In session, when a client is struggling with a sense of failure or not being good enough, I ask them to speak out loud the critical words they say to themselves. It is often shocking to them how negative, drastic, and mean these statements sound when spoken out loud.
We regularly say things to ourselves that we would NEVER speak out loud to another person.
The goal is often to motivate ourselves to learn from mistakes or to do better somehow, but what ends up happening is that we feel worthless, hopeless, and helpless to change things. The self-talk we use to try and rectify the situation actually makes it worse.
These situations often arise when we think we’ve made an error of some sort, and we feel embarrassed, unintelligent, or less worthy than those around us. We may magnify the issue, believing that others see it as a more serious mistake, or we take it as proof that we aren’t as good as we thought we were. In reality, everyone everywhere makes mistakes, but when reeling from a recent faux pas, it can be difficult to keep that in mind.
The next time you’re struggling with an issue and feeling really low, try speaking to yourself the same way you would speak to your best friend.
Imagine someone you really care about, with whom you are close enough to be honest. Imagine they are the ones who did whatever it is you did. Compare how you would talk with them to how you typically would talk to yourself and try to scale your internal words and approach to at least the level of grace and kindness you’d show another human being you care about.
If this is difficult for you, try having the internal conversation out loud or in a journal (the car or shower are often great places for a conversation with yourself!). For many, negative self-talk is so ingrained that it happens without even noticing, so an intentional approach may be necessary to start to shift those patterns.
What you’ll start to notice over time is an increased sense of confidence and resilience, and the ability to problem-solve when issues arise – as well as a better relationship with yourself!
Written by: Molly Halbrooks