We all know those moments in life when we are stressed, tired, and a little bit on edge with the world. When things just don’t run as smoothly for us as we had imagined. When we are all but that picture perfect, flawless, elegant, and unobstructed creature frolicking through life in white linen pants and blow-dried hair.
We might just have one of those days when we drop stuff, hit our pinky toe on that über-sharp corner, and even though we just applied some blush, we still look a bit ghostly. We start to feel that the entire world is simply against us, and because that seems like a rather enormous and unpredictable enemy, we jump on the bandwagon and resort to turning against ourselves as well. How? Through the way we talk to ourselves.
Let me give you an example from my own life: Just last Friday I had one of those days where I simply felt a bit off. After snoozing my alarm, I peeled myself out of my sheets and worked my way towards the coffee machine. I added water, I scooped in a few spoons of our yummy Swedish coffee and pushed “On.” Then, I shuffled away to attend to my other morning duties until my boyfriend suddenly crinkled his nose and said, “Something is burning!” Turns out that in my misty morning daze, I forgot to put the coffee pour decanter under the filter system, so that coffee was splashing out of the top like a grand old Roman fountain. Ahhh… as soon as I reclaimed control of the situation, the negative self talk started: “Really? How can you possibly be so stupid and forget that? Look at the mess you made...” It wasn’t pretty (and this is the PG-13 version!). You get the point.
Does this sound familiar?
The thing with negative self-talk is this: Our thoughts race at a hundred miles an hour, jumping uncontrollably from one self-diminishing thought to the next without consciously registering as such. Think about it. If someone else was putting you down the way you put down yourself, your senses would immediately awaken, and you would probably defend yourself. However, with negative self-talk, there is no such self-defense mechanism. All this negativity is blindly absorbed and is therefore all the more toxic to our lives and particularly the relationship we have with ourselves.
This is clearly not the road to travel in order to be the most flourishing, lovely, and sparkling versions of ourselves, now is it? Think about it; you would probably never talk to your best friend the way you often talk to yourself, because you know that it would probably affect them negatively. This brings me to my first suggested way to stop that ugly negative self-talk:
1) Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. If you catch yourself on a self-depreciating rant, check in with yourself and ask, “Would I say this to _____?” If the answer is “no,” then you certainly don’t deserve to be spoken to in that way either. Don’t let these insults pass without defending yourself against your own negative and grumpy voice.
2) Write out the insult you just said to yourself. Seeing it on a piece of paper will make it more obvious to you how self-depreciating your thoughts really are. When you think something like, “I am so dumb,” it likely passes through your mind so swiftly, you don’t have a chance to even register it. So many of us are so used to this kind of talk that we literally have to slow ourselves down and re-register what we are actually saying to ourselves. Writing it out is a great way to slow down and see the absurdity in your own negative self-talk.
3) Take a break from social media. Studies show that social media increases self-criticism. Instead, spend some time tuning in to yourself and how you feel about and see your own life through your own eyes. Listen. Pay attention to your own thoughts. Say something nice to yourself. Be with yourself, and get clear on what you actually think and feel about who you are. This is difficult for so many of us, but if you cannot be with yourself, how do you expect anyone else to be with you? If you speak to yourself disrespectfully or even flat-out rudely, how do you expect anyone else to treat you differently? By elevating your self-treatment to a standard that aligns with your value system, your environment will follow suite. That’s the law of attraction.
4) Formulate an intention that originates from your heart about the way you want to speak with yourself and hence, feel about yourself. The only rule is that your intention has to be affirmative (formulate your sentences using “do” instead of “don’t,” etc.), written in the first person, and in the present tense. Pour all your creativity, playfulness, and personal quirkiness into this note, so that it truly feels like YOU. Then, put it up somewhere where you will see it daily or perhaps exactly there, where most of your negative self-talk tends to happen.
Play. Be courageous. Let light shine in. Laugh at yourself. You deserve every positive word and caring act in the world.
Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.