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Let’s be honest …
We talk to ourselves all the time! Usually in our head but I’ve been known to mutter when I’m looking at my to-do list.
Self-talk happens during everything we do. From taking inventory of how we are feeling – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We use self-talk when we are interacting and observing other people.
But how often are the things to tell yourself negative and unkind? You look fat. You’re ugly. So and so can do that better than you. You’re such an idiot. There’s no way your going to get that promotion. You don’t matter. You’re worthless.
I could go on and I’m sure there are times that you do. But where does all that negative self-talk come from?
Negative self-talk comes from all of the past wounds and hurts we have endured.
Past wounds can come from criticisms, nit-picks, teasing, bullying, and harsh words. It also can come from unintentional negative messages that we have perceived from family members or important people in our life.
If we experienced more negative messages than positive messages, then those situations and statements start to become our core beliefs about ourselves based on the false ‘truths’ we received.
These false truths and core beliefs then turn into our daily self-talk monologue. And it can be pretty terrible things we say about ourselves!
So the goal then is to switch our negative self-talk with more positive messages. It can be a hard process and certainly takes time. Please give yourself grace! There’s no reason to be down on yourself for being down on yourself.
Give yourself grace! There’s no reason to be down on yourself for being down on yourself!
Notice the thoughts you’re having
The first step to altering self-talk and your thoughts surrounding yourself is to start noticing the thoughts you’re having.
In Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book, Switch On Your Brain, she describes this process as “gathering”. Dr. Leaf is a communication pathologist and audiologist who has worked in the area of cognitive neuroscience. She has studied and researched neuroplasticity or the minds ability to actually change the brain. From her book she states
We can actively choose happiness rather than letting our external and internal world of wired-in and learned thoughts and our biology define happiness for us. We need to wire in positive thought networks that can fill us with the power to get us back on track.
Take the time to sit and write down “What do I think about myself?” I suggest finding a journal just for this topic because there is going to be quite a bit of writing and self-reflection. Don’t edit. Don’t filter. It doesn’t have to be in complete sentences much less paragraphs. Write everything – both positive and negative. How do you view yourself in all areas of who you are?
This should be a pretty long journal entry and quite possibly bring up some tears that you may not expect. As a therapist I’m pretty used to tears but that’s not necessarily true of everyone else. Make sure you are in a place where you feel comfortable and safe enough to be able to cry and don’t stop yourself.
After you’ve exhausted your list (and potentially yourself) take a break! Maybe a few hours or wait until the next day. In the next step you’re going to need to be more rationally minded and that’s hard to do when a lot of emotion has just been expressed.
Where’s the evidence?
Come back to the list when you feel ready. Now find all of the negative statements you wrote and write them all down on a new list. After the new list has been compiled you are going to go one-by-one for each statement. This may take many different days for you to complete depending upon the level of pain and wounds you have endured. If you have experienced significant trauma in your life this process would likely be best completed with a therapist to help to find truth.
Start a new page and write the first negative statement down. Then answer the following questions. When you have answered the questions move on to the next negative statement on your list.
- When did I first start believing this lie?
- Who told me this lie?
- Why would the person say that?
- How has this lie been reinforced?
- Where’s the evidence that this is true?
- After answering the above questions it generally becomes clear that there isn’t any evidence. However, some false core beliefs have taken pretty deep root and it can be difficult to combat.
Fight the Negative with Truth
Sometimes your original list with all of the thoughts about yourself can provide you truth. So go back through the original list and write down all of the positive thoughts and truths you know about yourself and use that as a way to break down the lies.
Then go to the bible. What are the truths that God says about you?
Psalm 139:13 (NIV) For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
He knows you better than you know yourself!
There are so many beautiful example in the bible of God’s love for you and His view of you. Let these verses get you started.
Matthew 10:30-32 (NIV) And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV) Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
A New Way of Talking to Yourself
Staci Eldredge wrote the book, Becoming Myself: Embracing the God’s Dream of You It’s an amazing book to help with the topic of self-worth, identity in Christ and positive self-talk!
In the book, Staci discusses the names we call ourselves. Again, sometimes it’s really harsh. We often wouldn’t dare call other people the names we call ourselves! (Or at least we shouldn’t!) But all of us can come up with a nickname or term of endearment that others call us that we do like and that brings a smile to our face as well as happy memories. Staci describes using that same term of endearment when we are talking to ourselves.
I know it sounds cheesy and in fact all of the components above are hard. But it really is helpful in combating negative thoughts! Try it. And then try it again. And again. It will take a while to not feel uncomfortable and unnatural but then you will start to become your own cheerleader instead of worst enemy.
How is God encouraging you today?