We have all had moments when we have told ourselves we can’t do something because we aren’t good enough, smart enough, thin enough or deserving of something we want. For some of us, this can lead to extended periods where it completely consumes our internal voice and our relationship with ourselves, impacting the way we live our day to day lives from the places we go, the way we dress and the tasks we put ourselves forward for. Others may have these thoughts and dismiss them as a result of an external factor such as PMS or how their relationship is going and don’t address the root cause of these thoughts, but the reality is, negative self-talk like this is incredibly common with up to 70% of people experiencing imposter syndrome in their lifetime. These thoughts aren’t unavoidable and there IS something we can do to reclaim our greatness and get rid of these negative thoughts!
What is Self Talk?
Self Talk is the conscious and unconscious beliefs we have about ourselves and forms part of our self-image. It can be positive, where we show ourselves compassion and give ourselves a break when things don’t go exactly as we hoped, or negative when we internalise what we see as failures in our past and apply it to how we feel about ourselves overall.
How Do We Change This Pattern?
Activity one: Identify what kind of negative talk you engage in the most.
Keep a diary with you for a week and make notes on when you notice yourself engaging in negative self-talk, the kind of thoughts and the situations that they occur in the most, as well as any occasions where you find yourself feeling a little more compassionate or comfortable.
At the end of the week, look back through and decide which of the categories below you find yourself falling into. Being aware of triggering situations and the kind of thoughts can help you to prepare and break down the problem.
- Personalizing – blaming yourself when things go wrong.
- Polarizing – Seeing things only as good or bad, no grey areas, compromise or room for middle ground.
- Magnifying – Focusing on the bad or negative in every scenario and dismiss anything good or positive.
- Catastrophizing – Always expecting the worst-case scenario.
Activity Two: Addressing the past
Write down a list of actions from the last week that you regretted or that triggered these negative thoughts.
Next to each one, write the negative thoughts they created and how they made you feel about yourself.
And finally, write what the positive response could be if you evaluated the individual behaviour rather than yourself. To help, think about what made you react negatively to that experience, is there any evidence to support the negative thoughts.
How that you have identified the positive emotional response, what actions can you take to help prevent this situation from happening again? Are there physical steps you can take, like avoiding certain people or places? What activities can you do to help you feel validated and comforted?
Want to push yourself one step further? Why not put yourself forward for an activity that is outside your comfort zone and that you may need to ask for help, training or support for? By putting yourself in situations that make you feel vulnerable, you can learn new ways to act and practise handing over control of an outcome.