Embrace Your Greatness & Banish Negative Self-Talk
Unrealized potential. There's a ring of melancholia to it, a mourning for what might've been that brings to mind Marlon Brando's unforgettable,“I coulda been a contender,” line from “On The Waterfront.” The theme of chances not taken, is universally relatable, maybe because what prevents many of us from moving ahead is an unwillingness to push beyond self-imposed fears. And those fears — aka the devil on your shoulder — can feel extremely powerful. Eyes open or closed, this defeatist talk is ever-present, leading your actions.
According to Relationship and Intimacy Expert, Dr. Alexandra Stockwell, author of Uncompromising Intimacy, the origins of negative self-talk are complex. Similar to your shadow self, these ideas begin forming in childhood. Dr. Stockwell says, “Some of those messages are specific and received in real time from particular individuals, while others are societal and the source is more generalized and diffuse.”
Like dreams, what's fascinating about internal chatter is that it offers a rare window into your psyche. Dr. Stockwell says,“Your subconscious mind determines your thoughts, feelings, and actions.” You may be in denial about negative talk. Or you hear it, but hope that pushing aside these thoughts will make them vanish. In the long run, doing so cheats you out of exponential self-growth. As Dr. Stockwell explains it, “Negative self-talk is often the bridge between the invisible subconscious mind and the conscious mind.” So becoming aware of these limiting thoughts and concepts is priceless. Don’t ignore your inner chatter. “Negative self-talk reveals our limiting beliefs and shows us what we need to transform,” says Dr. Stockwell.
So how does this gloomy talk influence your everyday life? Dr. Stockwell explains, “Negative self-talk is the single biggest limitation in how happy you are and how much you achieve in life. Dr. Stockwell uses examples of people with strong self-esteem and severe disabilities who accomplish monumental successes, in contrast with wildly talented people, held back by low self-worth and pessimistic self-talk.
So how can you change the internal conversation? Start by shining a light on it. Use your defeatist chatter as a gateway to self-awareness. Dr. Stockwell explains that part of why therapy and coaching are so effective is because a third party helps you realize your own mind chatter, then guides you through alternative ways of thinking and feeling. The beautiful news is, according to Dr. Stockwell, “This is absolutely something you can do for yourself with tenacity and discipline.”
What actions can you take? Start by paying attention to those times when you don't hear the negative voice. That's right. An important thing to do, according to Dr. Stockwell is, “Notice when the negative self-talk naturally stops. Maybe it is when you are in nature, or taking a bubble bath, or holding your baby, or watching a comedy.” Observe when your inner negativity effortlessly falls away.
Diffuse Negative Energy
Dr. Stockwell says, “Once you have identified the context, notice how you feel. If you stop your negative self-talk while watching the sunset, connect with how you feel while doing so.” Train your mind to recreate this feeling with as much sensory detail as possible until you can summon it up at will. And practice calling upon this positive feeling often. Dr. Stockwell says, “When you engage in negative self-talk, fill yourself with that feeling. Notice that feeling is incompatible with negative self-talk.”
Step Into Greatness
While fanning the flames of self doubt, it’s crucial to embrace your positive qualities. “One of the best and most confronting ways to embrace your gifts is to brag about them,” says Dr. Stockwell. But bragging isn't popular. Especially women are conditioned that it's impolite to show off. Unfortunately, modesty isn't doing you any favors when it comes to self-esteem. Dr.Stockwell says, “the consequence is that we often hide our gifts and great traits from others, and ourselves as well.”
Even though it sounds weird, Dr. Stockwell suggests keeping a brag journal. If the idea of this exercise makes you cringe, that's fine. Keep an open mind. And try it anyway. How should you do it? Dr. Stockwell says, ‘“Start by writing on a piece of paper “I brag…” and keep going until you have written 3-5 brags, and do that every day. It’s fine to start with little brags, though sometimes it can be a big one! And keep going until you are writing down brags that make you feel nauseous to name.”’ This exercise can be a real challenge. One that should not be avoided. Interestingly, Dr. Stockwell says, “The harder it feels to claim your positive qualities, the more meaningful it will be.” An important thing to remember is: you aren’t conjuring up dreams or fantasies. These are all grounded in reality. Dr. Stockwell says, “These are actual brags that describe the truth and the only thing that is shifting is your willingness to delight in your own success.”
Once you begin to own your positive qualities, take the work a step further. When practicing daily affirmations, Dr. Stockwell says, “What is key is anchoring the shift in the body, and being aware of the feelings.” More than simply saying the words, Dr Stockwell advises, “yell it while raising your arms above your head. Or say it in a deep voice while taking a step forward.” What's the reason? Dr. Stockwell says it, “Will solidify the positive thought and quell the negative ones.” What if these affirmations don't work? Dr. Stockwell says, “if inside you feel numb, no amount of positive affirmations will counter the running commentary which is making you feel terrible. However, shifting into feeling really good, and actually focusing on that pleasurable feeling, will go quite far in overriding and dismissing the inner critical voices.”
If you'd like to explore further reading, “Other wonderful methods include Byron Katie’s The Work, which involves filling out simple worksheets challenging one’s negative, critical, sad, resentful, hopeless view of your circumstances and others’ behavior,” recommends Dr.Stockwell. Additionally, check out this video of Byron Katie, on how to confront your fears during meditation.