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How to End Negative Self Talk and Reinvent Your Self Image

How to End Negative Self Talk and Reinvent Your Self Image

The types of conversations you have with yourself determine how you live your life.

The way you choose to think and speak about yourself (to yourself and others), IS A CHOICE! You may have spent your whole life talking about yourself in a negative way, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue that path.” ― Miya Yamanouchi

If the conversations in your head are negative, then the chances are high that you will be not living your life to your full potential.

Everyone has their own story to tell as to the impact negative self-talk has had on their lives. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be controlled by our negative self-talk for years.

The consequence of this is that we create a poor self -image of ourselves and we truly believe that this is our reality. When in fact this poor self-image we have of ourselves is all made up in our heads- it is not at all who we truly are.

“You need to be your own cheer squad not your own worst enemy.” ― Miya Yamanouchi

There is no magic formula to turning your life around. If it were that easy then everyone would be choosing to live his or her life to the fullest. Negative self-talk and self-doubt would be eliminated.

To become your own “cheer squad” involves a journey of learning on how to love yourself and take care of yourself so that you can live your life to the fullest.

What is Negative Self-Talk?

Negative self-talk is the voice inside our head commonly known as our inner critic, that essentially repeats back to us how “bad” we truly are.

A great inner critic will convince us to truly believe that we are “bad, dumb, ugly, fat, skinny, terrible, useless, quirky and a failure”.

Your negative self-talk limits your ability to believe in yourself and in you ability to reach your true potential.

Any negative thought that questions you, your confidence and your ability to make positive changes in your life is a sign that your inner critic at work.

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Listening to and believing what your inner critic tells you can be not only stressful but it can prevent you from living your life to your fullest potential.

When you do achieve a more positive view of yourself, your self-belief, your confidence and resilience grows and as a result your life becomes more fulfilled and happier.

“Take positive care of your mind, and it would surely take positive care of your life.” ― Edmond Mbiaka

What Causes Negative Talk

Carl Rogers, an early pioneer of Positive Psychology, believed that people were always in the process of changing and growing. He believed that all people possess an inherent need to grow and achieve their potential. He called this self–actualization and is that leads people to pursue happiness and fulfilment.

Rogers believed that to successfully strive for self-actualization a person needed to have the three components of Self Concept connected together.

Self Concept was the term Rogers used to refer to how a person thinks about, evaluates and perceives him or herself. Rogers said that Self Concept has three components:

  1. Self Image – how you see yourself
  2. Self Esteem – the extent to which you value yourself
  3. Ideal Self – what you wish you were really like

The formation of a healthy self-concept, according to Rogers, is an ongoing process shaped by a person’s life experiences.

People with a stable sense of self tend to have greater confidence and cope more effectively with life’s challenges. People who had more unstable lives and more traumatic life experiences tended to have a more pessimistic view of themselves.

Rogers believed that people intuitively want to be in the process of changing and growing. Those people whose lives are controlled by their inner critic do have a number of hurdles to overcome before they can take up the challenge of personal change and growth:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

As Carl Rogers pointed out, the first step to change your thinking about who you are is to accept yourself faults and all and then you can begin to take the steps to change.

How I Got Over My Negative Self Talk

There have been many times that I have listened to and believed my inner self-critic to a point that it has crippled my life.

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I have failed in business and been fired from three jobs in less than 18 months. As a result my self-belief and my confidence was at an all time low.

My inner self-critic would highlight all the negative aspects of my life, which again reinforced the fact that I was a failure.

I am not going to list all the bad conversations I would have in my head about how terrible I was, all I will say is that every time things or events or anything did not go well I blamed myself. The pressure and stress that I was creating in my life was incredible.

I am naturally an optimistic person. However, life throws you curve balls that come from nowhere. There are times in our lives where these curveballs keep coming and it feels like you are being battered about with no rest.

There is actually no time to recover – well it feels like that. It is at times of stress and adversity that our negative self-talk starts to dominate our lives. The conversations we are having with ourselves a full of doom and gloom.

So how long do we allow ourselves to live in a world of doom and gloom? When we accept that our reality is to live unfulfilled life? Where we truly believe that we deserve this life because our self worth is at an all time low?

For me, being optimistic is only so much stress and pain I can put up with. I had been feeling so bad about myself and my life for so long that I finally got to a point where I asked myself – “will it get worse or can it get better?”

I chose to go down the path of making my life better. I wanted to live a life where I was flourishing and feeling good about myself.

3 Critical Steps to Manage Your Negative Self Talk

So what did I do to reinvent my self- image? There are 3 critical steps that I took to manage my inner self-critic so that I had more control over my life. I believe that if you take these 3 critical steps your journey to reinvent your life is pretty much guaranteed!

Please remember that improving your self-belief and self-image takes time and it will NOT happen overnight but it will happen if you embrace your journey of change.

1. Commit To Taking Action

“Struggle ends where commitment begins.” ― Sumner Davenport

This quote by Sumner Davenport illustrates the importance of commitment when it comes to transforming your life.

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Once you commit to your journey of change, then the daily struggle and daily pain that you are living with will eventually disappear.

Your fears and feelings of negativity will be replaced with the feelings of success, happiness and joy. You will feel more enlightened, optimistic and hopeful about your life and your future.

Life will still continue to throw your curveballs however you will be more resilient and have greater ability to navigate your way through the challenges that life deals to you.

For me, I decided that I had enough of living my life controlled by my fears and my self-doubt. I felt I was paralyzed and too scared to take action. That’s when I took action and made the decision that I was going to change the way I lived my life.

I didn’t know how but I knew that I didn’t want to live controlled by my fears and negative thinking anymore. I found this quote wrote it down and then stuck it on my wall.

This was the first step I took to committing to change the way I lived my life. Every morning I would look at this quote and say to myself “today is going to be a great day and I an truly grateful for the opportunities that are going to come my way. Each day I am taking one step closer to achieving my goals and dreams to living my life to my fullest potential”.

2. Start Using Your Power of Choice

The journey to living life being the best person you can be starts with you. It starts with you using a wonderful gift called the Power of Choice, which we all have and yet some of us are afraid to use.

Using your power of choice means that you have to step out of your comfort zone. If you choose to do nothing and keep the status quo you will keep getting the same results.

Use your power of choice to empower you to start living life the way you want live it. Your Power of Choice is the one thing you have that you control and using it wisely will enable you to live your life being the best version of yourself.

When you are faced with a situation that is outside your comfort zone and the inner critic is starting to question you and your ability challenge yourself by asking questions such as:

  • What is the evidence for and against my thinking?
  • Are my thoughts factual or just my interpretation?
  • How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?
  • Do these thoughts stop me from achieving my goals?
  • If I were being positive, what would I be thinking?
  • Is this situation as bad as I am making it out to be?
  • What is the worst and what is the best thing that could happen?
  • Would this matter in 1 week, or 2 months or 1 year or 5 years?

There are many more questions you could ask however you must always be challenging yourself by asking your inner critic, “why not?” Then using your power of choice to take action.

3. Use The 5 Second Rule To Embrace Change In Your Life

The one thing that is a given in your life is change. There is no way you can expect to live your life and not experience any change.

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Our inner self-critic is our protection against change. It is the voice inside our heads that will resist change for as long as it can. The longer you listen to your inner self-critic that more paralysed your life will be to responding to and embracing change.

The journey to embracing change and managing your inner self-critic is a process. It is like training for a marathon. Nobody goes and runs a marathon with no preparation and training.

Training involves you getting not only your body fit but you also getting your mind fit. Your mind has to believe that all the training that you are doing is preparing you to successfully achieve your goal – which is to run a marathon.

So you have a choice here – if you don’t manage your self-critic or self doubt then your chances of successfully achieving your goal will be limited.

The 5 Second Rule transformed my life! It is a very simple tool that allows you take control of your inner self critic and take action. If you have a desire to act on a goal or make a commitment you must take action within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it

When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.

There is a window that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. It’s a 5 second window. And it exists for everyone.

If you do not take action on your instinct to change, you will stay stagnant. You will not change.

The Bottom Line

Using the advice above will empower you to take action so you can live your life to your fullest potential – with confidence, self belief, courage and a positive outlook on life.

Your inner self-critic will never go away but by taking action and committing to making changes in your life – you will have the power to choose the conversations you have with your inner self-critic.

The 5-second rule is a powerful tool that will enable you to manage your inner self-critic in a way where the negative conversations have no influence or impact on your thinking or on your life. Your inner self-critic will definitely become a very quiet small voice in the background.

“Your inner critic is simply a part of you that needs more self-love.” ― Amy Leigh Mercree, The Compassion Revolution: 30 Days of Living from the Heart

Featured photo credit: Chad Madden via unsplash.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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