How do you talk to yourself? Is the voice in your head kind and compassionate? Or is it harsh and cruel? What words do you use to speak to yourself? Would you direct those same words towards a friend?
I think we can all agree that it is not okay to call someone else horrible names, but many of us don’t hesitate to do exactly that to ourselves. Young children can recognise bullying and the vast majority of them know that it is not okay to bully anyone, ever, but many of us adults beat ourselves up and put ourselves down on a daily basis. It needs to stop.
Being aware of our self talk is the first step towards changing it. A lot of our internal dialogue is on autopilot. We are letting it play, listening to it as if it’s valid, absorbing it, allowing it to change our mood and set off a cascade of negative emotions without ever stopping to check whether it’s acceptable or not. Our thoughts are just our thoughts, they’re not always true or right or valid, we create them and we do not have to accept them.
The next time you’re feeling yourself spiralling into negative self talk, to start with, try to be more aware of it, recognise that it’s negative and just observe it. Try to step back from the thoughts and observe them rather than getting consumed by them and allowing them to trigger a cascade of emotions.
By separating yourself from negative self talk you are acknowledging that it’s not really you, it’s just your insecurities and doubts bubbling to the surface. Everyone has these thoughts but only some of us choose to listen to them and believe them to be true.
To start with, try to move towards being more accepting of yourself. You do not have to love yourself or suddenly become the most confident person in the world, but try to be neutral about aspects of yourself you have previously disliked. Remember – if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.