“I am nothing special. No one will ever love me. I am unforgivable. I am a failure. I am ugly. Do I even need to be here? Am I even contributing to this friendship, family, workplace, or even this world? Why am I here? What’s the point?”
Is this negative self-talk familiar to you? Do you worry and engage in negative self talk? Do you question your value? Maybe it’s so subtle it creeps up on you and you don’t realize it’s effecting your mood and your feelings. The trouble with self-talk is it sounds like the truth.
If you have depression, it’s common to interpret things as negative. It’s easy to get caught up in it. To let it snowball. To sit and fixate on the things you aren’t good at. To sit and wonder why. Why am I here?
I understand. I’ve been battling negative self-talk for years. Perhaps it’s a by-product of being a musician. I’m constantly self-assessing and comparing myself to the competition, to my high standard of excellence. That self-criticism carries over into my life outside of music, to my roles as mom, wife, teacher and friend. I have shared my struggles with not feeling “good enough” in my post “Not Good Enough: How to Silence Your Inner Voice”.
I think it’s common for all of us to question our role in this world and in our own families. My brother has this trait – why don’t I? Why can’t I be more like my sister or mom or cousin? Or maybe it’s when your schedule and workload feel like drudgery and you ask yourself, “Is this it?” “Is this what I’m good for?” If you’re dialogue with yourself is filled with negative questions or statements such as “I’m fat. I’m stupid, I’m not good enough, I can’t do this, I’m not….etc. then you need to know right here and now that you matter.
Yes, you matter, regardless of how small you may believe your contribution to the world may be. Everyone has purpose.
God tells us: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26.
Birds have to find food EVERY SINGLE DAY. They don’t have barns or pantries to store food and yet the Lord feeds them. He sent his ONLY SON to DIE for you, why wouldn’t he take care of YOU? You are FAR more VALUABLE to Him.
“There’s no need to worry! Instead, you can be confident that your Father in heaven holds you, protects you, and promises to give you all that you need.” – Matthew 6:25-34″
Your situation may not be that you need food, but maybe you need to feel valued, to feel purpose, to feel like you’re making a difference in this world, that your life has a point. I promise you, it does. It may not feel like it right now, but we will work together to help you feel like you MATTER!
If you want to get off that cycle of beating yourself up, of telling yourself you’re not pretty, smart, valued, talented, or whatever your inner voice is telling you. Then it’s important to challenge your negative thinking. With practice you can recognize when you are engaging in the negative self-talk and consciously choose to stall and eventually escape from it.
Let’s begin the journey of talking to ourselves with kindness. Here are 5 techniques to help you on your journey to loving self-talk.
When you’re in a negative spiral it’s easy to get caught up in the ruminating, the constant round and round of negativity running through your thoughts. To help you grab hold of your thoughts, to set the pause button if you will, ask yourself these questions:
Is this thought always true?
Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
What is the evidence for my thinking?
What is the evidence against my thinking?
2. POSSIBLE THINKING
Did you read that right? It’s not positive thinking, but POSSIBLE. For those of us that struggle with depression, being tasked with positive thinking can feel, let’s face it, IMPOSSIBLE. There’s a lot of pressure from society to “stay positive” or “focus on the positive”, etc. However, according to psychologist Tamar E. Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety, “Research has found that when you’re down and out and force yourself to say positive things to yourself, you end up feeling worse.” So if the positive thinking isn’t working, why not try POSSIBLE thinking.
What is POSSIBLE thinking? Possible thinking is finding a NEUTRAL thought, the FACTS in a situation rather than the feeling. For example. “I am stupid” becomes “I struggle with this and need to spend more time on it so I can understand.” or “Nobody cares about me” becomes “I’m feeling lonely right now and need to reach out to a friend.” Focusing on facts allows for your thoughts to slow down, take stock and take a different direction. Ultimately, it gives you more choices in how to respond.
Finding perspective can be a challenge, especially if you are struggling with depression. Nonetheless, working towards finding a healthy perspective may be just the baby steps you need to stall the negativity. When faced with a situation that brings about the negative thoughts, ask yourself these questions:
What is the best thing that could happen?
What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it?
Is there anything good about this situation?
Will this matter in five years?
4. NAME YOUR INNER CRITIC
Brené Brown, PhD, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of The Gifts Of Imperfection, suggests giving your inner critic a name, preferably a silly one. Chansky calls her inner voice The Perfectionist. “Naming it something goofy adds a bit of levity,” she says, “which helps break through the emotional hold that anxiety has on you. Over time, this short circuits the whole anxious cycle.” I’m thinking I might name mine Maleficent or Ursula. What name will you give your inner critic?
Learning how to take a negative and neutralize it takes practice. To help you figure out just how to that, here are some common phrases that can be diffused by simply changing the way you speak to yourself.
I am a failure
I can keep trying and redefine success.
I am not pretty
God made me exactly the way he intended. I am beautiful.
No one likes me
My family loves me. These people don’t know how great I am. Others will.
I am not special
“We are God’s handiwork” – Ephesians 2:10a
What are you saying to yourself? Can you come up with a phrase to make a more NEUTRAL statement? Try to stay away from statements that include the words “should” or “have to” as they will not help promote neutrality.
Let’s review the 5 tools to help you escape your rabbit hole of negativity: Question, POSSIBLE thinking, Perspective, Name Your Inner Critic and Rephrase. Does one of these techniques jump out at you more than another? If so, start with that one and then work your way through the others.
We may never be able to control WHAT thoughts are running through our minds, but we CAN choose how we ENGAGE with those thoughts.
This is not a practice in perfection. Learning how to challenge your negative self-talk takes time. Give yourself a break. Be patient and forgiving.
Hugs to all,