December 07, 2021
5 Steps To Managing Your Negative Self Talk (CBT Techniques)
Let's Start this Blog with an Experiment
Step 1: List five negative things about yourself. Pause here before reading further.
Step 2: Now, I want you to pause and think of how easy or difficult that was for you.
Step 3: Now, I want you to list five positive qualities about yourself.
How did you do? Did you notice that you had an easier time coming up with the negative things about yourself? If so, you just experienced the strength of your inner critic’s voice.
This inner critic stops you and many others like you from achieving goals and living life to the fullest. These negative words create a doom and gloom picture of our world as they continue to play like a tape recorder at the back of our minds.
These repeating words could be:
- I am ugly!
- I am stupid!
- I am unlovable!
- I am fat!
- Something is wrong with me!
And so on…
These thoughts give birth to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and a host of other mental illnesses. Some of us are crippled by these thoughts to the point that we start avoiding people, places, and opportunities in our lives.
Why Do We Engage in Self Criticism?
One major reason we engage in self-criticism is to motivate ourselves to do something about the perceived threats to our self-concept. As twisted and confusing as this statement sounds, many of us use self-criticism to motivate ourselves to do our best.
For example, an overweight person might shame themselves with statements like “what is wrong with me?” or “I am a fat slob!” to motivate themselves to lose weight.
If we pay attention to the inner critic’s voice, we will notice shame and guilt to be at the center. The only issue is that when we flood our bodies with shame and guilt, we tend to shut down and do poorly. This is why an overweight person might do well with their diet for a week and then relapse into extreme eating behavior for the next few days.
For this very reason, we have to find a way to tame our inner critic. In therapy, I work with my clients to understand the origin of their inner critic. Most people develop their inner critic during childhood because that’s when they are most vulnerable and find it to be an appropriate way to tackle painful experiences in life.
In a way, you can say that we have to connect with our inner child to treat the problem, and that’s where therapy comes into the picture. Therapy can be a powerful way to dive deeper into childhood experiences and heal the inner child in us.
How to Silence the Inner Critic
Now that we have identified the problem, we’ll have to go for a solution. Here are the steps you have to follow to overcome your inner critic.
1) Identify the voice
Become familiar with the voice of the critic. When do you hear it? What does it say? How does it impact your mood? Journaling can be a great way to track the consistency in the critic’s voice.
2) Question the critic
Now that you have identified the critic’s voice, you have to question its validity. Is it even telling you the truth? Consider using this worksheet design based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy to challenge your negative thoughts. Write down the situation, your thought process, your emotions, and your behavior. Pretty soon, you will realize that there are alternative and better ways to think about a situation.
3) Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation
Meditation is a powerful tool to slow down the mind and help it focus on productive thinking. Loving-kindness meditation or metta can be a great way to help your mind overcome the negative voices. However, make sure compassion for yourself is the focus of your meditation.
4) Use positive affirmation
Consider using positive affirmation words each day. As you journal, come up with five positive (big or small) qualities you appreciate about yourself.
5) Block critical people
Our inner critic likes to be in agreement with the people who are judgmental and overbearing. Unfortunately, we usually have a lot of such people around us. Consider setting healthy boundaries with these individuals.
5) Consider going to therapy
A major benefit of being in therapy is receiving feedback about our negative self-talk and its origin. It helps us understand why we engage in negative self-talk in the first place.
Using negative words to boost your motivation is like watering your garden with toxic water. With the positive changes I discussed above, you can replace doom with bloom and feel better about yourself while achieving your goals and living your life to the fullest.
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