“Except for our thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.” – Descartes
Many of us speak harshly...to ourselves.
In fact, if you stop to ‘think’ about what you say to yourself on a daily basis you’d be shocked.
You have heard the expression “you are your own worst enemy.” That was me for a very long time.
I spent time worrying about what other people thought of me. I criticized myself when I made a mistake. Or sabotaged my own best intentions. Obsessed about not being good enough. And much more.
We are constantly in a state of unconscious self-criticism. We do it so naturally we don’t even know we’re doing it.
Negative self-talk is like slamming a piece of 2x4 wood up the side of your head when your inner critic takes over.
It has no benefits except to keep you in uncertainty and diminished sense of self.
It works to destroy your potential and keep you playing small.
The negative noise can be deafening and only serves to undermine your ability to function in a healthy way.
I had to change the dialogue of the harsh critic who said “you’re not good enough," and recognize the source.
When we start our life we come into this world filled with innocence. In time, we acquire the language and behaviors of those who are our custodians.
Parents, teachers, authority figures. The people who influence our earliest memories, and the beginning of our identity.
We all have that critic inside of us and I always ask, “who is doing the talking?”
I guarantee you didn’t start the conversation in your head.
I grew up in an atmosphere of fear and loathing of self, but it wasn't mine.
My father was an alcoholic and violent.
I was told repeatedly I would never amount to much, and I believed it.
Early in my life I tried to quieten the negative noise with alcohol and drugs which almost destroyed me.
I was in AA for five years until I discovered it wasn’t about the drinking, it was about the thinking. They call it ‘stinking thinking’.
I had to make a choice. Learn how to recognize the destructive thinking and behavior and change it.
If I had not taken the advice of many nurturing supporters, I probably would be dead by now. And that’s not an exaggeration.
Growing up we are given a storehouse of words that helped describe us, our environment, the people in it, the things that mattered, the attitudes, behaviors, judgments, criticisms, prejudices, and expectations of everyone around us.
If you were lucky, we were fed positive, life-affirming stuff, and that became the foundation for all we would become and continue to learn and absorb as you grew into maturity.
But many of us grew up hearing and digesting harsh criticism, watching behaviors that were self-destructive, and being subjected to beliefs that separated people into categories that were not true.
The language of our maturity may not have evolved beyond the negative messages we absorbed in childhood, and it became our way of communicating with ourselves and with each other, perpetuating the same cycles of garbage thinking.
Unfortunately, this translates into negative relationships, at work, and at home.
How many people join a company only to quit a boss who is angry, critical, unsupportive and a bully.
Negative thinking is perpetuated by thoughtless people who were in turn influenced by thoughtless people.
Let's reverse that.
What would it look like if you could become your own best friend?
What would it look like if you had more self-compassion and could care for yourself like you would a friend?
How can you learn to love who you are?
You would be kinder, softer, more willing to suspend judgment and less critical of others in your orbit.
It takes a lot of critical thought and awareness to change the language within. You need to be vigilant and pay attention to reversing the statements you tell yourself.
We are all creative human beings. You are creating something every time you have a thought, open your mouth to communicate and take actions that result from those thoughts.
Thought + word + action = your reality.
You are 100% responsible for whatever manifests in your life through the choices you make.
You may feel that life is unfair, that there are other factors you have no control over. Other people dictate the direction you take. Circumstances may feel like they are out of your control.
But think about it.
We make a choice, conscious or unconsciously, to allow those people or circumstances into our life, and we have a choice as to how we want to respond to them.
When you change your language, you change your behavior, and you change your life.
“Language matters because whoever controls the words controls the conversation.” – Erica Yong
Key questions to ask:
- Do I feel good about who I am, if not, what needs to change?
- Am I willing to consider other ways to be more of the person I want to be?
- What are the things that matter most to me?
- Who are the most important people in your life and why?
- Am I experiencing life fully on my own terms at work and at home? If not, what is getting in the way?
If you do not take the time to define who you are, there are plenty of others waiting in line to do it for you.
Your self-language defines the way you see yourself, and the way you choose to live.
Learning how to soften the language in your head and communicate the truth of who you are is a challenge, but one that is worth the price of admission to the world of self-awareness.
After thousands of hours of therapy, coaching, mentorship, and self-improvement, I understand transformational change intimately. It’s the sole reason I write the books, guide my clients to greater satisfaction with self, and continue to explore the depths of human behavior.
Change is never easy, but when you are willing to confront your thinking, you are on the path to greater self-awareness.