How To Turn Negativity Into Positive Self Talk
I've just moved back to California after traveling throughout South America for the past three months. My boyfriend and I are eagerly looking for a space to call home and turning the page of a new chapter in San Diego. Naturally, part of this transition is to ask myself: What's next? I found myself debating what kind of person I am, what skills I have, and how I want to use them. After all of the mental debate, I found myself thinking, “I'm not good at anything.”
It was within that moment of awareness that I realized I am the only thing standing in my way of success. I am and will always be the only thing preventing me from achieving my dreams. Instantly, something inside shifted and screamed out, “YOU ARE GOOD AT ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND TO!” I just needed to set my mind to the right story, a skill I hadn’t sharpened since I returned home.
Why Do We Create Stories In Our Heads?
Self-talk, or self-concept, theorized by psychologist Carl Rogers, is not a new idea. In fact, as a species, Homo sapiens would not be around without the cognitive ability to store and build upon information about ourselves and the world around us. Referred to by Carl Rogers as the Actualizing Tendency, our minds thrive from connecting the dots, developing all capacities and potentials, and enhancing ourselves as an organism. The problem, however, stems from what Carl Rogers calls the Self-Actualizing Tendency, where we assign meaning to each and every encounter, event, and development throughout our lives and respond accordingly. For example, if during your childhood your older sibling constantly called you stupid, you may go through life consciously, or unconsciously, thinking you couldn’t possibly be book smart.
Self-talk can be toxic, but it can also be miraculous and magical. Our projected story of life shapes our perceptions and we simply respond and identify with this perception whether it is true or not. Sure, your sibling may have teased you and called you stupid, but it was your acceptance of this story that solidified it. Instead of believing this story and adopting a nonchalance about test scores, what if you became fascinated with learning? What if you graduated top of your class because you declined to believe a lie?
I’m far too aware that training your mind to default to positive self-talk is easier said than done. Like any hobby, it takes practice and gets easier the more often you do it. What exactly does this practice look like? Follow these three steps below and begin transforming your limitations and doubts into life-changing possibilities:
Make A Promise To Yourself
This might seem silly, but the moment you decide to make a promise that you will no longer stand for the negative self-talk you make a contract with yourself to change. This promise does not have to be elaborate, in fact, it can be as simple as I promise to love myself each and every day.
When you’ve made this promise, you can write it down and post it on your fridge or on the door before you leave the house as a reminder that you are ready to do the work that will set you free from the negativity.
Identify Your Negative Story
Like me, this might be as easy as becoming aware of your thought process. Notice your thoughts throughout the day and what story they narrate. It’s especially prevalent that the negative voice will become present when working through a problem, obstacle, or challenge. What do you tell yourself in difficult times? Where did this belief come from?
Once you’ve identified this projected story, becoming alert to how often you replay this narrative is simple. Known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or frequency illusion, our minds lean into selective attention, which happens when you’re struck by a new idea, word, or thing. After consuming the information, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result, find it often. Because your mind is now “on the look-out” for negative self-talk when a thought enters your stream of consciousness you can quickly identify and deny its story.
Change The Story
Just as I had switched gears and told myself I can do anything I set my mind to, you must rewrite the negative self-talk into positive affirmations. Remember, the story you tell yourself changes your perception. Make time every morning to make a list of 3-5 new stories. Here’s what my list looks like:
You are going to write an inspiring blog post today! You are going to attend the best yoga class of your life this afternoon! You are going to fill yourself with tasty and nourishing foods! You are going to be productive and get shit done! You are beautiful and filled with love!
These tools are meant to sink into your stream of consciousness and with practice and devotion to loving yourself, you will rewrite your projected story. You will break through boundaries you set for yourself and unlock your greatest potential. It starts and ends with you, what does your new story look like?