Does your inner monologue seem to belong to a negative, cantankerous moaner who complains about everything and insults you on a regular basis?
If so, you’re not alone: most of us tend to be our own worst critics, and are far harsher to ourselves than we’d be to others.
It’s also difficult to remain positive when we’re subjected to all kinds of awful news and from every direction, whether it’s on our social media feeds, on TV, or even just discussed by our coworkers. Our internal monologues tend to mirror said harshness: we can get discouraged easily, or feel that nothing is worth doing because the world is going to explode anyway, so why bother, etc.
Do you find yourself doing this on a regular basis? Have you found that such negative self-talk is helpful? Or does it make you feel even crappier?
Changing that voice to one that is more supportive and encouraging takes some effort – especially if you’ve gotten into the habit of being a downer – but there are ways to adjust your attitude to something more positive and uplifting.
Treat Yourself As Gently And Lovingly As You Would Treat A Child
The next time you find that you’re mentally berating or insulting yourself, take a moment and think about what kind of impact that would have if said to a six-year-old child. If it helps, keep a photo of yourself at that age nearby, and look at your own face, your own eyes.
Would that little face flinch at such hurtful words?
Would those eyes tear up?
Would that child hang their head in shame and pain because someone who was supposed to love them and nurture them is being cruel to them?
Of course we get frustrated with little ones on occasion, but we also recognize that they are trying to figure out the world around them, and need to be spoken to gently, with encouragement and reassurance.
Remember that your inner child is very much a part of you, and is still in need of kindness and gentleness. If you feel that you’ve screwed something up, try to find the humor in the situation, and let it go.
Similarly, if you find that you’re feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of ugly crap going on around you, give yourself a time-out and indulge in some much needed self care. Remind yourself to stay present, and take note that in this moment, this breath, you are okay.
Replace Negativity With Positivity
Do you find that you dwell on life’s negative aspects instead of recognizing the joy and beauty around you?
Let’s work on that.
Grab a notebook and a pen. This isn’t something that you want to thumb out on your phone – the approach should be much more grounded and human, as we spend far too much time connected to our electronics.
Every time you find yourself wrapped up in something negative, try to stop your downward thought spiral and look for a positive aspect instead. When you find one that lightens your heart a little bit, write it down. This notebook is going to be dedicated to all the great, upbeat things you can think of instead of all the soul-destroying crap you’re usually wading through.
Are you depressed about some aspect of your body? Write down something you’re amazing at: you’re far more than the sum of your appearance, and whether you’re strong, or kind, or artistically talented, you have wonderful traits that others appreciate about you, and that make the world a better place.
Did you hear a sad story about animal abuse? Write down a wonderful story you came across instead, or make note of how your own animal companions make you feel. Did your dog or cat do something hilarious? Were you woken by gentle nudges from your guinea pig? Write that down.
Reduce Your Exposure
Over the next week or so, take note of where it is that you’re experiencing the most exposure to negativity. Once you do that, you can take steps to eliminate these from your life, which will do wonders for lifting your spirits.
Do you find that your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are rife with outrage and horror stories? Unfollow those accounts, and replace them with those that focus on encouraging, happy news, photos of cute baby animals, and stories about people who are making a positive difference in the world.
Are there negative people in your life who treat you poorly or drain your energy? You can try talking to them about the situation and ask that they modify their behavior towards you, but if they’re narcissistic or trapped in their own depressive spiral, they’ll likely project onto you and end up resenting you for even suggesting that their actions cause negativity. Instead, it’s a better idea to avoid spending too much time with them.
Isn’t it better to hang out with people who fuel your light, who re-energize you, encourage you, and make you feel amazing about yourself? Just watch what happens to your inner monologue when you do.
Few things can bog a person down quite as much as being trapped in their own heads. We’re exposed to so much negativity every day – from within as well as from without – that it can be difficult to break free from a mindset of victimization and suffering.
One way to counteract this is to empower ourselves by taking some kind of action, even if it’s something small. What was it Mother Teresa said? “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” That’s quite accurate, and every one of us has the ability to do something for another, even if it seems small at the time.
Use whatever skills you have, and put them towards a cause that you feel strongly about. Are you a great writer? Write a letter to your local politician, or write on behalf of charity organizations like Amnesty International. Can you knit? Leftover yarn skeins can be used to knit hats for newborns, nests for abandoned baby birds, blanket squares for refugee families, or even warm clothes for orphaned children.
When you have a sense of purpose, you automatically have greater worth in your own eyes – you can’t help but feel a lightness of spirit, because you are doing some good in the world… and that good will be reflected in the way you see (and speak to) yourself.
You Get To Choose Your Inner Voice
Have you heard of Viktor Frankl? He was a physician and psychiatrist who wrote a book entitled Man’s Search for Meaning. Don’t let the title make you think that it’s just about men, however: rather “mankind.”
It was written in 1946, after Frankl had spent several years in concentration camps: first Auschwitz, then Dachau. He wrote it from a psychotherapist’s perspective, as one experiencing the horrors of concentration camp life, and losing all of his loved ones while he was incarcerated.
One of the quotes from that book reads as follows:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
He was quite correct. It really is up to us to choose how we react to this world: how we think, which thoughts we allow ourselves to dwell upon, and what actions to take. Breaking free of negative self-talk can be difficult, but if you make a firm decision to do so, then you’ve already taken your first step towards a healthier, happier, and more positive mindset.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.