these. Instead, tell yourself:
- ‘I tried this, and it didn’t work. I learned not to do __________’
- ‘I am getting better every day.’
Try to approach everything you do with curiosity, not judgement. For instance, if you failed at something, be curious as to what you can improve and how you can try better next time. This will help you take the focus off your own perceived shortcomings and instead work towards improvement.
Recognise what you need
Be your own champion. This is so important. We rely on others to make us feel good, but that is a mistake. Other people might not know exactly what you want. Only you know that. So give yourself what you need.
For example, do you want to be appreciated? Pat yourself on the back when you do a job well. Do you want to be challenged? Push yourself harder. Do you feel awful after a long day? Take a break and do an activity that brings you joy.
Place yourself in the sunshine
Lastly, make sure your inner circle has kind, nurturing people. Sometimes our inner critic is a reflection of the people that surround us.
If we are around negative and difficult people, we might find ourselves indulging in destructive criticism. Their judgemental nature and unkind behaviour often find their way into our inner monologue – ultimately leading to poor self-image.
Remove these toxic people from your circle of friends and family. Believe you can do better, and you will.
It can be difficult to break a lifelong spiral of negative self-talk. The most important thing is to acknowledge your inner critic and work daily towards being more loving towards yourself.
This will empower you to see the good in yourself – and make you happier in the long run.
Shuyaasha Misra is passionate about sharing her experiences and believes writing is one way to make a difference in the world. Find more of her writing on her website.
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