Whether you realize it or not you probably engage in negative self-talk frequently. We steal our own power with limiting questions and statements, such as:
- Why does this always happen to me?
- I’m always late!
- Why do I always fail?
- I work so hard and have nothing to show for it.
- Why can’t I lose weight.
- He/she always has to push my buttons and make me mad!
These are just a few. If you spend a day observing your thoughts you’ll likely find others. But fear not! You are not alone. You are not a loser. You’ve just had a lot of practice at it. And you can change the way you think. If you practice new empowering questions, you will be able to change your life for the better! You’re going to be amazed at how powerful this is!
Why Do We Engage in Negative Self Talk?
If we know why we do things, then we have the power to change them. So why do we have such a negative bias in our thinking? One reason is that we learn from others to talk like this both out loud and inside our head. It’s also part of our nature to be judging. We constantly judge our environment, others, and ourselves. And as I mentioned before, the more we do it, the “better” we get at it.
You Can’t Hurt Me If I Hurt Myself First
Another reason is to protect ourselves. If I put myself down, I beat everyone else to the punch. If I put myself down first then you can’t hurt me because I already did it first. So there is a defensive element to it as well.
Being Negative Seems Easier
Lastly, let’s face it, we all lead busy, exhausting lives. In addition our normal cycles of low energy days, skipped meals, and not enough sleep all set us up for plenty of tired moments when we are sapped of energy. When we feel tired it may seem easier to throw in the towel with our thinking. The problem there is that it actually drags you down further, using up more energy. If you’re tired, better to acknowledge the lack of energy and postpone any challenging work that you can until you’ve rested.
Let’s Power Up!
How do you stop the negative chatter in your head? How do you establish a new habit?
The Old Formula
- Ask questions, make statements that assume continued unending failure.
- Negate or ignore all past successes or progress towards success.
The New Power Formula:
- Ask questions that require solutions as an answer.
- All statements/questions will have an underlying assumption that success is possible and will happen if you take the right steps.
- Avoid statements that use “I always….” or “I never….” in a negative way.
- Ask questions that require an honest assessment.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this.
Example 1: You’re running late to work, again!
Old Formula: “I’m always late. I can never get anywhere on time!”
New Formula: “I can’t change what is in the past, but I can change my future. What do I need to do to be on time?”
Then take the steps you come up with such as:
- Prepare ahead of time.
- Keep all my items I need to bring with my by a table by the front door.
- Allow for transitions time (getting into the car, parking, buffer time for traffic)
- Plan to arrive 15-20 minutes early and bring a book if I have to wait.
Example 2: Someone you spend a lot of time with really bothers you and you frequently get very upset/angry/emotional etc.
Old Formula: “Ooo! Suzy just drives me crazy. She pushes my buttons and makes me so angry!”
New Formula: “I don’t like how Suzy acts, but I can’t control her. I can only control myself. What can I do to not get upset by her?”
Then take the steps you come up with such as:
- Accept that you can’t change another person.
- Understand that you have control over your emotions. You have the CHOICE to not get angry.
- Set up non-confrontational things you can say to Suzy in the future such as “Ill be happy to work with you on this, but if you are going to yell or call me names I won’t be able to help you.”
- Prepare mentally, visualize how you will remain calm when Suzy does the things that normally get you upset. (I once had a person in my life that was so toxic and I couldn’t avoid this person. I imagined a force-field that protected me from her barbs and insults. I cultivated compassion for her instead of hatred. Over time, it really worked!)
- Perhaps, if the situation is bad enough, work towards taking steps to not have Suzy in your life anymore or perhaps at more of a distance.
- Assume you will succeed and keep asking yourself how to get there. Write down the steps and do it. Not for Suzy, but for you! Choose happiness. Over time that will become your new habit. Not always easy but definitely doable.
Lastly, give yourself credit for doing a better job with your Power Thinking! Write it down in a a journal or treat yourself to something special when you start making a new habit.
Power Thinking needs to be worked on all our lives, but the more we do it, the more natural and easy it is!
Where can you use this technique in your life? We’d love to hear from you!
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