Be Kind to Yourself: Eliminating Negative Self-Talk

18 Mar 2005 — Young Woman Looking out the Window — Image by © LWA-Sharie Kennedy/Corbis

 “I am too old to start a new career.”

 “I won’t be selected for this new position, so I will not even apply.”

“I am not going to be able to maintain this new workout regimen, so I will not even start.”

Many of us have either thought or verbalized statements like these at some point.  These are the thoughts that we have when we are at the point where we have to make a decision and self-doubt begins to creep in. These are the thoughts that prevent you from living your dreams. These are also the thoughts that keep you living in your comfort zone when you have the potential to do so much more.  This was my story for a very long time.  I cannot even begin to tell you the many opportunities that have passed me by due to thoughts like these drowning out all of the positive thoughts and encouragement that I was receiving from those around me. 

I would often try my best to move forward although these thoughts were swirling around in my head, but it would be extremely difficult because one of two things would happen.  One thing that would happen would be that I would move forward with whatever I was hesitating to do but I would do it half-heartedly.  In other words, I would go through the motions but would not put much effort into it because I did not believe that I would be successful at it anyway.  The other thing that would happen is that I would sabotage myself by talking myself or overthinking myself out of the opportunity.  I would allow these thoughts to take over to the point where I would consciously make decisions that would all but guarantee that I would not be able to take advantage of the opportunity.

 I still sometimes battle with these types of thoughts but here are a few of the things that I do to stop them before they take over to the point where I miss opportunities.

1.Feelings Are Not Facts.  When you are feeling like you are not deserving of or should not pursue an opportunity, that feeling is very real to you at that moment.  The feeling is real to the point that you will debate on whether you should go after the opportunity that has presented itself.  Always remember that feelings are based on what you feel while facts are based on what is known to be true.  This sounds simplistic but it is easy to confuse the two.  At the age of 40 or 50, you may feel that it is too late for you to embark on an entirely new career or go back to school.  Yet our news feeds are filled with stories of 80 and 90-year-olds that have just received their high school diplomas or college degrees.  We always hear about people have overcome immeasurable odds to start families, businesses, and careers.  We see all of these examples and think how wonderful it is that these individuals accomplished these great feats but for some reason we allow our thoughts to make us think that we cannot accomplish things as great as this or greater.  I have often felt that I am too old for this, have too much going on for that, or am just not qualified to do the next thing.  And when someone would point to someone with a similar set of circumstances to mine and as an example of how I could do something, I would just dismiss them and just say, “Well, that is them.  I can’t do that.”  But the reality is that that statement reflected my feelings, not the facts.  Everyone has some set of circumstances that could make anything hard but if you have been blessed to see another day then you have another opportunity to do something different – despite how you feel.

2. Would You Say This to Your Child? We often have so many inner conversations with ourselves during the day that we do not realize how many of these thoughts are negative and downright mean.  My daughter, who is a junior in high school, came to me after not doing as well as she thought she should have done on her very first test in one of her AP classes.  She was so disappointed and was even contemplating dropping the class because she was finding it difficult to understand the material.  I went into full supportive parent mode as I told her that she was more than able to handle the class or she would not have been recommended for it.  Also, I reminded her that she cannot define her whole experience in the class based on the first test that was taken when she was still getting a feel for her teacher’s teaching style and testing style.  A few weeks prior I had changed positions at work and was having a challenging time adjusting since I had been in my previous position for several years.  Even though everyone at work was very encouraging as I got settled into my new role, I was my biggest critic.  I would have never said to my daughter those things that I was saying to myself.  To my daughter and others, I am very encouraging and supportive but I was degrading and harsh with my own thoughts.  Now that I have become more conscious of this, I try to filter my thoughts by asking myself if this thought is something I would say to someone I love or care about.  This normally helps me put a positive spin on a negative thought. 

3. Try Not to Overthink.  Overthinking is the death sentence of so many dreams and aspirations.  Before you can set a goal in your mind for any significant time, you are thinking about every single thing that could go wrong and one negative thought leads to the next negative thought.  I cannot begin to tell you the many books and ideas for books that never saw the light of day because I had more reasons why I should not pursue being an author than why I should just go for it.  The act of overthinking can paralyze you to the point where you cannot even visualize anything better for yourself.  I have learned that the best way to overcome overthinking is just to go for the thing that you are hesitating to do.  This is much easier said than done but sometimes you have to move forward despite the negative thoughts.  I almost did not start this blog because of my overthinking.  I had all sort of thoughts – What if nobody likes it? What if it is not good?  I have never done this, what if I do it all wrong? What if I cannot maintain it? With all of these thoughts going through my head, I published my first post.  It was not easy but I did it and I am proud of myself for doing it. And you will be proud of yourself for stepping out and starting something that you almost talked yourself out of.  Overthinking will keep you in your comfort zone and almost guarantee that you will be unable to move forward with any goals or dreams that you have for yourself.

The goal is to always strive to be a better version of yourself and sometimes that may mean stepping out of your comfort zone.  So many times we could get so much further if we just got out of our own way.  Hopefully, this post will assist you in eliminating those negative thoughts that hinder you from growing and accomplishing all that you are capable of. 

Comment below as to the different things that you do to combat negative self-talk.

7 thoughts on “Be Kind to Yourself: Eliminating Negative Self-Talk

  1. “So many times we could get so much further if we just got out of our own way.” I feel like I’m being called out. 😭😭
    This entire post…. everything hits deep. The overthinking, being too hard on ourselves compared to how we are with other people, running with our feelings as if they’re the truth. It’s a whole journey, and almost an everyday struggle.The fight is so worth it tho. 💯 Aweosme post!

    1. Thank you so much! I am so glad you got something out of it. These are things I often struggle with and try to be conscious of as well. We are all a work in progress 😊.

  2. Wow….I feel like the song by Michael Jackson…..”Man in the Mirror.”
    Everyday I try to encourage the families I serve on my job, my friends and my own family members. I can hear myself saying something similar if not the same things. When I look at the person in the mirror, I often hear myself say…What about you? When will it be your turn?
    I stopped making resolutions years ago because they were too easy to break or not keep at all but the dreams planted inside still cried out to be acknowledged and acted upon.

    In 2012 I went back to school to obtain my Master’s degree. (You have to know this was God because undergrad was “HELL !!!!!” and a journey I never wanted to take again).
    I graduated in 2016 with a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling while working 50 hours per week on my job (including weekends), taking classes, (full time), 100 hours practicum and 600 hours internship.
    In 2017 I took the National Board Examination and became a Board Certified Counselor. All I needed was 2 years of supervision and I could apply for licensure. That never happened…..

    Georgia closed most of its mental health centers. private practitioners were not hiring and if I wanted supervision, I would have to pay a fee of $85.00 -$125.00 per month with an independent supervisor. That would have been fine but I had no clients and no place to work with them. Needless to say, I have been discouraged, disheartened and uncertain if I still have what it takes to fulfill my dream. Although it has been only 3 (now 4) since graduation, I have gotten 3 years older. The problem is I was not a millennial when I started this journey…so you can imagine what my thoughts and feelings are at this point especially with the current atmosphere and culture (ageism, sexism, fluctuating economy, the political arena, etc.).

    The good thing is that my desire to be better and do better will not let me rest…I have hope and strong faith. That is what keeps me from being overcome by the negative self-talk and thinking that haunts me on a regular basis.
    I can’t stop, I have not lived yet!
    Thank you Gayle for reminding me that it ain’t over til it’s over!!! Great post!!!!

    1. Yes, I often have to remind myself that it is not to late to fulfill my dreams. As time ticks by it is easy to become discouraged. Like you said, it is not over until it is over. I am glad you enjoyed the post and keep pushing. Your best days are ahead of you.

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