One day, in a particularly challenging group session, my therapist asked me to describe how I outwardly treated others. I said, “I’m usually kind, affirming and encouraging.”
“Now, tell the group how you inwardly treat yourself,” my therapist said. “What kinds of things do you hear yourself say when something doesn’t go as expected?”
Before I knew it, I heard myself passionately repeating things I said to myself all day long. My inner thoughts quickly transformed into these gruesome, spoken words:
- You’re so stupid.
- You’re such a hypocrite.
- You always let people down.
- You’re an idiot.
Blurting out these private thoughts in group therapy made me nauseous. To this day, whenever I go back and read them in my journal, I still feel sick to my stomach. They remind me of how damaging negative self-talk can really be. It’s unhealthy, abusive and can damage you from the inside out.
Out with the Old
Negative self-talk is the worst. Though some may say there are benefits to being a little hard on yourself, there is a big difference between acknowledging areas you can improve in and beating yourself up over them.
Whether they realize it or not, almost everyone engages in negative self-talk so you are not alone. It unfortunately isn’t a habit you can change overnight, but something that requires time and effort. With enough practice, you’ll eventually find your self-talk less critical and more accepting. As you take the first strides, you’ll realize that you actually have the power to feel instantaneously better about yourself and the world around you.
There are two parts to killing off negative self-talk. The first part points inward, towards the thoughts you cultivate in your mind. Forcing yourself to look at the positives in every situation is an essential part of this process. The second part points outward, towards turning those thoughts into actions. Speak to yourself out loud, kindly. Tell yourself you’re good enough. Believe that you are good enough. Then, act like it.
In with the New
After leaving group therapy and hearing how abusive my thoughts had been, I paid myself a compliment and said, “You did a great job opening up and sharing. I am proud of you.”
Today, I am generally a lot kinder. When things don’t go as planned, I respond nicely both to those around me and to myself. Positive self-talk has become a habit that has helped me live a more satisfying life.
Here are a few positive affirmations I tell myself throughout the day:
- You're a good person.
- You do the best you can, and then stop.
- Setting boundaries feels great.
- You're always improving.
- You're learning new things every day.
- You accept yourself.
- The only one you can control is you.
- You are a child of grace.
- You are comfortable with yourself.
- You are changing for the good.
- You can be yourself.
Developing a healthy list of self-affirmations I repeat out loud is now part of my regular routine. It’s a healthy habit that has not only helped me become more positive, but has led me to seek affirmation from myself instead of anyone else. Kicking negative self-talk out and embracing this new habit has brought my life immeasurable benefits, and I hope they do the same for you.