How Can You Break the Cycle of Negative Self-talk?
How we see ourselves and how we see the world have a great deal to do with one another. In other words, our internal world and our external one is intricately interlinked. If you have ever taken a moment to sit quietly, it won't be long before you notice that you are most likely not quiet at all.
Our mind is deluged with thoughts of every nature: “What do I have to do next?”, “Hey, what is that smell?”, “Oh no, I forgot to send that email” and “Hmm, I wonder what’s for lunch today” might all feature simultaneously in the span of a few seconds. Imagine what goes on in there then, every second of every day since you first knew what thoughts were.Out in the world, we represent ourselves through our actions, i.e. our behavior, but our internal world is represented by how we speak to ourselves, i.e. our thoughts.
We humans think over several thousand thoughts a day, and their content – both trivial and significant – have an impact on how our day(s) will go. Unfortunately, man is a creature of habit and most of our days are spent in autopilot mode, riding the path of least resistance and reinforcing the same thoughts, whether they are helpful or not, over and over again. Sometimes it is difficult to even recognize when we are stuck in a rut of our negative thoughts until it goes to an extent where it has already affected something big in the external world, like causing friction in your relationships or reduced productivity at work or an overall feeling of being unhappy.
Here are a few signs that your negative self-talk is affecting you and needs to be addressed:
You wake up most mornings and are almost instinctively not looking forward to the day.
You feel worthless, like you can’t accomplish anything or that it doesn’t matter even if you can.
You spend a lot of time yearning and think about yourself in an alternate life situation drastically different from the one you are in.
You find yourself stopping tasks before you have even started.
You feel anger towards yourself and your (real or perceived) weaknesses.
You feel resentment towards other people who seem to have things figured out or think that other people are probably happier than you.
You are hard on yourself whenever you have failed at something and find it difficult to let it go.
You find it hard to keep your emotions in balance and find yourself reacting often.
You feel very alone in your suffering and that no one will be able to understand what you’re going through.
You are afraid to try something lest you fail, and others judge you and you judge yourself.
The truth is that every person has insecurities, and that is perfectly all right and makes us human. It is not even unusual to go through phases thinking and feeling negatively about ourselves and our lives, but it is dangerous when your negative thoughts have managed to overtake you as the driver. There is no shortcut to feeling better, however. A lot has gone into making you feel negative and it will take special effort to come out of these patterns of thinking. The good news is that the way to deal with negative self-talk may take a while to get a hang of but is actually immensely enjoyable. The answer is self-compassion.
What you need most when you think negatively is to take care of yourself, much the same way you would take care of a friend. When your friend is going through a hard time and is having a tough time being positive, do you constantly degrade them and point out their weaknesses until you further break their spirit? If you’re a good friend, probably not. Instead, you would probably shower them with encouragement and support, special care for these extra-hard times, you would use humor and joy, and tell them they’re not alone. You might take them on a few outings to places they love, do things they enjoy, and listen to their stories intently and without judgment, just love.
When you learn how to treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend, you have learnt self-compassion and the art that counters negative self-talk, because it is not possible for you to be extremely judgmental of yourself when you have already accepted yourself, warts and all. There cannot be true resentment towards others when you recognize that everybody is struggling in their own way, and there’s just a little less pain when you can realize that it is okay to be going through what you’re going through. Self-compassion teaches you that it is okay to be yourself, with your weaknesses and your suffering, without judgment and without shame. When you can accept and love yourself, your loving thoughts will have no option but to follow suit, which in turn will reflect in your behavior, which will affect how the world responds to you, and lead you to right back to your loving thoughts.
Before you know it, you’ve formed a new cycle of thinking where your mind is your friend like you are.