The key to dealing with any kind of negative thinking is to realize that you are ultimately in charge of whether to listen to or agree with any thought. ~ Jack Canfield
Negative self-talk has many hazardous consequences. It can increase our stress, limit our potential, and color our experiences with negativity.
Did you know that studies (Gallup) show that up to 70% of our daily self-talk is negative? That would mean that only 30% of our daily self-talk – our inner dialogue – is positive.
Why is our self-talk negative?
How we learn to communicate with ourselves begins when we are very young. Feedback we get from those around us whom we see as important – primarily our parents, friends, and teachers – becomes what we believe about ourselves. These beliefs can exist without any evidence that they are accurate.
Beliefs shape our self-talk, which in turn affects our self-esteem.
When I was in middle school, I had a music teacher who told me I couldn’t read music. Even though I went on to study music in high school and college, I always doubted my ability when it came to sight-reading. I would tell myself that I couldn’t do it, and I was always right. I believed what she had said.
When we start to believe the negative comments we hear about ourselves, regardless of whether they are remotely accurate, we begin to own them. Then, over time, we get really good at allowing negative thoughts to take over. It just sort of snowballs from there.
So, how can we just stop this defeatist cycle? How can we decrease our negative self-talk and move to a habit of positive self-talk instead?
Take a Bath!
To make self-talk positive, we must change what goes into our subconscious.
Try this — when you catch yourself giving yourself negative feedback, take a bath. I don’t mean literally (though that couldn’t hurt). I mean more figuratively. Take a positive mental break.
Take a break in your mind and recall an event where you were outrageously successful. Think about how it made you feel. What were you doing, thinking, and feeling? Replay that event in your mind. This will snap your mind into a positive mode and encourage positive self-talk about your current situation and state of mind.
In short, we can begin to harness our mental power by taking an active role in choosing not only what to think, but also increasing the positive messages we send to ourselves.
You may find at first this positive memory recall is difficult. With practice, the events will be easier to recall in your present situation. Remembering back to a time and experience when you were happy, successful, and fulfilled really will help you practice more positive self-talk. This exercise can be very powerful. Try it and watch how it changes the way you feel.
The next time you find yourself stressing about something or deciding you’re not up to a challenge, stop and take a bath. Recall a positive experience and begin increasing your own positive self-talk.
For individual communication and career coaching, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. Each coaching program can be custom-tailored to your specific needs and goals including personal communication to career development to becoming a better team leader or mentor.
Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.