I was chopping up some vegetables for dinner when the little “ding!” on my phone distracted me. With my attention diverted, just momentarily, I accidentally slipped, and took a little slice off my finger.
“Ouch! Jeez! I always do that sort of thing!” I said out loud, to no one in particular.
I stopped in my tracks, right there in the middle of the kitchen. I couldn’t believe it. Why had I just said that? I know better. I don’t always do that sort of thing. But I had put myself down anyway.
Now if someone had been standing there watching me slice vegetables, only to see me slice my finger instead, and had said, “Jeez! You always do that sort of thing!” I would have gotten angry at them.
I would have said, “No, I don’t! It was just an accident.”
So why did I speak so unkindly to myself?
Unfortunately we all tend toward negative thoughts over positive thoughts. In fact, your “mental chatter” is around 70% negative. If you’re like the rest of the human race, you are more self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful in your unconscious thoughts than you are even in your spoken words. The “fight or flight” part of your brain takes over from the mature adult part of your brain.
The problem is this negativity bias prevents you from being creative, from taking steps forward, from taking calculated risks, and sometimes, from growing and maturing in your knowledge and beliefs.
Here’s the good news. Just like I caught myself in the act of being mean to myself, you can too!
And once you hear yourself saying those negative things (or thinking them… all the time), you can change how you speak to yourself. Let’s take a look at some of the more common negative phrases and thoughts:
“I need to be good at everything I try”. Nope. You don’t. No one is good at everything. And if you don’t try some things that you aren’t good at… yet… you’ll never discover new talents and skills. So what if you aren’t good at tennis, or cooking, or math? Don’t be afraid of doing them anyway, just for fun. Say instead: “Hey, let me give that a try and see what happens!”
“It’ll be a disaster if this doesn’t work!” Not likely. There are very few times in your life that are true disasters. It may be inconvenient or challenging to manage a situation that doesn’t go well. But to keep your creative juices flowing, get curious and ask instead, “If this doesn’t work, what else can I do?”
“If I do this or say that, they won’t like me.” This is the single biggest fear that drives people. From childhood through the teenage years, to becoming an adult, we make decisions based on what people will think about us. Instead of that, say to yourself, “This is important to me, and since I’ll never see these people again, what they think of me is not important.”
“What if… what if… what if…?” This is worry. Most of the time, worry is wasted energy. When confronted with multiple possible endings to a situation, ask yourself: “Can I do anything about it?” If yes, go do it! If no, take a deep breath and let it go. If you can’t do something about it right now, but you can later, make a plan and execute it as soon as possible.
“They should do this… It shouldn’t be like that… She should have said…” As Tony Robbins says, “Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself!” Whether it’s “I should have…” or “You should have…” you get nowhere by focusing on “should”. Again, if it’s a situation over which you have some control, go do something about it. If there’s nothing you can do right now, stop worrying yourself sick, and tell yourself to do something constructive.
You’ll find that the more you catch yourself - and then STOP yourself - in this negative mental chatter, the more you will get done each day, and the happier and more content you’ll feel.
I’m not saying some situations don’t require immediate attention and aren’t urgent; they sometimes do and are.
But if you can cut down on the negative thoughts - and the things you would never in a million years say to someone else - the better you’ll feel about yourself. :-)
Learning to control your mental chatter is an important part of self-care. If you’d like to speak with me about self-care, in any way, please click here to sign up for a discovery session.
I look forward to speaking with you!