Arrrrg, there's that awful "SELF TALK" again!
Updated: May 6, 2021
There are so many things on my mind these days, and I find that they range from relationships to self-care, my future to exercise… and nearly everything in between. Honestly, if I am not mindful they can begin to wear on me and load me down. How about you? Has your mind been busy lately as well? It amazes me that we can spend so much unnoticed time and energy just on thinking. And when I think about it (no pun intended), it also amazes me the unnoticed reactions we have as a result of these swirling thoughts. Most of the time we aren’t even aware of the fact that we are forming messages to and about ourselves in the process, and then wonder why we feel defeated, tired, stressed, frustrated or agitated. When we stop and really take a look at how and WHAT we are actually thinking - which reflect the ways we view and process everything – what we experience day in and day out begins to make sense. Stay with me as I attempt to illustrate how in a minute. First, though, it’s important to note that the key to “thinking” is how we go about it. If we actually do spend so much time inside our heads, why is it that we don’t make a conscious effort to make sure it is a safer, kinder and more empowering space? After all, it is one of the innermost and private places we have within us, yet we often get away with being really hard on ourselves! Can you relate? Let me pose this question: If you had a friend who loved to talk to you, nonstop, and actually spoke to you in the same way you spoke to yourself, how long would you be friends with her or him? And what would you really think of this “friend”? I don’t have to think for a second about how quickly I’d want to de-friend her based on the way I’ve been known to speak to myself sometimes. Aren’t I deserving of being the greatest friend, the biggest supporter, the loudest encourager and kindest person to myself? To be as loving, nurturing, care-free, non-judgmental and forgiving to myself as I am to my closest friends? And aren’t YOU? One aspect of my work as a life coach and therapist is to help identify our self-talk or our chatty inner dialogue and the effect it has on our self-esteem, goals, dreams and our interactions with others. So often we get trapped in a well of negative messages and repetitive thought cycles that it can bring additional stress in to our lives. And then fear often rears its ugly head and gets in the way of what we really want to do or say. Most of us have experienced firsthand how disabling fear can be; yet, most often it’s the language we use with ourselves that creates the fear and other limiting beliefs.
Here’s an example: Sally has always wanted to be a news reporter but never pursued it because she tells people she didn’t have the money for school. Sally has also wanted to get involved in her community as a volunteer for a cause that was meaningful to her, but she says she cannot find the time. In both cases, these ideas/dreams have been swirling around in her heart and mind for as long as she can remember, but she continually shoves it away with an undefined grudge. It is possible there is fear that is holding her back; fear that is weaved throughout the negative messages she has told herself. The truth is, Sally has what it takes to do either of these things and to do them well, but why hasn’t she ever pursued them? Let’s have her slow down her thoughts for a moment to take an honest, vulnerable and authentic look as to what messages might be holding her back and generating excuses as to why not to pursue her dreams/goals:
“I will probably say something stupid on television”
“No one will want to listen to what I have to say”
“Dreams like this are for other, more deserving people”
“I am not good enough”
“I am not pretty enough for the camera”
“If I told anyone what I wanted to do, they will probably laugh at me”
“There’s too much work involved, I can’t do it all”
“I’m too old to start now”
“I don’t really have anything to offer my community”
“The other volunteers probably won’t like me”
“The other volunteers will see right through me and think I’m a phony”
“I’ll probably mess up”
Are any of these familiar to you? What do you imagine the impact of these messages are on Sally? How likely do you think she will pursue either dream or goal if she continues to live from a place filled with these kinds of messages? Think of something in your life that you’ve always wanted to do. Or think of a circumstance or difficult relationship you are faced with right now. What beliefs do you hold around this? What is the fear that might be driving your thoughts? What are the messages or fears? How likely are you to move forward in a way that feels right or good if you continue to believe what you might be telling yourself?
Remember how I said the key to thinking is how we go about it? Well, a place to start after we identify what we tell ourselves is to learn how to rephrase our inner dialogue. The difference between “I can’t do that, it’s too hard” and “this may be hard and I’ll do my best anyway” is instantly more rewarding. But not only that, we are immediately more empowered and capable. There is even a physical experience that we can identify when we practice rephrasing. Try it for yourself! Close your eyes and say to yourself, “I can’t make a difference.” Note how that feels emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. Now, say to yourself: “I can try and make a difference because it’s important to me”. Note – and I mean, REALLY note how this message feels differently. Can you imagine doing more living from THIS belief than the first one?! So here we are: thinkers; feelers; processors; dreamers. Clearly we all spend a lot of time inside our own minds, right? Sometimes to the point of stress, frustration, depression, defeat, agitation, anxiety, panic, etc. The point is that no matter what, we feel, react and respond based on how we think about things. And since we spend so much time and energy in our thoughts, why not re-focusing our energy on making them great? Why not give ourselves permission to be our own amazing advocate and best friend? After all, just as Barbara Winters said, “only our lives that are at stake.” -Sara Hunter, LPC, EMDR, CPCC