How Negative Self-Talk Is Holding You Back

Have you caught yourself mumbling spiteful words to yourself under your breath? Is it more than occasional? If you are anything like myself or (all) clients I've worked with then this voice bites so frequently that you've stopped expecting kindness or support from anyone, let alone yourself. You thought you were alone in this? Or, worse, you're thinking "I wouldn't think that way if I stopped messing up all the time." Well my friend I'm sorry to break it to you... you are a human-being who is naturally flawed and who follows the same method as the rest of us, trial and error or how I see it hypothesize- act- reflect- change course of action- and repeat.

Negative self-talk is reflective of low self-esteem (self-love) and is a natural way of coaching ourselves to be better. The catch is that negative can't produce positive. Bashing and beating ourselves repetitively in order to grow is like stripping a plant of sun and water and asking it to grow. It can't happen. Eventually the negative self-talk we feed ourselves will compound and lead to a breaking point, feeling completely alone, unsupported and perhaps even worthless. So, lets shift things a bit and make you into the strong, loving and positive self-talker you deserve to be!

When you consistently practice supporting yourself with kind words (and no, this isn't some hokey dance around a fire ritual) you start to build your own inner peace where you feel safe, supported and calm. With this confidence and ease you trust that regardless of what is happening to or around you that it's possible to persevere, comfort, love and honor yourself. Here are a few strategies to boost your positive thinking and start loving yourself. 

1. Embrace Your Authenticity
Our unique genetics decide our greatness, flaws, and all that makes us special. The more we embrace who and what we are the happier our world will become. 

Mindfulness Exercise: In a challenging moment take a deep breath and give yourself words of comfort.
"I am a loving, respectable, kind person that values myself." Another approach is to think of a personal strength and how it has or continues to serve you. Could your perceived weaknesses be foreseen as a strength in a different regard? If you still are giving me a blank stare think of how I or someone dear to you would perceive you? Would we tell you how big of a failure, stupid or ridiculous you are? No. Take a step back and cut yourself some slack. 

2. Take Time to Breathe

Having a moment when you pause and take a breath is a moment where you take control of your awareness. Where is the tension in your body? Can you feel the weight of your stress pulling you down? Maybe you'll notice that you have been shallow breathing all day or that your body is asking to be stretched. 

Breathing Exercise: Place one hand on your belly button and the other on your chest. Feel which hand moves while you breathe. Focus on inhaling deep so the breath expands the belly while not affecting the chest. I enjoy listening to a relaxing song and breathing for the length of it. Some personal suggestions are: Explosions in the Sky- Your Hand in Mine; Ben Howard- Gracious; Blackmill- Journey's End. Work to take the time to keep your mind in the present moment i.e. your breath, how the chair feels below you, how your feet feel as you take each step, how your clothing is feeling against you, the temperature of the room, or my personal favorite of picturing the airflow of each breath through your body. I enjoy adding a color to the air I inhale (a favorite or relaxing color- I often choose white for cleansing) and begin by picturing it as a loop that flows down, circles my belly button and then releases out. 

3. What is the Deeper Meaning?

When you're experiencing a thought that triggers deeper (hurtful) emotions think of what within you it may be challenging. For example, growing up with a chronic illness I often felt there was no one to understand or relate to my physical and emotional pain, causing me to feel frustrated, defeated and alone. This perpetuates into current day when in a challenging situation or moment I tend to emotionally separate myself from others and give myself the heavy responsibility of taking on all of my suffering alone, rather than reach out and connect for support. In these moments I work to pause for a breath and shift my focus to the fact that everyone has experienced suffering in one way or another and consequently feel alone or stuck. I think of how those in my life show love, support and presence. Having understanding of what is versus negative words of crisis I feed myself allows me to have empathy for myself and everyone around. 

Reflection Exercise: Identify a situation that triggers an emotional or negative response. How are you feeling in the moment (1-3 words)? Was there another time you felt these specific emotions? How did that instance impact or alter your life? Is this something you avoid addressing or feeling? Give yourself permission to feel the emotions that arise during this exercise and reassure yourself you are loved, valued and respected.