March 7, 2014

5 Steps For Overcoming Poisonous Self-Talk

Self-talk. I'm not talking about "talking to myself" (which I do all the time and is a topic which could fill numerous blog posts.)  I'm talking about that little voice that lives (rent free) inside our heads and rambles endless commentary about everything that's going on around us. (Please tell me I'm not the only one hearing it!)  It disguises itself by mimicking our own voices so we believe the thoughts are ours.  Pretty insidious huh?

Self-talk might seem harmless enough, but it's anything but.  Our self-talk is so important that it sets the bar for all of our achievements. It tells us who we can date, marry, and have as friends.  It places limits on which jobs we can have and the quality of life that we enjoy...or not.  It tells us what size clothes we can buy and how much we dare spend for them.  Self-talk dictates our dreams and creates our reality.  Just like the fleas put in a jar with a lid will soon stop trying to jump higher than the height of the jar, even when the lid is removed, self-talk, if poisonous, keeps us jumping small and will create our self fulfilling prophesy

Some of the criticisms the inner chatter bathes our mind with may be direct quotes from people we've loved and trusted. Trust makes messages we receive about ourselves weightier, and love makes them cast iron.  Other messages perhaps, were not spoken directly, but were implied.  Some may have only been perceived. It doesn't really matter how the tapes that play in our head were recorded, but it does matter how much air time they receive and how often we allow ourselves to sing along - which leads me to this question: How do we shut down poisonous self talk?  Here are a few suggestions that will help. 

1. Awareness  

Just like diet and exercise are necessary to produce a fit and healthy body, actively monitoring our thoughts is necessary to producing healthy self talk. Consciously listen to your internal dialog.  Look for recurring themes.  Decide where they might have come from.  Just the act of conscience listening will help you to see that, as the listener, you are separate from the thoughts.  You can then observe them objectively as a spectator.

2. Journal
Before you gag and choke here, hear me out.  I'm not suggesting that you keep a running log of every thought that passes through your mind.  Only the ones that are damaging and aren't serving you well, and only for a week.  Keep a note pad close by or even use your smartphone to record limiting, self defeating thoughts.  If you find the exercise enlightening, you might decide to keep going, but only commit to a week and see how it goes.

3. Examine 
Drag the negative messages out into the bright sunlight and see what they're made of.  Look for evidence of their lies.  For instance, if one of your limiting beliefs is that you're a "loser."  Look for times in your life when you have set goals and accomplished them.  Remember a time when you achieved something that you were proud of.  Focus on that feeling of accomplishment.  Also look for any truth as well.  If you find there is a morsel of truth in any limiting belief, know that you can change anything you are willing to take responsibility for and make effort toward.

4. Replace
When you discover yourself playing host to a negative interloper, override the negative thought by replacing it with a thought that will serve you better.  If "I'll never get ahead" comes to visit, kick him out the door with "I'm well on my way" or something that will be an empowering reminder that you are not the sum of your old recordings.

You didn't get a head full of junk overnight.  You may never have even realized you could choose to challenge what has been a part of you for so long. You won't be perfect at changing your poisonous self-talk overnight, but take courage knowing that every small victory is moving you forward.

If you've found other successful ways of dealing with poisonous self talk, I'd love to hear them.  If you know someone who could benefit from the suggestions above, please share them. 

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