engaging-in-positive-self-talk

Engaging in Positive Self-Talk

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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Featured photo credit: Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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Learning to Trust Yourself

We’re always told that trust is earned. People must earn our trust if they are going to become friends or lovers, and trust must be regained if broken. Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves, and in our abilities. Or maybe we never learned to trust ourselves at all. I realized that the moment I stopped trusting myself was the moment I allowed self-doubt, insecurity, and anger take over my life. I had to learn how to trust myself again.

Lack of self-trust hinders our abilities to do essential tasks. Second-guessing, negative internal self-talk, and desire to avoid all interfere with our lives. When we don’t trust ourselves, it can stall our plans.

Self-Doubt Prohibits Trust

As children, we were taught to trust in our abilities by our guardians. I am doing this daily for Jai: when he encounters a particular obstacle that he does not believe he can overcome, I reassure and coach him through the steps to overcome it. Because I can see the bigger picture, I know what he can do without me and when I should step in. By granting him the opportunity to learn to trust himself in these moments, he’ll have a better awareness of his abilities.

Life slowly ebbs away the self-trust you built in childhood.

You take one too many blows to your ego; you deal with bullies at home, school, or work; you feel like you fail more often than you succeed. If you have a chronic illness, it might temporarily take physical or mental abilities, which is demoralizing. You reach a self-trust breaking point.

When this happens, we inhabit spaces of the doubt more often than areas of self-trust. It prevents us from taking the necessary steps to get better.

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When Others Influence our Self-Doubt

I forgot about the pull of peer-influence as an adult. It’s still there, in my life like it’s always been, but I’ve learned to tune it out better or deceive myself into thinking that others aren’t influencing my actions. It wasn’t until Jai started mimicking other children that I remembered how significant the influence of others can be in our lives. Self-doubt comes within, but others can influence it as well.

Sometimes friends or family members repeat a concern out of love, but it isn’t delivered appropriately. Other times, people will behave with the intent to bring us down emotionally so they might lift themselves up.

If you experience internalized self-doubt and couple it with externalized behavior of others, it can become extremely discouraging.

When Self-Doubt is Influenced by Others

My external sources of self-doubt aren’t distinct. To be honest, I don’t even believe these sources know they are doing it. As it is for us: we don’t sometimes recognize when we’re bringing someone else down, possibly feeding into their negative internal narrative.

I’ve had people want to help in certain areas of my life only to lose interest when I take them up on it. It’s somewhat discouraging and leaves me feeling bad because I asked for help and inconvenienced them. This plays into my self-doubt because I hate being a burden on others.

I often stop myself from trying something new or different if it requires me asking others for help.

I know someone who has to be the smartest person in the room. It’s infuriating because it’s clear they are insecure about their own abilities. I am often left in awe by the scope of their knowledge on a particular subject that I have little interest in. But when they talk about it with such expertise and enthusiasm, I find myself invested.

When there is knowledge/interest overlap, and I am more knowledgeable on a subject, this individual nitpicks at the minor mistakes I make (often revolves around correcting my spelling in a hastily composed text). They will slide in with “corrections” if they think I got a factoid wrong, though often they are wrong in their corrections. I learned from previous encounters not to say anything because they won’t let it drop, regularly sending me a message many hours later pointing out how they are technically correct.

Coupled with my MS, I find this behavior extremely discouraging. My memory already is spotty, and so I’ve been humbled to no longer trust myself when it comes to information. To have someone pick away at my knowledge base so they might feel better about themselves makes me feel awful.

Choosing not to Listen

We have two choices when it comes to these external influences to our self-doubt: listen to them or not listen to them. I am going to advocate to not listen to them if they make you feel bad.

Sometimes others provide us with excellent objective insight that is worth considering, but we’re discussing the moments their input negatively exacerbates self-doubt.

When I feel bad about asking for help, I found alternative solutions to my situation. Many of these solutions propelled me forward in ways I hadn’t expected. Allowing myself to be tethered to asking for help was holding me back. When I removed the external source of self-doubt, I removed that instance of doubt in my life.

For the person who needs to be smarter than me: I still find it irritating to get caught in a conversation with them, but I no longer allow them to tear me down. Rather than revealing my knowledge on a subject (fortunately they don’t remember what I am knowledgeable about, so this is easy), I just play along with that they are presenting me with new information. I reflect the conversation back and work on being compassionate to their insecurity.

I won’t say it’s easy. I still have my moments where I complain to Ash about them and how irritated I feel about my treatment, but it’s getting more tolerable with each interaction.

If I don’t engage with their behavior, I have no reason to start doubting my memory or intelligence. I consciously make the decision not to give them the opportunity to make me feel bad about myself.

Letting Go of the Negativity

When others exert their influence on us, even unconsciously, it’s because they have their own negativity they have to work through. They may reach a point where they can do so, or they may never get there.

Unfortunately, it’s up to us to forgive them for their behavior towards us. Just like we must forgive ourselves for our mistakes, we must forgive them even when they don’t apologize. When we don’t forgive them, we allow the hurt and pain they cause to continue.

To be clear: forgiveness is not saying their behavior is “okay.” It’s no longer giving power to their action to continue to hurt us emotionally/mentally. When we allow others to feed into our self-doubt, we give them precious head and heart-space. Our time is better spent elsewhere, like taking care of ourselves in our chronic illness.

These people will continue to hurt us, and we will need to continue to forgive them. Hopefully, you will be able to get to a point to either excise them from your life or, it no longer bothers you.

Make the decision no longer let others influence your self-doubt. You don’t need to tell them that you are forgiving them, in fact, unless they ask, there’s no point in saying anything to them. Hopefully, you’ll find the interactions easier once you stop giving into the negativity.

With forgiveness, embrace compassion towards them if you can. These external influences are hurting in their own ways. Understand that their inability to help you or insecurity in their personal life impacts how they behave. It isn’t your fault they are like that, they have ineffective coping mechanisms.

It’s not your job to fix them, but your responsibility to protect yourself. Stay focused on keeping your mind healthy and out of the negative influence of others.


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The Internal Voice of Self-Doubt

In May, I discussed growing up with a negative internal voice and the long-term damage it caused in my adulthood. This voice shaped my inner monologue that I still listen to today, which impacted my ability to have meaningful relationships with others. Additionally, this voice is the source of my internal self-doubt.

I hear this voice the loudest when I am working on essential tasks that require self-motivation. If I am training for a run, it’s that voice that tells me I can’t make it up a hill without stopping. I try to combat it by setting mini-goals, “if I make it to that lamp post, I can walk.” If I focus too much on that mini-goal in the distance, the voice will sometimes win out by stating again (and again) that it’s too far away. I’ll stop to walk because I cannot cut through the discouragement.

I give into that voice more often than I would like.

You may not struggle with self-doubt as much as I do, which I hope remains the case for you throughout your life. But if you do, even for a little bit, I hope you’ll find some comfort and reassurance in these posts.

The Internal Voice of Doubt

For many, self-doubt comes from a childhood where the child grew up to believe they weren’t good enough. Children of narcissistic parents or parents with narcissistic tendencies often struggle with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. These parents made the child feel like they were never good enough, and when this happens, the child struggles to regulate their feelings of self-doubt.

My self-doubt voice grew the loudest in graduate school and immediately after my MS diagnosis. I ended up coupling chronic illness with my self-doubt to give myself more excuses as to why I couldn’t do something.

I can’t do this because of my fatigue. I can’t do that because of my MS memory issues. Why did I think I was capable of starting this project? I am never going to be good enough to get a job in this field, so why am I trying?

I gave into this voice so much that it stalled all progress in the program and nearly prevented me from going out and achieving my professional goals. While MS may not have created my self-doubt, it helped exacerbate it.

Getting Stuck

Reading Gary John Bishop’s book, Unf*ck Yourself, was an eye-opener for me. Bishop’s point about staying in our comfort zones resonated with my moments of self-doubt: when we stay in our ruts, we don’t challenge ourselves. When we don’t challenge ourselves, we are listening to an internal voice that says we can’t (or won’t) succeed.

Our self-doubt hates change. It hates to be challenged. When we hear that voice yelling that we can’t make it up a hill during a run, it’s saying that our task is too hard even if it’s for our own good.

Self-doubt saves us from unfamiliarity.

Those in high-powered careers or in graduate schools may have heard the term “imposter syndrome.” You start to doubt your abilities or knowledge so much that you find it extremely difficult to move forward.

Or, if you don’t deal with imposter syndrome, then perhaps you struggle to take positive feedback from others. Each time you receive a compliment, you deflect it or denigrate yourself because you don’t believe what is being said about you.

Whether it’s imposter syndrome or unable to take a compliment, both stem from being too afraid to see ourselves as worthy of anything. Self-doubt keeps us stuck and wanting to move forward because we believe we aren’t worth it.

Listening to the Wrong Voice

You know the phrase “squeaky wheel gets the oil,” right?

Unfortunately, our internal voice of self-doubt tends to be extremely loud, therefore sucks up most of our attention. Sometimes, it’s hard to ignore or brush that voice aside. If you are dealing with self-doubt that carries over from childhood like me, then it can be pretty painful to listen to and indulge that voice.

Yet, that voice is probably keeping you from making the changes you want to make in your life. Your chronic illness exacerbates this voice. Unfortunately, the solution is finding a way to either ignore or work around that voice so it becomes a muffle. The unfortunate part is that this won’t be an easy task to do.

Like running up that hill during my training, we’re about to embark on a challenge that will have you wanting to stop before reaching your goal. Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss some tools and examples of calming that voice of self-doubt.

Know that you are not alone in this journey. You are worth taking these steps, despite what that voice might tell you.


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Featured photo credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


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Embracing our Imperfections through Forgiveness

At the beginning of the month, I discussed hating self-improvement. That’s still true: I hate having to do things for my own good. One of the many reasons why I dislike it is because self-improvement dredges up imperfections. When I hold up a mirror to myself, I see all the things I want to change and feel discouraged by what I must do. Self-compassion teaches that we should embrace our imperfections, specifically with self-forgiveness.

We desire to get as healthy as we can given our situation.

One way to do that is to move beyond what we view as imperfection. If you are like me and take each “imperfection” as a personal slight, there is a lot of resentment built up for yourself. In these moments it’s important to say “I’m sorry” to yourself, whether you mean it or not.

So at this moment, let’s collectively say “we’re sorry” and begin the process of healing.

Embracing our Imperfections

In my posts about self-compassion, I write about the importance of accepting our destiny to be imperfect beings. I’ve learned this the hard way. I grew up viewing my imperfections as blights rather than as opportunities for growth.

When I realized I needed to embrace my imperfection, I took a moment to apologize to myself, whether I needed to or not.

At first, I felt like the apologies were unnecessary. Why should I apologize for having a perfectly natural emotion, like anger? I don’t have to apologize for that moment I was socially awkward. I was apologizing for the wrong things to start: I wasn’t getting to the heart of the matter. But by beginning the process, I could see the moments where the self-apology was necessary.

I realized that I wasn’t actually apologizing for the anger. Anger is a normal emotion, and there is no need to apologize for it. But the consequence of my passion, the fallout where I spent hours berating myself for a small mistake. That I had to apologize to myself for. Each moment I engaged in self-destructive behavior, I owed myself an apology.

The behavior I engaged in would be unacceptable if a friend, family member, or stranger did it to me. Why should I accept the bullying behavior from myself?

If you’ve found that you mistreated yourself for whatever reason, consider taking a few minutes to apologize. Say it internally or externally. It can be as quick or as long as you need. But consider saying “I’m sorry,” to yourself.

Forgiveness as a Tool

When you apologize to yourself, forgiveness becomes a valuable tool. Studies reveal that the act of forgiveness lowers stress and helps aid in managing chronic illnesses. Forgiveness is self-compassion, where it provides us with an opportunity to heal and embrace ourselves as we are at this moment.

Let’s discuss what forgiveness is not: it is not about the pasting getting away with its actions; letting others get away with an injustice; nor is it about completely discarding personal pain.

Forgiveness is about no longer allowing the past having a negative hold on us. The past serves as an opportunity to inform our present and future, but we can let go of the control it has on us.

We extend compassion towards those who hurt us, especially ourselves when we embrace forgiveness. In these moments, we are giving up a lot of control, as holding onto the pain and resentment is a form of unhealthy control, and allowing ourselves to heal.

When you start to forgive yourself, hopefully, you’ll experience the consequence of getting out of a personal rut. You may find that all you are mentally waiting for is that apology and opportunity to say, “I forgive you.”

Forgiveness in Daily Life

Next time you have a moment of personal frustration, say you flubbed something due to memory fog or fatigue. You spend the next five minutes mentally ripping yourself a new one.

Stop. Take a breath. And say “I’m sorry for being so upset for that flub. I recognize it wasn’t necessarily your fault and you didn’t mean anything by it.” Say what you might want to hear from someone else.

Then stop again. Listen to those words and hold them in your emotional center. Say “I forgive you.”

Try not just to say it. Mean it. Forgive yourself for each perceived transgression you experience in the day. Open up your emotional center and feel the love that comes with forgiveness. Each time you start down a negative path, actively say, “I forgive you,” to yourself.

Use forgiveness as a stress-relief tool in your kit for combating your chronic illness. With some practice, you’ll find it will be easier to achieve daily. Recognize that you are worthy of your own love and compassion.


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