If you hear a voice within you saying,
You are not a painter,
then by all means paint
and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent van Goch
If you’d been in the car with me the other day you’d have noticed the blue skies and the bright sunshine, and you might have wondered why my face was dark and down.
I wasn’t seeing the beautiful day. My mind was busy worrying over why my life was feeling stuck.
You could say that I was wallowing in it. Do you ever wallow in your own misery?
Suddenly the DJ on the radio shouted out something that caught my attention. What he said changed my day…
He was signing off and ended with this: “Hope you choose a great day for yourself.”
“What have I been thinking about” I wondered, “That had gotten me feeling so bad?”
As I analysed my thoughts, I realised I was saying all those things to myself that put me down. On top of it all, I still berated myself with “Kirsten, you idiot, you’re using all those phrases that you shouldn’t be using.”
Which got me thinking about the No-No’s in self talk. The phrases that get you down every time… They take you down that self-destructive path to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. They leave you feeling unworthy and down-right dreadful.
The top-ten phrases you should avoid saying to yourself at all costs:
- Labelling yourself. “You’re an idiot.” ; “You’re stupid”; “You’re a no-good so-and-so.”; “You’re pathetic.” Labels of any kind are not a good idea. Labels are usually negative and never 100% true. Don’t say these things to yourself.
- Obsessing over a past mistake. “I shouldn’t have done this”; “I wish I hadn’t done that”; “If only I had ….. “. You’re just going to make yourself feel worse. Learn, and move on.
- Nagging. Saying the same bad things to yourself over and over. Reminding yourself about how terrible you are. Putting yourself down. “Why can’t you ever get things right?”; “You never did add up to much, did you?”. Very often this voice is reminiscent of a parent or teacher.
- Using the words “I should”. When you say this, you shut down possibilities, you feel heavy with the responsibility of having to do something. This is often said with a sigh. “I really should write that report”; “I really should phone my grandmother”. Rather say “I could” which opens up possibility and choice.
- Confirm labels given to you by others. “My Mom/teacher/boss was right, I am stupid/ dull/ …”. Come on…. you do NOT have to live up to the expectations of others. You are way better than that.
- Never say never. As in “I’ve never been good at …. “. Never is never 100% true. Don’t generalize something and make it true for you.
- Never say always either. As in “I always mess up. “. Always is also never 100% true. It’s another way of generalising an incident and making it true for your whole life. Don’t do that to yourself.
- Wishful thinking. “I wish I could just….”; “I wish I hadn’t…” . Wishful thinking gets you nowhere and puts off your happiness until some time in the future.
- Odious comparisons. “How come he can … and I can’t ….. “; “My sister is so beautiful/ bright/ rich and I’m not”. Comparing yourself with others leaves you feeling bitter and negative (or superior and arrogant). Rather accept yourself as you are.
- Focusing only on what’s wrong, what’s negative and what’s not working. You’ll make yourself feel truly miserable.
Become aware of your self-talk. We often say the same things to ourselves over and over, often for years on end. Listen and take note of what you are saying to yourself. Learn to recognize when you are using the kind of statements listed above. Become aware of how your feelings are affected by the things you are saying to yourself.
Don’t berate yourself when you realize you are using a No-No statement. Merely say, “Oh, I don’t need those thoughts” and focus on using constructive thoughts for a few moments.
Do this every time you become aware of No-No thoughts and they’ll diminish over time. They may not disappear for good …. but you’ll become better at manging them when they do arrive in your head.
Which is exactly what I did on that beautiful day and the day I chose turned out to be a great one. Thanks to the DJ!