I used to think of myself as a disorganized, hot mess of a person who couldn’t get anything done on time or keep my surroundings clean. I pretended to “own it” and be okay with it on the outside when, for example, I walked into the classroom and see everyone else handing in a ten-page assignment that I had no idea existed because I forgot to check the online schedule for that week and missed the day that they discussed the due dates. However, despite being able to laugh it off on the outside, I had deep feelings of shame and inadequacy and a voice inside my head would berate me saying “why are you surprised this happened? You’re a total mess who’s never going to be successful in the real world. You’re never going to get it together, you idiot. Your kid isn’t going to be successful either, because they have a terrible example of a mother.” And so on.
Never mind that I walked in with a two week old baby in a stretchy wrap, and missed that important class because I was giving birth. Logic doesn’t actually matter to those negative thoughts about yourself.
Negative self talk
We hear stories of gorgeous, slender supermodels who think that they’re hideous and fat. Hilarious, fun to be around friends who think that no one actually likes them or wants to be around them. Other moms you look up to because they are your ideal of a great parent who feel like total failures at life.
I hear it all the time from people I love.
“This subject really fascinates me, but I hate school and I’m not good at studying.”
“I HAVE to work this minimum wage, third shift job that I hate because it’s the only thing I’m qualified for.”
“I can’t make friends because I’m weird and I have social anxiety.”
“I can’t start a business because no one will buy anything from me or appreciate anything I put out there.”
“I’m always going to be overweight because everyone in my family is, I can never give up baked goods, and I hate the idea of getting attention for my good looks anyway.”
“I can’t leave this abusive relationship because no one will ever love me again.”
The stories they tell themselves about themselves are totally wrong, but they don’t see it.
Some people call these critical thoughts self-limiting beliefs. Others call it your inner mean girl, inner critic, negative self talk, or “the tapes you play in your head.” Call it whatever you want, but realize that this mean, critical voice is inside every one of us. It came from our own perfectionist ideals of ourselves, the negative things authority figures like teachers and parents have said to us, social media and TV standards and expectations, and other places. And it’s one of the biggest, if not THE biggest thing that’s holding us back from being the amazing person we’re capable of being!
The awesome thing is that we DO have the power to change it, and therefore change our lives.
I’m a huge believer in the fact that we can shape our reality by shaping the thoughts in our head. I’m not saying that if we pretend the sky is purple we’ll stop seeing blue and see “purple mountain majesty” (shoutout to the 64 color Crayola box with the sharpener on the back) instead. If we tell ourselves we’re always going to be out of shape, we’re never going to put in the work to get IN shape. If we tell ourselves that no one likes us, we’re going to act in a way that drives people who do like you away. If we constantly hear “nothing you say is important and no one cares about your thoughts” we will never speak up about anything important to us.
But how can we possibly change it? Fortunately, it’s actually shockingly simple.
how to Change those tapes
- Become aware of them
“How dare you say that the terrible place I’m at is at all under my control. I can’t control my thoughts, they just happen.” First of all, that sounds awfully like another limiting belief! You may not be able to control the incoming thoughts at first. That’s normal! Becoming conscious of their existence is the most important part. Writing them out in a journal can be enormously helpful in identifying them.
- Switch them out for something else
When we notice them, we can’t just ignore them. We have to switch them out for something better! This is where the idea of positive affirmations comes from. It’s not about sitting in front of your mirror saying “This year I will make one million dollars!” It’s about acknowledging what exactly the limiting belief or critical thought is, and countering it with a positive, empowering Truth. for example:
“I’m a terrible mom because I have to work” can become “I show love to my family by providing them with food, clothing, and a place to live.”
“I’m too stupid and lazy to go back to school” can become “My passion for this topic can push me through the inevitable challenges of getting a higher education.”
Repeat with every negative belief you have, and repeat every time you notice the thought entering your head. See, simple! Notice I did NOT say “easy” because it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work – hard work that involves facing our inner demons. We have an estimated 50,000 thoughts a day! If this is a big problem for you (it is for most people, actually), that’s a lot of negative thoughts to counteract. The easy thing is believing the negativity and spiraling into self pity. The good news, however, is that it DOES get easier, and the critical thoughts become fewer and fewer by the day.
I still have trouble being on time sometimes and I’m not always on top of my dirty dishes, but as I get better at counteracting those critical thoughts about myself, it’s no longer a hit to my self esteem. And my house is magically getting cleaner too!
None of these ideas are new, and thousands of people have written and taught about this concept before. I feel that it’s important to address here because I believe that we can take all the supplements we want and have a perfectly clean, nutrient dense diet, but if the “nutrition” our minds are getting all the time in the form of thoughts is terrible, we will never reach a place of peace and mental well being.
If our thousands of thoughts are predominantly negative ones, how could you possibly be a happy, confident, content person? If we could change those lies about ourselves into empowering truths and truly love ourselves, imagine the effect that would have in not only our own life, but the lives of everyone you come into contact with. You realizing your worth shows others that it’s possible for them, too!
Can you think of any some negative self talk that’s holding you back from the life you truly want?