Have you ever been plagued by negative self talk or doubt? Perhaps you have refrained from applying for a job as you believe that you are under-qualified for it, opting instead of pursuing more modest opportunities. This is a clear reflection of low self-esteem, while it also highlights the role that our thought processes play in creating our own reality.
This was also explored by an interesting study from 2013, which showed that women who had a poor body image and considered themselves to be fat often squeezed sideways through doorways, despite the fact that they were relatively slim and had ample room to move through.
How to Tame Negative self talk
While defining the problem is easy, however, resolving it is far more difficult. It is important to resist the urge to eliminate self-talk (which can also be used for positive affirmation), and instead understand how this can be controlled and used to influence our outlook for the better. Here are some steps towards achieving this:
1. Use ‘You’ or your name to create distance and objectivity
One of the main issues with self talk is the use of the pronoun ‘I’, as this creates subjectivity and touches innumerable emotional triggers. It is far better to use your own name or ‘you’ in this instance, as it instantly establishes a sense of distance while enabling you to provide more objective and constructive self-advice. This underlines the subtle science of self talk and allows you to use this as a method for delivering informed feedback.
2. Give clear, concise and instructional self talk
If the first steps helps us to create distance, the second allows us to leverage this to deliver concise and instructional self talk. Delivery is all important, as allowing yourself to mumble and share negative thoughts simply creates further doubt while offering no positive resolutions.
Here’s a personal example. After being promoted at work, I sought to create distance and began to think objectively about why this may have been the case. Self talk then enabled me to consider these as single, concise points, providing insight and offering instructional advice on how to improve myself in the future.
3. Use present tense messages to create a forward-thinking outlook
On a similar note, you often find that negative self talk is characterised by introspection and reflection on past experiences. It also tends to focus on mistakes that have prevented you from achieving a personal or career goal in the past, creating an overwhelming sense of fear that is hard to escape from.
You can negate this by using present tense messages when engaging in self talk, focusing on what can be done in the moment and adapting your outlook to create a forward-thinking outlook. If you have had a job application rejected in the post, for example, internalise reactionary steps that can drive progress (such as asking for feedback from the employer or identifying new opportunities) rather than dwelling on what has gone before.
4. Turn self talk into an inner conversation
Another issue with self talk is that it can become extremely introspective, meaning that we forget to challenge negative thoughts and comments. If we consider self-talk as more of an internalised, two-way conversation between alternative viewpoints, however, it is possible use this as a platform for proactive problem solving.
For example, whenever negative self talk statements such as ‘I can’t’ enter your mind, you should respond this immediately with ‘why not?’ This forces you to consider the initial, negative statement more objectively, while challenging you to uncover solutions rather than focusing solely on the problem in hand.
This provides a quick transition from abstract negativity to constructive positive thinking, helping you to cope when negative thoughts inevitably spring to mind.
5. Externalise your self talk in writing
Throughout history, studies have shown that the externalisation of angst and negativity has a positive impact on everything from anger management to treating life-threatening illnesses. Writing is a particularly effective vehicle, thanks to the distance that we create with the written word and the sense of anonymity that it afford us.
In this respect, externalising negative self talk by committing it to paper is an excellent idea. You can do this through a regular journal or sporadic letters to yourself, so long as you read these documents and provide an outlet for your negativity. For those of you who are courageous and dealing with a specific source of negativity, you may even want to consider publishing your thoughts in a publicly accessible blog.
The key is that you are comfortable with the format, and willing to externalise your negativity in an open and progressive manner.
Featured photo credit: Kevin Lee via stocksnap.io