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Beating Negative Self-Talk Before it beats you

So many people I work with struggle with how they feel about themselves.  Many people struggle with depression and don’t want to admit it because it is unacceptable to them.  Yet they question their, attractiveness, lovability, intelligence, level of success and even their worth.  What many do not realize is that how they feel about themselves is directly related to the thoughts and beliefs that they have about themselves.  For how we think affects how we feel.

THE TRAP

It astonishes me the number of people who essentially believe that they have no real control over how they think – let alone how they think about themselves.  Thus, they make the assumption that they are forever trapped by negative beliefs and thoughts about themselves.  And the gate that encages them is their belief that nothing can change how they think about themselves.

THE PLUMMETING CYCLE

The way it usually works for people is that they tend to work hard at trying to forget or avoid how they think about themselves.  They may do this in lots of different ways including humour, drinking, drugs, busyness, watching TV, and continually socializing.  But then something happens.  Usually it is something small.  It could be something someone says, or being asked to do something you don’t like doing but say you will do anyways, or it could be simply losing your keys, not getting an A on a report card, or your kids acting up in some way. 

But whatever it is that happens, it becomes the trigger – a trigger to the start of an onslaught of negative condemning self-talk.  And as you hear the terrible words in your own head, you begin a negative emotional spiral downwards, plummeting down till you hit the bottom emotionally. 

Some common examples of negative self-talk that people experience are:

  • “You’ll never amount to anything.”
  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “You’re no good.”
  • “You’re a screw up and always will be a screw up.”
  • “You’re ugly.”
  • “You not lovable or worth loving."
  • “You’re so stupid.”

There are many more; but, these examples of negative self-talk invade the thoughts of the individual creating depression, self loathing, and anger.  The cycle usually ends with the individual trying once again to get distance from their emotions.  They distract themselves and with time they recover until the next trigger.

OUR BRAIN WORKS AGAINST US

You see our brain actually works against us in this plummeting cycle.  Our brain has natural tendencies to continually look for associations.  This is how we learn.  We associate “bright red glow” with “hot” and maybe with “pain”.  However, when we have a trigger that starts the negative self-talk, our brain naturally looks for all associations we have to that negative thinking which only exacerbates the problem and makes us feel worse.

For example, when a person receives a phone call that a friend has to cancel getting together with them.  This could be a trigger to start the negative self-talk of something like - “You’re not lovable. Nobody will ever really like you.”  And as this thinking progresses, all associations through out one’s entire history that may add weight to this belief is brought to the surface and the emotional devastation follows.

WANT TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF?  FIGHT FOR IT!

If you want to change how you think and feel about yourself, it mean’s that you are going to have to fight for it.  Changing your thinking requires commitment to a plan.  So, what can you do to begin to fight back and not allow these negative thinking patterns to hurt you?  There are many ways to address negative self-talk, but, here is a simple 5 step effective process for beating it:

  1. List Your Negative Self-Talk Statements - You need to know who your enemy is if you are going to do battle.  Thus write down all of the statements in your head that come when you start to emotionally plummet.  Start each statement with “You …”, from the perspective of hearing someone else saying them to you.  After you have done this identify which one is the worst for you – which one is a real zinger that gets you every time.
  2. Identify the Lie - Take a 3x5 card and on the top line write the following line filling in your own zinger negative self-talk statement:‚Äč   Lie: “You… (and the rest of your negative self-statement).”As much as you may sometimes believe the lie to be a truth, does not actually make a truth.  People can believe awful lies about themselves.  So declare it for what it is – a lie.
  3. Identify the Empowering Truth On the very next line, write the following: Truth:  I am… (and fill in the rest of your truth statement).  Your truth statement must smash to bits the lie statement that emotionally attacks you.  It is the truth that shall set you free, so it is important that what you write truly is the truth.  Obviously you can not overcome a lie with another lie.  It doesn’t work very well. If your lie was “You’re a failure”, an example of a truth statement might be: “I am a successful person because I continue to try and always seek growth in my life.” If you lie was: “Your not lovable or worthy of love”, an example of a truth statement might be: “I am a worthy person who cares for others and deserves care in return.”
  4. Prove Your Truth!  Once you know the lie that you are trying to battle against and you have the truth as a statement of defense, there is still more important information you will need.  Take the rest of your card and in point form write out all of the proof that would prove your truth to be the truth and the lie a lie.  Write out a list that fills the card front and back.
  5. Put The Game Plan Into Action!   Now that you have your card, you need to know what to do with it.  Take control of your negative thinking patterns by following this 5 step action plan:
    1. Carry the card with you at all times.
    2. Become aware of when you are being attacked by your negative self-talk.
    3. When you become aware of an attack, SHOUT  “STOP!” (inside your head).
    4. Pull out your card and review the card in its entirety.  If you can do it out loud, all the better. 
    5. Repeat this every time the negative self-talk begins.

If you are faithful to doing it, you will begin to see and feel results within a couple of weeks.  If you can even memorize your entire card and review it in your head it will implant positive thinking at a time when you may need it the most.  You can dramatically change how you feel about yourself.  Although it does require some work up front, the benefits are great.  Give it a try.  Or if you need some help doing it, contact a counsellor you feel comfortable with and talk to them about your negative self-talk.  Taking action now can change and improve the rest of your life.

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