“Mediocre.” “Procrastinator.” “Wavering.” This is how my friend described herself — and I was stunned. She is, in fact, successful, beautiful and somehow manages to bake goodies for her family in her free time. Yes, bake! (I am baffled, because I do not understand baking, nor how one finds time.) But, on this day the negative self-talk was winning, seemingly steam-rolling all of her successes.
Can we talk about that negative inner monologue we all have? Why do we tolerate self-vitriol that we wouldn’t aim at our worst frenemy? This week, I want you to see yourself as I — or your mother/sister/best friend — see you. I promise, you are doing a better job — and are far more fabulous — than you usually let yourself believe. Plus, since we all need a little bit of help, don’t forget to use #4 — liberally.
1. Stop dwelling and start executing: Dwelling on a bad outcome distracts us from finding a solution. Instead of wasting time on self-defeating thoughts, redirect that energy onto what you could do differently. What actionable steps or new approach could change the outcome now, or the next time you face a similar situation? Being goal-oriented is empowering, and lifts our focus beyond the current frustration.
2. Be gentle with yourself: Envision how a loved one would feel if she heard what you’re saying about yourself — or if someone said them about her. When I start to be self-critical, I now ask myself if that is how I’d want my daughter to see herself? Just that thought alone pushes me to tone down the self-critical script.
3. Challenge your negative conclusions: Does one critical memo from your boss really mean your work is subpar? Does losing your cool at your child mean he’ll need therapy for life? Ask yourself if your automatic self-critical conclusion is actually true. What facts support it? Then be your own devil’s advocate and identify all the facts that counter it. Note: It can be tough to see both sides when you’re upset. So, for your hot-button issues, take a moment to do this process when you’re calm.
4. Get out of your own head (oooh this is my favorite tip): Research has shown that one of the best ways to stop dwelling on our own shortcomings is to focus on making others happy. So, let’s start there. Remember how amazing it feels when a friend says something awesome about you — pays you a compliment that just makes your day? Do that for someone else, right now. When you share this article, tag a friend and write three fantastic things about how you see her, because just like you, that little negative voice might be on replay in her head, too. And if you tag me in your posting (@DrDarria on Twitter, Dr Darria Long Gillespie on Facebook), I’ll fan your friend’s flame too!
Someday I hope we’re all able to quiet the negative voices on our own, but until then, we need each other’s help. It takes a village. So today, use your village to drown out the self-critical whispers with a supportive and loving shout.