Date: 12/12/2011

(Life Skills)

How to Stop Negative Self Talk

By Tina Su

Do you know what makes life difficult?

The answer is simple: it’s us. :)

It is us, and that large and complex brain of ours that seem to seek out drama, repeat negative self-talk, create false illusions of fear, and generally makes our life difficult in almost all situations. Seriously.

Every single struggle we experience on a daily basis; every complaint, every dissatisfaction, every problem can be drilled down into a single source of root cause: our brain and the stories it tell us.

Because our brain’s job is to keep us safe, it is constantly acting from a place of fear. Its job is to ensure our survival. As such, its job is not to ensure that we have a blissful experience while we are alive.

Even when everything is going well, a little voice in our head will say, “Watch out! Something bad is going to happen.” Then panic sets in, and we experience that unnerving anxious feeling of possibly losing all the good we have going for us.

Our brain is exceptional at telling us engaging stories that are so convincing that it’ll influence us to also act out of fear and irrational anxiety. Additionally, It will vividly replay the emotional story in our mental theater over and over… over and over… over and over.

It’s torture, really.

Before you know it, you’ll start to believe in the story and trusting it to be true. It becomes solidified in your mind in the form of a belief–even if it wasn’t true. We then continue our life’s journey and take action from that place of false belief.

The problem is…. we end up suffering.

Sometimes, we suffer a lot. Sometimes, we suffer for a long time. We suffer because we don’t realize that we are the problem and that we are also the solution.

My Story of Negative Self Talk

For the last year or so, I have been carrying with me the repetitive thought and heavy belief that “I am a bad mom.”

Like many of our self-defeating thoughts, it whispers quietly in our ears and its toxin spreads insidiously. We realize that it is there, but because it’s difficult to separate it from reality, we let it stay. Because our brain speaks with our own voice, it feels real and it feels true.

Anyway, in my example, I had believed it. I had bought its story. Feeling completely incompetent as a parent, I did what I could to stay busy and to stay away from my little boy. It was heart breaking. I kept this secret silently tucked away in the privacies of my mind (and now you know it too).

Externally, people saw that I was focused on work–after all, lots of kiddies go to day care. Internally, my heart was crying. Truth was: I had buried myself in work because I didn’t think I could handle it. I was scared.

The more I stayed away, the more time I spent focused on work the worse I felt and the more my actions confirmed the affirmation that “I am a bad mom.” I was literally torturing myself.

Can you see that it’s a downward spiral? In these private mental wars we battle, no body wins.

Having gained the conscious awareness that this little thought was the reason why I had put my son in day care and why I suddenly felt compelled to focus on my career, it felt like waking up from a bad dream.

Looking at my precious little boy (almost 2 years old now), who radiates life so fully and with so much joy, I feel a surge of emotions–a mixture between feeling guilt for having “missed” a year of his life and feeling deep appreciation for having learned this valuable lesson.

I put my forehead against his soft little forehead, his light brown eyes looking straight into my soul and I gently whispered, “I love you Booboo. From now on, I promise to enjoy EVERY moment with you. Mama understands now.”

With that, I decided to stay home with my son once again. I decided to work out my schedule such that I can be a full-time mom again. No more drama. No more (mental) lies. No more (self) abuse.

I get another chance at this important “job”, except this time without illusions, without guilt. Through its ups and downs, I want to be there, fully.

~ ~ ~

Even before I was a mom, there was always something non-supportive running through my head, and often I would believe it. And this belief into a false statement about myself would cause so much pain and zaps much of my vital energy. I would feel cut off from life and it significantly limited my ability to feel happy.

I think the last thing before “I am a bad mom” the limiting thought running in my mind was “I am not lovable”. Even just a few weeks ago, while standing in a room of strangers at a conference in New York, feeling alone, the thought that kept running in my mind was “I’m such a loser. No body likes me.”

It doesn’t make sense, and it even sounds silly when we talk about this openly. But I genuinely believe that thoughts like these hunt each and every one of us to some capacity. Whether we are conscious of these thoughts or not, they do affect us. And they do hurt us.

Now, I don’t think these thoughts will ever go away, which is ironic, since this article is on “How to Stop Negative Self Talk”. While we can’t completely stop the negative self-talk, we can work towards a new reality where we stop believing in all this negative self talk.

We can do our best to practice awareness in recognizing when these thoughts are happening, and choosing to not buy into the abuse.

We can say, “Thank you for sharing.” Or “Cancel.” Or simply recognizing that our brain is like a crazy, drunken monkey that says really stupid things, and that we really shouldn’t take it seriously.

What about you?

What unsupportive thoughts are you hearing on repeat in your mind? What self-defeating, abusive and limiting statement is your brain trying to convince you (or have convinced you) to be true?

Stop for a minute from reading and reflect. What were you worried/stressed/anxious about recently (or right now)? What thoughts have been racing on repetition in your head?

Take inventory. Take notice. Then shine the light of awareness upon it. When we are facing the light, the shadows must fall behind us.

Here are some common thoughts:

I’m not good enough.

I’m ugly.

I’m too fat/tall/short/young/old.

I’m stupid.

He/she’ll never love me.

I am not lovable.

I am a bad parent.

I am a horrible person.

There is something wrong with me.

I never have enough time.

I don’t deserve …

I can’t …

All of these (and more) are illusions fabricated by our mind, which significantly limits our capacity to fully enjoy life. When we get lost in the story, we miss the gifts nestled only in this moment.

This moment, after all, is all we have. Once we loose it, it’s gone forever.

So savor it.