For years I told myself demeaning things I wouldn't say to someone I didn't particularly like, much less a friend... or even my cat. I most certainly would be devastated if my children said these things to themselves. So why was I stuck telling myself things like:
Hello?! (knock on forehead). Is this ridiculous spiral and self flagellation useful in any way? Is this story I tell myself about myself serving any purpose other than to cause suffering? Nope!
This kind of negative self talk perpetuates itself and creates neuropathways in our brains that are like ruts in a road. It becomes easier to repeat these thoughts -- even though they make us miserable -- than to get out of that familiar brain rut.
Thankfully, there's neuroplasticity, the "muscle-building" part of the brain. Neuroplasticity is "the physical basis of why making a thought or action over and over again increases its power," according to BrainWorks, "Over time, it becomes automatic; a part of us. We literally become what we think and do."
So, obviously, changing that negative self talk to positive self talk is the answer. Not so easy. It's really hard, I found, to re-train our brains!
I Notice That a Part of Me is Thinking...
A transformation began for me in re-training my brain when I learned some basic concepts from Acceptance Commitment Therapy. Simply this...
When I realize my inner critic is telling me I AM... not enough, unworthy because I am not doing what so and so does, or a failure because of blah de blah... I step back.
And I change the I AM to A PART OF ME IS FEELING that...
Try it. Does it feel different? Give you a little distance?
Now try the next step. Add to it: I NOTICE THAT A PART OF ME IS FEELING that...
For me, it was nearly revolutionary to realize I was defining myself by a negative thought. When I re-framed the thought and noticed that a part of me was feeling whatever negative thing, the power of it began to diminish.
I AM ENOUGH
I was relieved. And I began to notice cracks in the rutted road of my brain. And I began to create new ruts with more positive thoughts. Vulnerability expert Brene Brown notes the power of creating a new simple neuropathway when those negative messages pop up. When you notice that negative self talk, try instead to tell yourself "I am enough."
After reading Brown's book Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms our Ability to Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, I started with these small steps. I put sticky notes around reminding me "I am enough." I breathed in and breathed out as I meditated, walked, did yoga stretches, "I am enough." Most importantly, I stopped myself when "I am such a failur..." started to come to my consciousness, and switched it. "I am enough."
Try it. Let me know how it goes.
A 50-something life coach living in the Shenandoah Valley. Grateful. Growing. Giving... and receiving.