We all have an inner critic that often does more harm than good. It’s this inner voice that can further demoralise you when in doubt. Negative self-talk or comparisons are something that everyone experiences from time to time, and it can affect your mind, causing unwanted stress and leaving you feeling disappointed.
It can manifest in several ways, with negative thoughts plaguing your mind – I am not good enough, I can never do anything right, I will never be able to get that job. While being criticised and compared pushes some to do better in order to prove their worth, it can affect the morale of others, creating self-doubt and even causing serious mental health issues. Some of the effects of negative self-talk and comparisons include the following:
- It can create limiting beliefs such as ‘I am not worthy of being loved’ or ‘I can’t open my own business.’
- You might tend to believe that perfection is key to greatness and develop perfectionist tendencies.
- You develop a tendency to self-judge and do better than others, simply because your definition of success, happiness, and love is based on how it looks on others.
- It could make you feel needy and insecure in your relationships, where even a ‘playful’ amount of criticism can have a negative impact on you.
The biggest drawback of negative self-talk is that it is not positive. Studies have shown that positive self-talk is a great predictor of productivity, success, and overall well-being. So how can you avoid comparisons and negative self-talk? The following six steps can help.
1. Identify When You Are Being Self-Critical
Learn to recognise when you are being overly critical of yourself and how it makes you feel – miserable, cruel, short-sighted, or maybe unconfident? Another way to spot negative self-talk is to notice things you say to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend or family member.
2. Don’t Always Mistake Your Thoughts and Emotions for Reality
Oftentimes, we get so swayed by our biases and judgments that it can get delusional or far from the truth. Have you experienced your mind telling you that you can’t do something, but when you actually mustered up the courage to do it, you found out that it wasn’t so tough after all? That’s precisely why you must listen to your inner intuition more than your inner critic, and not mistake your biased observations to be accurate.
3. Shift Your Perspective
At times, shifting our perspective and thinking long-term rather than dwelling on current thoughts can really help. For instance, when you are upset about something, ask yourself if it will matter in five years – or even after a month, for that matter. Another way is to look at your negative rumination from a holistic healing perspective. This will help you realise that most of your tensions aren’t as big as they appear.
4. Speak to Yourself Like a Friend
Your inner critic can easily become your worst enemy. In such moments, speak to yourself as you would to a dear friend or family member. When you catch yourself speaking negatively, ask yourself how your friends would handle this instead. What would they say to me? How would it make me feel better?
5. Time It Out
Thought-stopping is another interesting way to simply distract and stop a thought. It’s not suppressing your thoughts, but channeling them in a more productive way. This can include visualising a stop sign or thinking something else, which is especially important for thoughts like ‘I am not good enough or ‘I’ll never be able to do this,’
6. Name It
Thinking of your inner critic as a force outside of yourself (and even giving it a goofy nickname) makes your negative self-talk less threatening and easier to realise how silly some of your critical thoughts are. There was once a Saturday Night Live character known as Debbie Downer, who would find the negative in any situation. If your inner critic has this unwavering skill as well, then you can simply think, “Debbie Downer is doing her thing again.”
At first, it might seem difficult to take charge of your thoughts and shun the part of your mind that creeps its way into overthinking, self-sabotaging, and negativity, but you must confront them and create a counter-narrative. Practising some of these ways on a timely basis will rewire your brain in the long run and set you up for thinking positively about yourself. At the end of the day, how you speak to yourself matters just as much as how you would speak to a loved one – with care, kindness, compassion. You are worth it!