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Negative Self-Talk: 3 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Those Thoughts

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negative self talk

Who else suffers from negative self-talk and wants to liberate themselves? I used to have a  terrible opinion about my skills, my abilities, and myself in general. It is difficult and distressing to live this way. I mean, who feels good talking down about themselves all day? Nobody! Not only does it make you mentally sick, it is also holding you back from your dreams and successes.

I lived this destructive way for decades. Fortunately, I realized that I was wasting my life, if I didn’t get that BS out of my head. I was sick of it, and decided to find a way to stop my negative self-talk. My ultimate goal was to accept myself.

Here are three simple ways that have made the difference for me and gave me a sense of freedom:

1. Disconnect

The next time you catch yourself talking about yourself negatively, stop. Take your thoughts and put them into a story. Tell yourself the story in the third person, and use a different name than yours. This way you can disconnect yourself from the negative thoughts.

Here is an example what such a story could look like:

“Once upon a time, there was a woman named Pia. Her dream was to become a successful entrepreneur. It is not easy and Pia encountered some challenges. Pia talked down about herself and thought that she would never become a successful entrepreneur. She told herself that she is not good enough and does not have the right qualities. Pia met a friend to talk about her struggles. Fortunately, her friend pointed out that she had just hit a short-term challenge that is related to one specific situation, but does not relate to her skills and qualities. Pia’s friend told her that she could grow with this challenge. That changed Pia’s view of her own situation. She was happy and wanted to continue her journey straight away.”

By telling yourself a story, you take another perspective of the situation. From an external view, everything seems to be less difficult, because it is disconnected from yourself. This is the reason why we can give good advice to others, but struggle in similar situations when it directly affects ourselves. So, step out of yourself and take the view of a third person by telling yourself a story about your limiting thoughts.

“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.” – Terry Pratchett

2. Contribute

The challenge with negative self-talk is either to reframe our thoughts (e.g. seeing them from another perspective by telling a story) or to get out of our own heads. The latter does work when we can manage to focus on something else other than our challenge. I’ve learned that contributing to another person’s life really gets me out of my head, because I’m busy thinking about them.

There are two main benefits by serving beyond our own needs and doing something good for others:

  • We get out of our heads through focusing on another person’s needs.
  • We feel good because we know we are doing something great.

“The secret of living is giving!” – Anthony Robbins

Soon, this becomes a healthy habit. The focus shifts from ourselves to how we can contribute to others and the negative self-talk disappears. In fact, the self-talk changes from being negative to positive, simply because internally we know that we are doing the right thing by helping someone.

Try it out this week or month by volunteering at an event. Google local events. Volunteers are always welcome.

3. Compete

In general, it is not recommended to compare yourself with others. In this case, I’m telling you to do it! But the “others” are your former selves. See how much you have grown from where you were then to where you are today. Often, we overlook the progress we have already made. Without seeing progress, we tend to get discouraged and talk ourselves down; this is where negative self-talk starts.

Now, you can play against yourself. Compete with your former self regularly by practicing, for example, self-regulation. That means, instill healthy habits like exercising, eating healthy food, and getting up early, or habits that are beneficial to your specific situation. By strengthening your self-discipline, you’ll automatically feel better. And, you can tell your former self that you are better! That turns the negative self-talk into positive self-talk.

Eliminate the BS

Now you have three possible ways to either reframe your negative thoughts or to get out of your head completely. Experiment with them and have fun! Be a creative story-teller, a love-giving individual, or a successful competitor with several gold medals.

What relief would it be to get rid of the BS you tell yourself? What opportunities would come up, when you stop talking yourself down? Comment below

Aileen Schuering believes that there are many people who don’t reach for their dreams, simply because they think they can’t. She has made it to her passion to empower these lovely individuals and to help them overcome their challenges so they can live the life they desire and deserve to have. Aileen has created Potential Lane and empowers people with regular posts on her Potential Lane Facebook page.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Annie Romero

    Dec 2, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    It’s truly amazing how thoughts can change your life. If you use positive thoughts daily you can overcome so much. It becomes habit which is the key. I have been reading Meg Nocero’s book The Magical guide to Bliss and her story is amazing and shows what we can choose to be with the right thoughts.

    • Meg Nocero

      Dec 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Aileen and Annie-
      Could not agree more- and with a small boost, shift in the right direction – there is no telling what kind of difference we can all make in the world. Thank you so much for the shout out Annie- Enjoy the month of magic and miracles and be sure to tell all about it- share the love- spread the love and we got this! Appreciate the positive review- if you can add to Amazon as well I would greatly appreciate it as I do my best to send the message forward!
      Blessings & Bliss-
      Meg

      • Aileen Schuering

        Dec 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        Meg, I read that your book “The Magical Guide to Bliss” corresponds to a calendar year. Is it recommended to start reading the book in January?

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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