Self talk and how we can improve it

on Thu 25 Jul

The inspiration for this came as I sipped my tea this morning and I realised I was allowing my inner critic to run amuck. My self-talk had taken a bit of a downward slide.   

Self-talk, like our imagination, is a powerful tool that can also become a powerful self-inflicted weapon. 

I’m the worst person for mentally reliving and reviewing my worst bloopers and doing the inner cringe thing…to the point where I can do the cringe thing out loud. Yes, it's a bit embarrassing. 

This morning I found myself recalling the end of term picnic where I’d lost the plot while standing in the searing heat in the queue for the ice-cream van.  It was not my best parenting moment, however, I was for all intents and purposes in the midst of an extreme endurance event.  But, for a moment this morning, I’d forgotten that I was a human being and began inwardly berating myself and catastrophizing my outburst and behaviour. As I write this now, I’m inwardly giggling as my usual mantra when it comes to fearing judgement - “SO WHAT” – had obviously gone out the window.

I guess we know if we spoke to our kids the way we sometimes talk to ourselves - constantly putting them down, criticising them and reminding them of their faults - we're conditioning them to view themselves in a negative way.  But the same rules tend not to apply to our inner critic. This little blighter gets away with murder.

The thing is, we are conditioning ourselves - we’re increasing the chances of feeling low, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed and helpless. If we’re cultivating this kind of internal environment, we’re less likely to be effective at navigating challenges, bouncing back from failure, mistakes and blips and being as badass as we’d like to be.

Now, you may already think “I get it, I know this stuff already” but it’s really, really easy to forget. I forgot this morning.  I’m writing and videoing this because it’s a reminder for me as much as it might be something that's helpful to you.

What to do to change it?

I’ve mentioned this before, but cognitive therapy’s ABC model (later adapted by Positive Psychology founder Martin Seligman) can really help to change how you think, feel and behave.

ABC stands for:

A = Adversity or activating event

B = Your beliefs about this adversity

C = The Consequences

Typically, we tend to think A = C (the Adversity - in this case, the end of term picnic and my playground meltdown - caused the Consequences).

However, it’s not my meltdown in the playground that has caused me to feel ashamed and anxious.  It’s my beliefs I have about the meltdown that’s causing all the negative consequences.  It's actually A+B = C

Beliefs are not facts

To stop the negative self-talk and subsequent fall out I can dispute my beliefs about this situation.

So, if I started with:

Adversity) I lost the plot in the playground

Belief) Everyone will think I’m a rude, horrible, two-faced person!!!

Consequence) I’m going to be a social outcast - they'll laugh about me doing anything to do with personal development!!!

I can dispute it and change it to something more probable/helpful:

Adversity) I lost the plot in the playground

Belief) It was overwhelmingly hot…everyone was losing the plot.

Consequence) I’m usually not like this…people will realise I’m having a moment. They’ll have forgotten about it by September.

It's a really simple process that can help when the monkey mind goes into overdrive and you find yourself mind reading or beating yourself up. Disputing negative self-talk can really help with stress, anxiety and overwhelm so it's a great thing to teach our kids too. 

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