As a life coach, I often witness negative messages people say to themselves such as “I will never succeed,” “I am too old,” “I am not smart enough,” or “I don’t have what it takes.” A big part of coaching is raising awareness and helping you create and foster more empowering inner dialogue. I am excited to share two powerful tools with you to stop negative self-talk and cultivate positive self-talk.
When I think of negative self-talk, a story from my teenage years always comes to mind. At the time, I worked as a babysitter, taking care of a little toddler named Clemens. This very cute little boy lived in the first floor of the apartment building, where I grew up. I loved playing with Clemens. I also very much enjoyed talking with Clemens’ mom, Susie, an accomplished lawyer, wonderful mother and friendly neighbour.
Where Does Negative Self-Talk Come from?
One Saturday afternoon, Susie had been at a department store with Clemens. She wanted to buy a few new outfits, as Clemens was growing in leaps and bounds. As she was browsing the racks, a voice announced through the store-wide speaker system: “Little Oscar Shut-Up is looking for his mom. He can be picked up at the service desk on the 3rdfloor.” Susie couldn’t believe her own ears. She was shocked! Poor little Oscar had been told to shut-up so many times that he believed ‘shut-up’ to be his name. Susie took this experience as a reminder to be mindful of the words she said to her son, Clemens.
Parents and caregivers are of course doing the best they can when raising their children and often just pass on messages they received earlier in life and aren’t aware of. Some of these internalized negative messages people repeatedly say to themselves may also originate from experiences of being bullied at school, singled out in some embarrassing way, or being the last kid on the bench when teams were selected in sports. You don’t even need to know where your personal version of negative self-talk came from or when it started.
Power Tool #1 – Choose Positive Self-Talk
The truth is that your negative self-talk is not helpful in creating and living the life you truly want. Your subconscious mind is like the two-year-old Oscar. It believes everything you say. Your conscious mind then collects evidence for why that is so.
Wouldn’t it be invigorating to choose a more positive inner dialogue? What would happen if you talked to your inner two-year-old, your subconscious mind, in more empowering ways?
Let’s make a fun game out of this!
Think of a person you admire and notice three qualities in them that you like, such as kind, generous and caring. Write down these three inner qualities you admire in the other person.
Please avoid physical attributes such as slim body, beautiful skin or fast runner.
To be able to notice inner qualities in another person, you also must have the seeds of these qualities within you. For the next fifteen days, say these attributes to yourself in form of “I am-statements” every day as you brush your teeth in front of your mirror. E.g. “I am kind. I am generous. I am caring.” You may want to put a post-it note on your mirror to remind you of this self-appreciation game.
Throughout the day, collect as much evidence as you can for why these statements are true. Such as, “I opened the door for a stranger, I am kind.” Or, “I listened to my three-year-old son’s music recital, I am caring.”
Over time you will notice that you naturally find more and more evidence for why your “I am-statements” are true. You are indeed becoming more and more aware of your positive qualities. Your inner confidence naturally flourishes.
Power Tool #2 – Stop Negative Self-Talk
You will most likely still occasionally engage in the old, familiar self-depreciating talk. Old habits die hard.
When you make a mistake, for example, you may find yourself saying “I am so stupid.” Do something outrageous, such as bursting out in laughter, slapping your thigh or exclaiming “pineapple” or “hippopotamus” or something completely unrelated.
As you do, you are making a big scratch in your mental record. Remember those old vinyl records? When you scratch them, the needle skips and the song can no longer be played. In the case of your old self-depreciating inner dialogue, scratching up your mental record is the best thing you can do for yourself.