Many times, when things aren’t going so well in our lives, we find we are our own worst enemy. Honest self-critique is healthy and how we grow, but when we constantly put ourselves down to others and in our own heads, we stunt our personal growth and development. These negative thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when we sabotage ourselves. We prove to ourselves and others we were right all along. Are you a victim of your own inner narrative? Read on for 5 things to know about Self-Limiting Talk.
Personal Enemy #1.
Most people are not as hard on you as you as you are on yourself. Even our detractors do not bully us as badly as we can bully ourselves. Have you heard the saying, “wherever you go, there you are”? Well, that means that our worst critic is always with us. We are our own worst enemy. To the extreme, this can be as dangerous as self-harm or suicidal ideations. If this is the case with you, please seek treatment from a mental health care professional. You are worth it.
I wish I could say the solution to our negative internal narrative is simple, but it isn’t. We do not simply “snap out of it.” And at the failure of those “simple solutions” offered to us by well-meaning people, we take it as yet another failure on our part. This self-perceived failure just goes to further the negative way we feel about ourselves.
Negativity Doesn’t Produce Positive Results
Calling yourself “bad” or “stupid” doesn’t encourage you to be “good” or “smarter.” It often has the effective of doubling-down on the negativity. However, we do not need to feel as if we are all that bad or stupid, all we have to tell ourselves is that we “can’t.” As a kid, when I would say I couldn’t do something, my mother would say, “can’t never did anything.” While I appreciate the sentiment, when you apply the double negative rule, “can’t” really did do something. By saying “I can’t,” I convinced myself that I was incapable, and in doing so, often convinced others.
There are ways to reframe our self-limiting talk. We can look at things in a different light. When we do not succeed in doing something we have tried, rather than saying, “I can’t,” we can say, “well that was good practice.” When we are learning a new skill, we do not make mistakes, we have lessons on what didn’t work. This takes practice though.
The Voices in Our Head That are Not our Own
Our past can haunt us in that the narrative we hear in our head is often in the voice of another. Particularly as children and youth we are susceptible to those negative things said to us. Especially if it comes by way of the voice of a parent, grandparent, sibling, teacher, or other person close to us. We may rebel and act like it doesn’t bother us, but years later, often at a crucial time in our lives, those words flood back.
In college, I knew someone who decided to drop out. He simply stopped attending classes, which caused a greater problem than if he had properly withdrawn. From my perspective (as one who struggled to afford college) he blew up his own life. When I asked him about it, he told me he “wasn’t any good at school anyway.” In high school he had a teacher tell him he was “hell bent for failure.” What was the teacher thinking? That was not constructive or productive and ultimately turned out to be destructive.
If you hear these negative comments on repeat, ask yourself where you heard them before. Perhaps the person who planted the doubts in your head is no longer in your life but is taking up space in your head. Whether they are still in your life or not, these comments are not helpful and will not help you achieve the results you want in your life.
A Trite Cliché Won’t Do
You don’t just overcome negativity by putting positive quotes on your bathroom mirror. They may not hurt, but it takes work to overcome something that has taken years to develop. A flimsy poster with a kitten on the end of a rope with “hang in there” may be cute—even encouraging on sunny days—but it does little to dispel deeply rooted self-doubt. Overcoming self-limiting thoughts takes effort and intentionality to work through.
Seeing from a New Perspective
When my daughters were in high school, every day as they walked out the door I would say, “find your greatness!” This wasn’t to put undue pressure on them to perform, it was to have them looking for the greatness already inside them. There is greatness in us all, but sometimes we need help to find it.
A coach can help you see yourself in a new light. By pointing out when you are at your best and encouraging the accomplishments you make, a coach helps you to begin to change the dialogue in your head to one that is more productive and positive. Working with a coach is an investment in yourself as well as your vocation and relationships.