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Last Updated on July 2, 2020

Why Negative Self Talk Is Bad for You (And How to End It in 3 Steps)

Why Negative Self Talk Is Bad for You (And How to End It in 3 Steps)

Everyone I have met in my life wants unlimited opportunities, better relationships, a healthy body, a forgiving heart, a sharp mind, amazing skills, and financial security. If we all want these things, why can’t we accomplish them? The answer is simple: negative self talk.

The reason why many of us can’t get there is because we have a critical inner voice inside our head that tends to be negative and convincing.

Our inner voice is trying to convince us that we are not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to do what we want to do in life. This invisible enemy inhibits us from pursuing the life we deserve, leading to anxiety, depression, and a higher stress level.

If we want to reach our potential and improve our mental health, we have to take control of this inner voice and learn how to tame it and transform it into a positive force.

It is important for us to learn more about this negative self talk before we can tame it to become a helpful positive force. Let’s start with the 4 different types of negative self-talk.

Types of Negative Self Talk

Studies show that there are four main types of negative self talk[1]:

  1. Filtering
  2. Personalizing
  3. Catastrophizing
  4. Polarizing

Let’s go through these one-by-one.

Filtering

You magnify the negative aspect of every situation. For example, you gained three pounds this week. You focus on this, and you ignore that you have lost 20 pounds this month.

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Personalizing

You always blame yourself for everything. For example, you hear that your soccer practice got canceled, and you assume that it is canceled because no one wanted to be around you.

Catastrophizing

You always expect the worst. For example, you have a flat tire in the morning, and you automatically assume the rest of your day will be horrible.

Polarizing

You either see things as perfect or horrible. For example, you got mad at your son and lost your temper; therefore, you are a horrible parent.

Next time you catch yourself talking negatively to yourself, ask yourself:

  • Am I filtering the positive out of this issue?
  • Am I blaming myself for something that I have no control over?
  • Am I expecting the worst of this?
  • Am I seeing things as black and white?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a step back and consider what you can do to turn your thinking from negative to positive.

It is important to take control of these thoughts before they become beliefs. A belief is something that you are certain about. The sooner you address these negative thoughts, the sooner you can move your life and business forward.

3 Steps to End Negative Self Talk

It is clear that negative self talk hinders your progress and prevents you from living the life that you deserve. Here are three methods you can use daily to overcome this innate habit.

1. Respond to Your Inner Voice

In a recent HBR article, Erica Ariel Fox stated that the toughest conversations any of us can have are the ones that we have with ourselves[2].

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She mentions a story about Dominique, a high performing executive who has great self-confidence but a critical inner voice. Dominique commands everyone’s attention and respect, but not her own.

Dominique has a serious problem when she talks to her captivated audience. She has an inner voice in her head saying, “Why should they listen to you?” I’m a fraud. I can’t do this.”

Dominique’s inner voice will impact her performance if she does not learn how to turn it to positive self talk.

It is clear that Dominique is filtering out all of her positive abilities and polarizing the situation. She has a lot of good things to offer, and she is not a fraud. So, the author gives her one enormous piece of advice:

“Do not ignore your inner voice, respond to it.”

Many executives do not shy away from having hard conversations with others, but they avoid having difficult conversations with themselves.

She advises people not to ignore their negative self-talk, but to respond to it. If your inner voice says, “That was terrible parenting,” you can respond with, “I’m not a perfect parent, and I’m okay with it.” This will make you feel awkward at first, but it gets easier with time.

Instead of ignoring your negative self talk, try learning to identify and respond to it kindly. Practice positive self-talk every day. Do not allow negative self-talk to rob you of your potential.

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2. Be Kind to Yourself

Do not say anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend. We often say things to ourselves that are unkind, unfounded, and untrue.

When you are passed over for a promotion, be kind to yourself. When you forget to drop your clothes at the dry cleaner, be kind to yourself. We all make mistakes, we are all imperfect, we all have bad days, but it does not make us bad people.

When Jon Gordon[3] was 29 years old, he was facing a divorce. His wife was tired of his negativity. He made a decision to change. He developed a positive mindset, and he started to drown out negative thoughts with positive words.

This approach saved his marriage and changed his life. He encourages his readers to be kind to themselves and to be positive. Gordon understands that being positive won’t guarantee that you will succeed, but he knows that being negative will guarantee your failure and destroy your relationships.

If your friends cancel a dinner plan, don’t assume that no one wants to be around you. Stop personalizing events, and start framing it correctly. Your friends canceled your planned dinner because they are busy, and it has nothing to do with you.

Always choose to be kind to yourself. If you are having a hard time being kind to yourself, surround yourself with positive, kind people who are willing to support you and provide you with immediate kind feedback when you start having negative thoughts. Extensive research shows that positive people surround themselves with positive friends that help inspire them to be positive.

3. Stop Trying to Be Perfect

If your goal is to be perfect, you will fail. Do not expect perfection.

No one is perfect. Embrace imperfection. The key to a positive mindset is progress and not perfection. If you expect perfection, you will be allowing your negative self-talk to seep back into your mind.

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As a perfectionist, you will strive to keep everyone happy, and that is an unrealistic goal. Every time you have an argument with someone, you will keep replaying the conversations in your head over and over. These conversations will be negative in nature. If you want to stop this negative self talk, stop trying to be perfect.

Most perfectionists keep comparing themselves to other people. This habit is an official invitation to your negative self talk to reenter your mind again. Do not compare yourself to anyone. You will always find others who are better off than you.

Instead, focus on being grateful for the great things that you have.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed this in his bestselling book Airman’s Odyssey:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Be content of what you have, and stop worrying about comparing yourself to others. Always be grateful, and when you catch yourself with negative thoughts, think of all the things you are grateful for.

If you want some inspiration about what to be grateful for every day, here they are: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

The Bottom Line

Next time you catch yourself being negative, do not ignore your inner voice. Respond to it kindly, and give up the need to be perfect.

You’ve got this!

More Tips for Living a Positive Life

Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

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Luay Rahil

Luay Rahil is a speaker, and the Founder of Lead with Integrity.

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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

What is life about? What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist?

Everyone, from ancient Greek Stoics all the way to modern lifestyle gurus, have answered these kinds of questions in an endless variety of ways. And yet, we still search for a satisfying answer.

Neither this article, nor any other one, can deliver a tangible solution to the curious case of life. And that’s okay!

The truth is, part of what makes the meaning of life so alluring is its engrossing diversity, mystery, and intangibility. However, it’s important to point out that the lack of a solid answer doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for one. The search for what life is about is a journey that each individual person must embark on for themselves. Each person must look for their own, uniquely fulfilling answer to the question.

Fortunately, there are many different behaviors, ideals, and actions that humans have found over the centuries that can be excellent methods to draw us towards that final, inner conclusion of why we exist. Here are a handful of ways to kickstart the adventure of finding out just what life is really about.

1. Love People

Like life, love is one of the most commonly discussed yet, elusive things that humans encounter. Is it a behavior? A lifestyle? A person or object? A relationship with God? It’s used in all of these ways, depending on the context.

However, one thing that always remains is that love is a powerful force for good. Many of the most meaningful things in life are borne out of love — whether we’re loving things, others, or even ourselves.

One of the best ways to find the meaning of life through love is to practice connecting with our families. From parents and siblings to a spouse and children, loving our family is a powerful way to grow in our knowledge and appreciation of what life has to offer.

A spouse, children, friends, life partners, and strong platonic relationships provide a unique and powerful feeling that is difficult to find anywhere else. This is largely because they’re intimately connected to the eye-opening, natural desire to reproduce and leave our mark on the world through posterity.

2. Detox from Technology and Gain Perspective

Next up, we have the extremely important need to detox from time to time. Modern life is fraught with dangerously addicting distractions like social media, that can take up gobs of time without our ever even realizing it. And the effects can go beyond simply frittering away time. In fact, one study suggested that perhaps as much as a staggering 30% of divorces originate with Facebook interactions.[1]

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Life doesn’t simply happen in a vacuum, though. Once you’ve managed to disconnect from those devices and social profiles, it’s important to take that time and energy and redirect it towards a healthier mindset.

Spend time meditating, praying, and even simply dwelling on an attitude of gratefulness. Find things that you’re thankful for and make an effort to express appreciation for what you have on a regular basis (you know, rather than envying others as we scroll through our Facebook feeds).

One of the keystones to life that numerous wise men throughout history always hearken back to is the simple appreciation, gratefulness, and thanks that come with a good perspective.

3. Look for Meaningful Ways to Give Back

Donations and charities aren’t lacking these days. In fact, the phenomenon of charitable giving is at an all-time high. Awareness has skyrocketed in the age of information, and Americans gave a record-breaking $410.02 billion to charity in 2017 alone.[2]

But just because we know how to give doesn’t mean we’re really, truly invested in giving back to others. Real, honest giving doesn’t come out of personal abundance and overflow, nor does it typically take the form of a crisp dollar bill. It comes out of a desire to help others — a desire that can be huge in helping to get a healthy perspective of life.

If you want to find out more about life, consider genuinely giving back to the world around you. Don’t just scrounge up your extra cash and give it to a cause someone else is passionate about.

Find out where your own passions are. What needs and hurts in the world get your heart racing and your mind searching for a solution? Find those, then invest yourself. Give until it hurts. The results are exhilarating. This article can help you: How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life

4. Try a Hobby

While we’ve already talked about what we can do for others, that doesn’t mean a little self-care isn’t needed once in a while too. We’re not talking about indulging those shallow, fleeting desires like a bowl of ice-cream or a trip to the spa, though.

Small treats are perfectly fine, but they don’t go very far in helping us truly appreciate life itself. Instead, try looking for a new challenge.

A challenge can be the perfect formula for helping to open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us. They provide value without the perpetual responsibility and financial concerns that come with our careers and professional lives.

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Find a hobby that indulges your interests and simultaneously challenges your skills. Dive into a pursuit that has always intrigued or fascinated you, but you’ve never had the time to explore on your own. Practice a new instrument, go fly fishing, try painting, learn a language — the world’s your oyster! This list of 50 low-cost hobbies will inspire you.

If you’re thoughtful in your selection, you may even be able to pursue an interest that can inadvertently develop your life skills and possibly even add to your resume.[3]

5. Overcome Insecurities

Let’s circle back around to the personal, inner thoughts and behaviors. One of the critical elements to a life well lived — and thus better understood — is overcoming insecurities.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: Everyone has insecurities.

Sometimes those insecurities are a bit difficult to pin down and see for what they truly are. One of the best ways to rise above the fears and anxieties of life is to work on your insecurities. Try to practice mindfulness, look for thought patterns, analyze your behavior, and identify when you’re being influenced by insecurities.

The more you become aware of your own insecurities, the more you’ll be able to rise above them, prevent selfish behavior, and enable yourself to do things that would have been impossible before.

If you’ve been trapped in a job you don’t like, for instance, due to insecurities about financial failure or peer pressure, overcoming those insecurities at their roots will enable you to move on somewhere else, to ask for that promotion you’ve been eyeing, or even simply move horizontally within the company in order to find better work that better satisfies your personality and talents. [4]

6. Never Stop Learning

Twelve years of structured school (not to mention a mini-career arc through college after that) can leave many of us feeling like we’re done with academics, school, and learning in general.

But the truth is, learning should be a lifelong process. Healthy humans are always in a state of learning. They see what’s around them and want to learn more, understand more, and see why everything is the way it is.

This doesn’t mean you need to manufacture a desire to start reading textbooks on calculus in order to see what life is about. It’s simply an encouragement to start to take an interest in the world around you. Investigate, probe, and learn more about things that catch your interest, and your passion for learning will start to grow on its own before long.

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For instance, even if you pushed yourself all the way through a masters degree already, don’t close the book on your academic career quite yet. Consider going back to school (no matter your age) in order to get a post-master certificate. [5] This won’t just give you an edge in the professional arena; it will also serve as a way to satisfy that inherent desire to learn.

While that’s just one example out of many, the point is, it’s important to find ways to continue learning and growing on a regular basis.

7. Go Minimalist

It’s easy to hear about concepts like “minimalism” and think about extreme lifestyles, like Buddhist monks living in barren temples up in the mountains. But the truth is, minimalism is an easy lifestyle to adapt even in the cluttered, materialistic West.

If you take small steps like avoiding purchasing unnecessary new things, storing seasonal items, and generally decluttering, you can ease into a minimalist mindset without much trouble.[6]

This doesn’t just help with finances and your cleaning schedule, either. A life with less clutter often leads to a clearer, more grateful mindset. And a grateful mindset can be a key part of gaining deeper insight into what this life stuff is really about in the first place.

8. Travel

You saw this one coming, right? Those that seriously travel tend to gain a deeper perspective of life as a whole. The trick is, though, you can’t go into your travels as a fanny pack-touting tourist that’s only interested in “seeing the sights” and hitting up the pristine beaches.

Here’s a good litmus test for you: if you expect everyone to talk to you in your native language as you travel, you’re not in the right headspace.

If you take the time to travel, make sure to do so with the specific purpose of seeing the world outside of your own comfort zone. How are other cultures different from your own? How do other geographic areas affect how people live? What does a developing or war-torn country truly look like?

If you set out with this perspective, you’re much more likely to have your heart and mind opened in ways you never could have expected.

9. Try to Be More Aware

Finally, we have one last, gigantic call to action: be more aware.

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If a person can truly foster the ability to pay attention to everything around them, they develop the ability to break free from the self-centered mindset that all humans naturally slip into when we’re not paying attention.

Just to clarify, this isn’t a call not to pay attention to your own thoughts and needs. They’re important too. In fact, the Dalai Lama said,

“One must be compassionate to one’s self before external compassion.”

Whether it’s ourselves at first or others afterward, truly developing the ability to be aware of and empathize with the life that goes on in and around us is a critical part of understanding just why we’re all alive in the first place.

So, What Exactly Is Life About?

Hopefully, by this point, you don’t really expect an absolute answer to that question. On the other hand, you may not feel it’s a hopeless inquiry, either.

Remember, the reason we don’t have a good answer about what life is about is that it’s too complex to fit into words in the first place!

The complexities and nuances of a “good life” are so profound that they take an entire lifetime of exploration — both of ourselves and the world around us — to even begin to formulate an answer. And even then, we’ve typically only scratched the surface.

When you break it down, the meaning of life is so deep and valuable, it’s worth chasing, even if the end goal is only to catch a glimpse of the glory that keeps us all moving forward day after day.

More About the Meaning of Life

Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

Reference

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