Did I just say that?
Negative self-talk kills our self-esteem. It can destroy our good childhood memories and change them forever if we don’t stop them.
I remember camping and boating nearly every weekend when I was young. My father would drive the camper to Lake Lanier in North Georgia, then pull his boat up to it.
There were no cell phones so it was only family bonding time (2 adults and 5 kids). Our treat was to go water skiing. Both my younger and older brother was quite good. They would even go together at the same time. For me, I was just proud that I could pull my body up, ride and jump the waves like the boys. I was young, thin, athletic, determined and fearless. Don’t get me wrong, I am still determined and fearless, just not so young, thin, and athletic anymore.
Looking back at this picture … I should remember all the amazing memories. Instead, I have caught myself saying, “Wow, I didn’t realize my thighs were so big!”. Did I really just say that? I mean, instead of thinking how proud I was back then, my first thought was my thighs (and they were solid muscle) … no, no, no… this isn’t right.
Stop Negative Self-Talk Before It Takes Over
As humans, we’re sometimes very hard on ourselves. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, our beliefs can sometimes be very damaging to our self-esteem. Unfortunately, these negative talking points in our heads sometimes keep us stuck in a rut. A great psychologist, Albert Ellis, had many tokens of wisdom to pass around. One of his ideas centralized around these negative thoughts, which he often referred to as irrational beliefs. Discover how you can stop this vicious circle and turn your self-talk into words that support and encourage you, instead.
Pay Attention to Triggers
The first step to stopping negative self-talk is figuring out what is triggering these negative beliefs in the first place.
Ellis called these so-called triggers “activating events.” These can be everyday occurrences that happen to us or around us. Anything from having your boss or supervisor yell at you and take away your project to experiencing a run-in collision with a deer on a country road can be an activating event. Are you in conflict with another? Did something not go your way?
Further, triggers can also be incredibly personal to you and unique to your life. These are sometimes referred to as “red flags.” Red flags are issues that pertain to you alone, such as your weight, family and close relationships, integrity, and anything else that you deem sacred. When these issues get raised, they immediately set off an alarm within you.
Identify Irrational Beliefs
These irrational beliefs are the real culprits behind why we get upset or angry at the triggers we’ve just experienced, according to Albert Ellis. It’s not the trigger itself, but the beliefs that cause negative self-talk. Ellis claimed that these irrational beliefs are responsible for our emotional states, also known as the consequences of our beliefs. In this way, by identifying and then changing these beliefs, we can experience fewer emotional consequences.
For example, let’s look at this process:
- You just learned that you got turned down for a promotion at work.
- Getting turned down for the promotion is the activating event or trigger.
- The underlying thoughts or irrational beliefs you might be having include,
- “I’m never going to advance my career,”
- “My boss hates me,” or even
- “My boss is never fair to me.”
- These beliefs or thoughts can lead to emotional consequences of sadness and depression.
Dispute Irrational Beliefs
The idea behind identifying these negative, irrational beliefs is so you can do something to change them.
You can change them by challenging these beliefs. This is a process of examining the truth and reality and seeing that it is different from your belief.
In the prior example of getting turned down for a promotion, a series of questions can be asked to help you sort through reality from these irrational beliefs. You want to challenge yourself by asking questions that are almost the opposite of your identified beliefs.
Some of these challenge questions may be:
- What is the truth in this situation?
- Do I have evidence to support that my current beliefs are true?
- In the example above: Are there times when my boss has been fair?
- Is it true that I’ll never advance in my career, or is this just a minor setback?
These questions can help you identify the truth from what you may erroneously believe or negatively think about a situation.
If you can identify the truth, this can lead you to think differently and avoid suffering the emotional consequences of the trigger in the first place.
Follow this process whenever you notice thoughts that are unkind to you. Change your beliefs and you’ll find your self-talk becoming words of encouragement, instead.
Peace and Blessings,