Back in May, I wrote about the negative internal talk I experience. For a long time, it was the loudest voice in my head. We all engage in self-talk daily. All day; every day. The self-talk can be positive, or in my case, it can be detrimental. When it takes a negative turn, it brings our mood and motivation down. When we engage with positive self-talk, we embrace a loving relationship with ourselves.
It’s hard to shift our negative self-talk into a more positive one: when we are used to the talk being a particular way, especially when it’s become background noise, it’s hard to know how to change the internal narrative. What this requires is a mindful practice, self-compassion, and gratitude for the moments we’re able to shift to a positive dialogue.
It’s going to take time and practice. But we can do it because we have the desire to have a healthier inner life.
Shifting Negative Self-Talk to Positive
As John Gary Bishop wrote in Unf*ck Yourself, engaging in positive self-talk isn’t going to be last stop on your self-improvement train. Rather, it’s positive actions that get you to improve, not thoughts. But, I would argue that shifting away from self-defeating talk helps motivate us into those positive actions.
If you walk around believing you can’t do something, chances are you won’t take the risk to try it, or set yourself for failure from the beginning. You fall into the trap of confirmation bias: I believe I can’t do this, I don’t succeed as I thought; therefore, I am right. I can’t do this.
So how do we shift away from the negative self-talk? One way is to be aware that it is happening. My negative self-talk was such background noise that I don’t think I was fully aware of it happening at the moment. I had gotten so used to it buzzing in the back of my mind that when something confirmed the negative noise, I would say, “of course, this happens. Of course, I messed up.”
When we take a more mindful approach to our internal dialogue, the thoughts that operated in the background come to the front of our mind, loud and clear. I sat for thirty seconds, engaging in mindful practice when no fewer than five separate negative thoughts popped into my consciousness that I wasn’t even aware of. I was able to address each of them with loving kindness so they would quiet down before the next set popped up.
Now that I knew these negative thoughts existed, I could hear them more clearly when they popped up again during non-mindful moments. I could address them directly again until they eventually quieted down altogether.
By having a heightened awareness of the thoughts and what they are trying to say, we can find the best ways to counter them. The quieter the negative thoughts become, the louder the loving thoughts get. Those, we want to encourage as much as possible.
The Advantage to Openness
When you grow more open to yourself, you become more open to your deepest thoughts and feelings about yourself. You create a more realistic image of yourself, and hopefully can see yourself as others see you.
Which can be a terrifying thought in of itself, but if we want to change, we want to have the self-awareness to know what needs to change. By being open to your inner life, you can see how it affects your external life on an unconscious level.
You may surprise yourself with what you learn. That leads me to an important question.
What do you Want to Learn about Yourself?
It’s an easy enough question, but we don’t often ask it because we might not be willing or ready for the answer. But the answer is important if you want to change your internal narrative from negative to positive.
I asked this question of myself back in January, and I did not like the answer: I am an echoist. This means I struggle to express my own opinions, I don’t want to be a burden to others, and I have an intense fear of coming across as selfish. I had a weak sense of identity, which leads me to engage in toxic relationships because that’s what I thought I deserved.
It was a blow to my ego, but it was so enlightening. It placed my internal dialogue, life decisions, and behavior in relationships into proper perspective. I was finally able to see myself as others saw me.
Because I answered this question and worked with all the associated implications of that answer, I finally addressed the negative dialogue in my head. I could start nurturing my own identity, which is confident and independent and does not accept the negative internal talk.
I unraveled one of the final pieces of my personal puzzle. Healing could begin.
So, what is it that you want to learn about yourself?
You may not arrive at an answer right away, it will take time as you peel back the layers, but you might be able to find a temporary solution until another one pops up. The answer will be different for each of us, and what you do with that answer will be different too.
Engaging in Positive Self-Talk
For the rest of this week, take time to address your negative dialogue and flip it into positive self-talk. See what it feels like when you engage in the positivity. Do you feel better? Do you feel calmer?
Hopefully, you’ll arrive at a positive place which can help you make healthier decisions for yourself and push you forward in your wellness journey.
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