Freedom From Negative Self-Talk
July is upon us! This beautiful month brings long, sun-filled days, afternoons of baseball, and evenings accentuated with the sounds of cicadas. July is one of my favorite months; mostly because I love summer! But also because July is, in my mind, halfway through summer: a beautiful place to pause and appreciate the season before we start heading towards autumn.
July holds special significance for me, for reasons both happy and sad. Happy, because our rabbit, Bashful, will celebrate his birthday on the 21st. Sad, because it will be six years since we lost our dog, Macca, on the 3rd. There is a lot to love in this month, but also a lot to grieve.
The sudden loss of Macca was especially hard on both my husband and myself. After his passing in 2016, we spent long stretches of time filled with sadness, regret, disbelief, and anger. Like many people who suffer the loss of a beloved animal companion, we wondered how it could have been avoided. Did we do something wrong? Did we ignore a symptom that would have prolonged his life if treated sooner? Should we have fed him different food, started him on, or stopped a certain medication or supplement he was receiving? The list of “what-ifs” went on and on.
With these self-doubting questions came a flurry of negative self-talk. I berated myself about every single time I yelled, lost my temper, or otherwise did not dote on Macca. I spent a lot of time regretting certain decisions I made over the 12 years he was with us, directing a lot of anger and hatred inwards. My negative self-talk would often start with “If only I had…” or “Why didn’t I…” or “What did I…” or “How could I have…”
I stayed in a place of despair and sadness over the loss of Macca, feeling as if it were somehow my fault, that if only I had done/not done something differently, he would still be with us. Over time, I was able to process and work through these feelings (although, I can honestly say I am still processing.) However, that same negative self-talk creeps up again every year around the anniversary of his death.
I am guessing that many of you can relate. In fact, I KNOW you can! We are so very hard on ourselves. In fact, we are often more critical of ourselves than we are of other people. Think of all the times you have said or thought something along the lines of “I don’t like to spend money on myself,” or “I don’t deserve this because…” or even “I deserve this horrible thing happening to me because I’m worthless.” Let’s help each other process and release these negative thought patterns so we can fully heal and step into the highest versions of ourselves.
Here are a few simple steps to help free yourself from the constraints of negative self-talk:
Thoughts and feelings aren’t always reality. Are you telling yourself a story based on a thought or feeling? Is that thought or feeling even true? For example, you may engage in negative self-talk around your weight. You might direct hatred and anger towards yourself because you don’t look a certain way. But is that really true? That there is a way you need to look? What you perceive is not always reality.
Catch your inner critic. Pay attention to negative thoughts and words directed inwards. If they are words that you wouldn’t say to a loved one or friend, stop! You can say something like, “This isn’t true.” and then list all the beautiful attributes about yourself. For example, if you are critical of your weight, stop your inner critic with “It isn’t true that I should be thinner. I am comfortable in my body, I love the way I look, and my curves are beautiful.”
Adjust your thinking to that of a friend. If your friend or loved one came to you and began telling you how horrible they think they are, what would you say? Use this same thought process when you find yourself slipping into negative self-talk: change your words to those you would say to a loved one.
Amp up the self-care and positive talk. Start your day with some beautiful self-care, whether it is yoga, meditation, pulling a tarot card, or a walk. During this time say positive things to yourself and think positive thoughts about yourself and your life.
Throughout the day, try to take time every few hours to say something loving to yourself.
So often the negative and harsh messages that we come up with are easier to believe. But a mindful practice of interrupting those thoughts, changing the message, and stepping forward with gratitude and grace can make all the difference.
Want to read more about self-talk? Check out my July 2020 blog, Achieving Freedom, here.