Recognizing Negative Self-Talk
Just last week, I was right in the middle of a new Zumba class when suddenly, an alarming thought entered my mind. In the gym, there were about twenty other people zumba-ing just like me – all women. The circular fans on either end of the room were running full speed and upbeat pop music blared from the overhead speakers. Arms and legs were flying everywhere! We were 45 minutes in, my heart was pounding in my chest, and I could barely catch my breath. As sweat dripped down the back of my neck, this weird and unexpected thought hit me, my ex-husband would definitely think what I am doing here is dumb.
It took me by complete surprise because we’ve been divorced 17 years! It’s been a very long time since I cared what he thought about anything, especially what I’m doing.
But sadly there had been a time when his opinion mattered more than my own. While together, I gave in to almost every judgment he made about what was good and/or bad. I eventually censored my behavior toward what I thought he would approve of. I wore the clothes he liked. I cooked the food he wanted. I read the authors he thought were exceptional. I steered clear of his dislikes. The truth is, he would have thought doing Zumba was dumb and he wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
I had low self-esteem and no faith in my own ideas, wants or desires, so gaining his approval was my way of keeping him “in love with me.”
When we divorced, I knew how I’d been operating was wrong; it felt horrible. I felt horrible. It took me a while, but I eventually learned to put my needs higher on the scale of what matters. I took self-love seriously and made it my first priority. I have changed a lot since then. I’m much more confident and clear about what I am doing and why.
So having a thought about what my ex would think in the middle of my doing something soul-ly for me and my own good made me wonder why…after all this time. I realized the thought, had nothing at all to do with my ex-husband. It would have been easy for me to blame him for residual damage, but that’s not what it was about.
The thought was actually my own negative self-talk working against me.
It’s important for us to learn to recognize this voice in our head telling us lies about who we are and what we want. Although the voice may seem to belong to someone we gave permission to judge and criticize, deep down those thoughts now belong to us. And we continue to think them and give them power over us. Our egos love to hang onto those negative digs and use them to preserve their identity. The ego wants to keep us from looking dumb, making mistakes, or doing things wrong. It doesn’t like to look bad!
It uses the same negative self-talk that creates excuses or tries to make what you want seem dumb, inaccessible or wrong. The dialogue may hint that you’re not qualified or worthy of your own dreams. It may suggest that what you want is too much work or too expensive.
This negative voice is just full of “reasons.”
But there are times in your life when it’s necessary to do things that are unreasonable, like take a Zumba class, return to school in your 50s, have a child when you’re not married, start your own business, or take up painting, gardening, photography or basket-weaving when you know nothing about them.
If we fail to recognize it for what it is, the ego’s voice has the power to put us down and stop us from pursuing our divine purpose. It may even disguise itself as someone you know whose ideas can negatively persuade you. It’s very powerful, but thankfully when we develop awareness around it, we can call its bluff.
Every day we have the opportunity to start something new that can empower us to our greatness. These changes almost always come with risks the ego might not want to take. Don’t be surprised to hear its tricky little voice, warning you against doing something dumb. The only way to experience yourself as bigger than the self-limiting voice of criticism is to prove it wrong.
You will always have thoughts, some positive and some negative. You have to learn to recognize destructive self-talk and then question it.
Does the voice lift you up and support the growth of your best self?
If not, you can develop a counter suit, an affirmation that helps you identify and affirm the good that you are calling into your life. Something like the one I used: I love and approve of my doing all forms of exercise. It’s great for my mind and body. Find a way to put a positive spin on what you know is best for you. Be your own first advocate.
There’s only one thing you have complete power over and that is the thoughts that run through your head. It takes time to recognize and challenge negative self-talk, but with practice we can all get better at it. It just requires a willingness to be aware of the conversation in your head and not let it get the best of you.
Has your voice of reason been trying to keep you from doing something new and potentially scary? Have you overcome negative self talk? What did the conversation sound like? Share your courage with others in the comment field below.
Thank you my friends for reading.
In Life and Love,