Have you ever stopped to consider the way you speak to yourself on a daily basis?
I’ll admit, it’s not something I have always thought about. But over the past couple of years, I have spent quite a bit of time dissecting the conversations I have with myself. When I started my recovery journey from my eating disorder, anxiety and depression, I had never really given much thought to how I spoke to myself. But then I had a therapist ask me about it, and I realized that I was really quite mean to myself. It was then that I began to examine the things I said to myself.
“You’re so fat, no one will ever love you.”
“Stop worrying you freak. Everyone can tell.”
“You don’t deserve to get better, you aren’t even that sick”
“It isn’t even that sad… grow up.”
“I can’t believe you can look at yourself.”
I quickly realized however, that I did not have the knowledge or tools on how to challenge the mean, and negative things I said to myself. Once I became aware of how I spoke to myself, and was really conscious of the things I was saying, I knew I wanted to stop… But I didn’t know how.
I asked some friends online what role self-talk plays in their lives, and I got some pretty interesting responses. A few common things that I noticed in the responses were that low mood can have a large impact on the type of self-talk people engage in (ie, the lower someone’s mood, the more negatively they speak to themselves), the way people speak to themselves is often described as very critical, people find it harder to challenge negative self-talk late at night or other times when they are fatigued, isolation can increase the likelihood of negative self-talk, being mindful of the self-talk people engage in can make challenging it easier, and one of the biggest things I heard was that a lot of people really aren’t aware of strategies to challenge negative self-talk.
Since beginning my recovery journey, and interacting with other people in all kinds of recovery journeys, I have become fascinated with self-talk, and how to improve my relationship with myself. We all deserve to be gentle, and kind to ourselves, sometimes we just need a little help or guidance when it comes to figuring out how to do that.
I know firsthand that some of these strategies won’t work for everyone; I definitely had to participate in some trial and error before finding one that worked well for me! That being said, I wanted to share with you all some strategies I have cultivated over the years for how to deal with negative self-talk. I hope that you can all find something in this series that works for you, and if you do I’d love to hear from you!
So sit down, buckle up, and let’s treat ourselves with love and kindness we would treat our best friend!
Strategy #1 – Tapes & Counters
Something I found through my own personal reflection, as well as my conversations with peers, is that a lot of negative self-talk people engage in is usually somewhat cyclical. By this I mean that we often repeat a lot of the same things to ourselves. This first strategy was introduced to me by a psychologist I saw briefly, and I use it today with some of my clients!
Step 1: Identify something negative you say to yourself repeatedly, this is the tape.
Example 1: Something I have always struggled with, is worrying in general. I often find myself saying things along the lines of “No one worries this much… you’ll never be normal.”
Step 2: Come up with a statement that challenges the tape, this is your counter. A counter is usually comprised of two parts: a change of attitude that is positive and that you can believe, and is phrased as a “to do” behavior.
Example 2: It took some time, but the counter I eventually came up with is, “I may worry, but I also know that 99% of my decisions are extremely thought through. I will take my time and be confident in the choices I make.”
Play around with it, see if you can find a counter to a tape that you tell yourself time and time again. Let me know if this worked for you, and stay tuned for the next couple of weeks for some more strategies I’ve picked up over the years!