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Watch Your Language! - Tackling Critical Self Talk

It is fair to say that, for the majority of us, we are so careful about how we speak to each other.

So why is it that when it comes to talking to ourselves we can be so critical and cruel?

How we talk to ourselves matters.

Whether we talk to ourselves out loud or it’s a conversation we have internally in our heads, how we talk to ourselves can have a huge impact on our self-worth and even affect how we can react to the everyday stresses of life.

So how can we be more mindful and self-monitor how we self-talk?

A good first step is to start paying attention to how we talk to ourselves.

So let’s think about it. Every day we have an ongoing commentary running from our own heads. In fact, we have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.

Now, statistically out of all these thoughts a whopping 80% are negative. Wow. That means you’re on the receiving end to a lot of criticism. So, out of all those thoughts, how many times do we really acknowledge the language that we are using - and furthermore challenge it - when it strays from being helpful or kind?

It’s time to reflect

Find yourself a quiet moment to reflect on your self-talk. If it helps, use a notebook to write down your unfiltered thoughts. Do you see any patterns emerging? Do you find your thoughts being more constructive or destructive? When it comes to a challenge, are you your own cheerleader or are you a critic? When it comes to a mistake do you berate rather than see it as a learning curve?

If you find yourself nodding more to the latter, then it’s about time we catch that inner critic.

Noticing the Negative

Did you know our brains have a negative bias? That means our brains are hardwired to think more about the negative side to things than the positive or the neutral. It is important to know this, as it explains why we are more prone to point out our shortcomings before acknowledging our achievements.

This can have a direct impact on the language we use on ourselves. For example;

‘I am not good enough at art to try that new class’

‘Maybe if I wasn’t such a boring person they would want to talk to me’

‘That last meal I made was terrible. I’m never going to attempt baking again’

It would appear that our own brain is set to work against us, however our negativity bias once had a purpose to serve us. Back in the caveman days it was there to keep us alert, protecting us from harm from any pesky dinosaurs. In today’s modern world however the negative bias no longer is necessary and in fact can hinder us from progression.

So how can we reframe things to help us keep our negative bias under control?

A good approach is to practice compassionate self-talk. An important component to compassion is kindness, the same kindness you would show to the ones you love.

Next time you find yourself being self-critical ask yourself would you speak to a good friend or a close family member the way you speak to yourself? The answer is most likely no. With this shifted perspective you can provide yourself with that same comfort, validation and empathy you give to your nearest and dearest.

So why not see how it feels to be on the receiving end of that empathy and encouragement you would naturally give to others. It feels better doesn’t it?

Thoughts Not Facts

Thanks to that no good negative bias our mind has a tendency to jump to conclusions from time to time. This can send us on a downwards spiral of depression and anxiety if we are not careful.

For example, one ignored text message can have us assuming our friend is not speaking to us. One job rejection can leave us feeling like we’ll never get a job.

To challenge these uninvited thoughts next time ask yourself these questions:

Is what I’m thinking true?

Is it absolutely true?

How does this thought make me feel?

What would things be like if I did not hold this belief?

These questions are to stop us going on a downwards slope with our thought patterns. If we recognise that thoughts are simply a perspective of a particular moment, and not representative of the truth, we can see things more clearly.

So next time you’re giving yourself a good talking down practice ways to self – talk that can lift you up.


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