The Chatterbox

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of negative head chatter; not only in my own head but also in the heads of my clients.  They have shared some self-deprecating things they’ve been saying to themselves and I too have been aware of my own self-directed negativity.  Maybe it’s because of the long winter most of us have experienced or maybe it’s just old habits that resurface when we get tired and overworked.  Regardless of the reason, it’s prompted me to include an excerpt from my last book, Letting Go Of The Status Quo, where I shared a lot about how to reprogram that negative self-talk and be much kinder to ourselves.    Re-reading this definitely reminded me of some key things to do to shift that internal voice in a more positive direction.  I hope it does the same for you!

I heard a statistic that adults have approximately 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s crazy, isn’t it? What would happen if you started to pay attention to even one-third of those 60,000 thoughts? For one-third of your waking hours, try to listen to the internal
dialogue running through your mind. What is the soundtrack playing in your head? And of that one-third of the time that you’re paying attention to your internal dialogue, what percentage of that is actual self-talk? You know, the talk that begins when you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror. What do you say? “Good morning beautiful, you look ravishing today! Let’s make it another fantastic day!” Or is it more like what used to run through my head as I squinted my eyes to adjust to the bathroom light and thought to myself, “Oh Andria, you look so tired. You need to get rid of the luggage under your eyes. Where did THAT wrinkle come from? I swear it wasn’t there yesterday. I think we need to get better lighting in here. You look awful.” And then I’d brush my teeth and get on with my day without thinking anything was wrong with what just occurred. We are so self-critical, aren’t we? Think about it. Think of the things you say to yourself, and ask yourself if you would EVER say anything like that to the female child in your life, whether it’s your daughter, granddaughter, niece, or little sister. Would you EVER look at her and tell her she looks awful and perhaps she needs to stand under better light? I cringe when I think of anyone saying anything of the sort to my niece. I’d probably smack them if they ever talked to her that way. Yet I had no problem talking to myself this way. Why is that? Why is it okay to berate ourselves? Is it because no one can hear us? What would you think if you knew everyone could hear you? What if there was an internal microphone that broadcast all your internal chatter out in public? Would you be proud or embarrassed?

Self-talk is very powerful. It’s what we hear constantly, and unless you are good at quieting your mind, it can be hard to escape the chatter. For much of my life, my negative self-talk prevented me from doing what a person who loved me would tell me to do. It was a powerful force in my life but it took me years to recognize that it had any impact on me at all. Once I recognized the force of negative self-talk, I learned that positive self-talk could be just as powerful, if not more so, although it takes retraining of the brain (a lot of retraining in my case!). It requires attention to what you’re thinking and feeling so you can record over the negativity. Although I was first asked me at age 25 whether I loved myself (to which I replied, “of course!”), it took me ten more years before I consciously started treating myself with the love and respect I deserved

As I began to understand how powerful our thoughts are in creating what we experience, I wanted to change a lot of my internal dialogue. It’s not easy to monitor all that chatter but what makes it easier is paying attention to how you feel. Your feelings are an indicator of what you are thinking. So clearly, if I am berating myself for something, I don’t feel very good. Recognizing these bad feelings would cause me to stop and pay attention to what thoughts were going through my head at that moment. That is usually when I identified the negative thought creating the negative feelings and that’s when there was an opportunity to make a change.

Awareness is just the first step. Actually changing the dialogue and self-talk takes practice and effort. I wanted to make a change because I was acutely aware of the impact the negative self-talk had on me throughout most of my life. It held me back, created fear and anxiety, and it made me feel bad. That was not what I wanted to experience anymore.

After becoming aware there were two questions I began to consistently ask myself upon hearing the negative inner chatter: 1) would you ever say these things to Nicole (my beloved, 12 year old niece) and 2) would you be proud or embarrassed if there was a microphone attached to your head which made all these internal words audible to the public?   From there I began to shift the dialogue to what I would actually say to Nicole and what would not embarrass me if it were actually made as a public statement. 

Now it’s your turn… when you find yourself bombarded by your internal negative chatterbox, ask yourself if you’d speak these same words to your daughter, niece, little sister or any person in your life that you love.  Next, ask yourself if you would be proud to have this internal chatterbox being broadcast out in your public for all to hear.  Then, change your words to what would make you proud and what you would tell the person you love. Do that each time you hear the negative chatterbox and begin to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve.

Do you have other ways you deal with negative self-talk?  If so, I’d love to hear them! Please add your comments or share with us on C3’s Facebook page.

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