If you're like most people, you're completely unaware of the chatter that's taking place inside your head. Instead of talking yourself up, you're letting a super-critical voice run wild, telling you all sorts of negative things about yourself. The result of this critical voice calling out your every flaw (real or otherwise) varies from a lack of self-respect to complete and utter physical and emotional paralysis. Regardless of the impact that your self-chatter is having, if you're not actively aware of what your mind is saying and re-framing the language to the positive, you're doing yourself harm. You've probably spent most of your lifetime, at least from your teens on, developing the habit (yes, it's a habit) of talking about yourself with negative words. For this article, I'm not going to get into specific examples because, well, I want to help you break the habit and change the self talk towards the positive and pointing out the negative only serves to reinforce it.
How does self-talk work?
Unless you're a Buddha or an enlightened mystic who is able to stop thoughts from happening, you think tens of thousands of thoughts per day. As you do so, even if you're not listening consciously, you're programming your body and subconscious mind to perform as instructed. Whatever your mind says about you, your subconscious takes it in without even analyzing it for accuracy. It's only natural, after all, because your mind knows you better than anyone else knows you, so the assumption is that what is being said is accurate and correct. On top of that, as the mind repeats the same message over and over, the message becomes even more accurate and correct to your subconscious, and the habit is strengthened.
What's the first thing to do?
By increasing your awareness of the self-chatter--by paying attention to what you are habitually saying to yourself, about yourself--you can recognize when you're putting yourself down and change things up for the better. As you start to listen to yourself, write down what you hear. As you start to recognize your negative self-talk, ask yourself whether you'd respect a friend or acquaintance who said those things to you. Most likely, the answer is no. It's important to remember that it's not only what is being said, but how it's being said that matters. So, while you may indeed be overweight, it becomes exponentially more difficult to change that when you're beating yourself up with negative words.
So I'm paying attention to what I'm saying, and I don't like it. Now what?
The first thing to do is be grateful that you've raised your awareness. By focusing on being grateful, you are taking the first steps to performing what the experts call "cognitive restructuring." Cognitive restructuring is a therapeutic practice of identifying and disputing cognitive distortions in order to bring about a new way of thinking and behaving. In other words, by identifying thoughts that do not serve you and recognizing that those thoughts are distortions from reality, you can begin to reframe the thoughts into useful and productive messages. The hardest part of all of this is recognizing that the harsh words you say to yourself are indeed distortions of reality. Again, it may be true that you're overweight. However, it's not true that you always fail or that your successes don't matter.
There are ten primary cognitive distortions that you can look for which give away the fact that what you're saying to yourself is not true:
- All-or-nothing thinking .
- A mental filter that dwells on the negatives and ignores the positives.
- Discounting the positives.
- Jumping to conclusions, mind reading or fortune-telling.
- Magnification or minimization.
- Emotional reasoning. e.g. I feel like a failure, so I must be one.
- "Should" statements. e.g. I should or must have more willpower.
- Labeling. e.g. I'm a failure.
- Personalization and blame. e.g. blaming oneself or others.
OK, I notice the harsh words and I notice that I'm distorting reality. How do I fix it?
Here's where practice makes perfect. Because it's likely you've been doing this negative self-talk for a long time, it's going to take effort and vigilance to create a new habit of talking to yourself in positive, uplifting and motivating ways. For example, if you ate more than you had intended, you can recognize what you did ("I ate more than I intended") and then position yourself for future success ("I will pay more attention to the quantity I'm eating and stop when I reach an amount that I specify to myself ahead of time.")
It really helps to have a partner to support you as you begin to recognize your negative self-talk and work to replace it with positive and motivating language. Here at Proactive Evolution, we're experts in partnering with our clients to help you be gentle and kind to yourself so that you can change the way you think and talk about yourself. We know that this is one of the most crucial steps in achieving your fitness goals. To schedule your free transformation session and experience the benefits we can bring to your lifestyle modification, contact us at (760) 56-EVOLVE or click over to our contact page and fill out the form.