My name is Hailey and I am a negative-self-talk-aholic. I have spent many years of my life believing that if I was strict with myself and critical of the mistakes I made then I’d push myself to improve, I would achieve more and become a ‘success.’ This, however, did not work! You see, being self critical can trigger us to feel more anxious and lead us to making more mistakes.
Have you ever had a negative experience while learning how to do something, where the person teaching you put you down and/or was critical of every mistake you made? What you might have noticed is that you got so nervous and wound up that you then made more mistakes. With each mistake you made and each criticism that followed you then developed an urge to quit. The same can be true when we are critical of ourselves. If we put ourselves down and criticise our mistakes, we can develop a ‘why try’ attitude and talk ourselves out of working towards our goals. This can lead us to procrastinate, delay or quit prematurely.
Sometimes, however, we can talk down to ourselves and still manage to get things done. We tick things off our to-do list but instead of feeling happy and proud of ourselves, we feel flat because the negative self talk continues. “That could have been better.” “I hope no one notices how bad this is.” Reaching that goal doesn’t feel as good as you had hoped it would, it gets tainted by all of the horrible things you are saying about yourself.
So how do you go about turning this vicious cycle around? Firstly, ask yourself: what could go wrong if I was nicer to myself? Admittedly being nicer to yourself is a lot trickier than it sounds so here are a few hacks to help you along on your journey.
Give yourself the same encouragement, reassurance and support you would to a beloved friend - We rarely talk to others as critically as we do ourselves so it can be helpful to pause and reflect on the advice or encouragement we would give a friend if they were going through what we are. Use your own name when encouraging yourself and reflect on how differently it feels when compared to that critical voice.
Talk to yourself the same way you would to a small child - Typically, we’re quite gentle and patient with children so it can be useful to use the same nurturing tone when we are trying to encourage ourselves.
Use encouraging statements that are true - Simple phrases like "I'm trying the best I can" and "I do all with the best intentions” can help diffuse a negative self talk cycle.
“Ok Hailey, you did it, you wrote the article!”
“Is it ok? Oh no, I am not sure”
“Hailey, you did the best you could I am sure others with enjoy it too.”
“Oh dear, I should really keep practicing this too, the more I practice, the more I’ll improve.”
As you can see I am still a work in progress but I am determined to keep practicing speaking to myself kindly because I want to see just how far I can go with more (self) encouragement.
A fellow recovering negative-self talk-aholic