3 Steps to Recognize Negative Self-Talk and Mental Limits
Have you ever noticed just how bombarded your mind gets with a million thoughts coming at you from every angle? Often times we listen to that inner self talk without really acknowledging what it’s actually saying.
When you stop, listen, and translate what is being said, you hold the power to where it goes and how it affects you. You must be aware of that inner voice and begin to challenge it when its negativity is holding you back.
Here are 3 simple steps to help you battle this inner critic that lives within. Let’s dive in!
Step 1. Learn to recognize inner self talk
Check in with yourself. Throughout your day, set aside some quiet time to pause what you’re doing and listen in to your inner chatter. What is it saying? What is it NOT saying? How are these inner thoughts supporting you or holding you back?
You may even wish to do a body scan. Close your eyes and let your awareness scan your body from head to toe noticing for anything that feels “off” (perhaps some anxiety in your stomach, or a clenched fist, or tension held in your neck).
Often, our physical body is responding to negative self-talk or a limiting belief that we aren’t aware of, so learning to sense tension or stress in our body can give us insight into the toxicity of our self-talk.
Now, that inner dialogue or self-talk is “negative” or limiting when it’s essentially putting you down, disparaging you, or doubting you. But if you’re so used to listening to that limiting self-talk, it might not feel toxic or negative. It might feel natural. One way to break this down is to look for specific forms of self-talk that’s toxic and negative.
According to life coach and psychology expert Margaret Moore, there are four major forms of negative self-talk that may be sabotaging your motivation and your success.
1. Self-limiting talk. This is the simplest, and it takes the form of ideas or thoughts like "I can't do this," or "This is too hard."
2. Jumping to conclusions. Do you ever predict the future and use this future as a reason to not do something? For example, you may envision your boss getting mad at you when you ask for a raise, so you don’t ask for that well-deserved pay increase. Yet the thing is, that future you’re imagining is all in your head. Nothing about it is real!
3. Habits of speech. “Our speech patterns can be so automatic that we don't even notice them,” points out Moore. “And though we may not even really mean what we say, it can have a negative impact on how we feel about ourselves.” For example, when someone compliments you and says you look good today, you might discount yourself and say “Hah, I wish!” Or if you mess up something, you might snidely joke to your friend, “Look at me, just another dumb blonde.” These things sound quaint and harmless, but collectively they serve to put you down and hold you back.
4. The insidious habit of absorbing someone else’s toxic energy and letting someone else’s words become the words we tell ourselves about ourselves. “Some of our thoughts are planted by external sources such as our parents, spouse, colleagues, or friends,” says Moore. “These well-meaning voices have clear expectations of us that become a part of our own self-talk. Though their thoughts can serve us, they can also become detrimental when we are unable to distinguish their ideas from our own.”
Step 2. Watch for patterns and triggers
As you practice listening in to that inner dialogue, look for patterns or triggers. You may wish to journal down when and where you engage in limiting beliefs. Perhaps it’s within specific contexts, or around specific people.
By watching for these things, you can begin to see specific ways your inner critic affects your day-to-day life.
Step 3. Name your critic
Some experts recommend naming your inner voice. This is helpful because we often identify with our inner dialogue. However, your true self and that inner voice are two distinct things. By putting some separation between your self-talk and your true you, you’ll be better able to recognize when your inner critic is present.
“Naming your critic allows you to see it for what it is,” explains psychotherapist Christa Smith. “When you name your critic, it loses some of its power because you are acknowledging that you are not the problem. You don’t need to be fixed. The real problem is that you believe everything the critic is telling you.”
Try giving your inner voice a funny, lighthearted name. That can help you to recognize just how pitiful and useless this self-limiting inner critic is. It can help you to take the words it says less seriously. “Oh, that’s just Negative Nancy yammering on again,” you might chuckle to yourself the next time that inner voice pipes up.
It’s time to begin a new conversation within yourself. It’s time to shift the things you say about yourself and your inner power. It’s time to accept the challenge of reprogramming your mental limits by changing what you believe about yourself and your self-worth. The time is now!
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