Making this one change prepares the foundation for all kinds of growth and change. It is something you already do, all day long, that you just have to learn how to do differently. And you really must, because it is highly likely that how you are doing it now is a massive barrier to any desired changes and accomplishments.
Self-talk; the soundtrack of our lives. Most of us live with an ongoing commentary on our feelings, actions, failures, wishes, thoughts, fears—basically, everything. We are our own narrators; highly opinionated, biased narrators. The relevant variable is whether we are biased negatively or positively towards our subject; us.
“Really?! That is how you are going to deal with that?” “I can’t believe you just said that to her.” “What an idiot you are.” “No wonder everyone thinks you are a fool.” “And now you think you are going to change?!” “You have always been a loser, and you will always be a loser and you are a fool for thinking you can change anything.”
Negative self talk is basically incessant negative reinforcement all day long. For many of us, this is the constant, daily, soundtrack of our lives. From the minute we wake up and as we make our way through our day, this voice accompanies us. With its harsh critique of our every movement, this voice hammers away at any self-esteem our accomplishments may have built over time. Our conscious self might hardly hear it, but to be clear, our unconscious self both churns out the self-talk as well as listens.
In sessions with clients I frequently ask them to imagine speaking to a child in such a manner. All day long. Everyday. Berating them when they get up, while they eat breakfast, while they get dressed for school, when they succeed, when they fail. Imagine if you heard a parent talking like that to their child in a grocery store. You would know it was wrong. You would know that no child could develop a healthy sense of self with someone berating them like that. You would know that no child could grow, and learn and thrive in an environment of such negative ongoing commentary.
And yet, many of us use this harsh, critical voice as commentary and even muster it up in an attempt to mobilize us into action and change. We imagine that we can shame ourselves into action. We reprimand, degrade, and shame ourselves, hoping it will force us to make the changes we long for and struggle with.
If growth and change are our goal, a compassionate, supportive, understanding commentator is the best path. Even if somehow you have a fantasy you don’t deserve kindness and compassion, if you want change, that is the voice that will get you there. Again, remember the kid; even the kid who has behaved badly, or who is struggling to get something. Berating them will get you nowhere.
So… first, listen to the words whispered quietly or sharply into your ear as you move through the day. If what you hear is you trashing yourself, take note. Listen to your superego’s view of you.If negative self talk is what you do all day, you are giving negative reinforcement to every behavior you hate.
Now… become the superego “parent” you want to be to yourself. A positive, understanding, supportive voice wont suddenly result in you accomplishing everything you hope to, or changing in all the ways you want to, but it will at least remove one significant barrier along with reducing the self-hate and negativity you expose yourself to every day.
Go on… give it a try.
Smith is and analytically oriented psychotherapist with 25 years in practice. She is additional the Founder/Director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which specializes in matching clients with seasoned clinicians in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
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