“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens!” ~ Louise Hay
Self-talk, that constantly running internal commentary within your mind, is something that is universal; we all engage in self-talk. However, the variances between the tone and character of our self-talk can be dramatic. And with equally dramatic effects.
With the current wellness trend centred firmly on self-care – more often in the form of sweet indulgences that we can bestow upon ourselves – it’s all a waste of time if our self-talk is unkind. Put simply, a bubble-bath is not going to do much good, if the entire time we’re soaking in the water, we are also criticising ourselves.
Being somewhere on the self-love journey myself, I’ve found the inner work on my self-talk to be both the most challenging and the most rewarding. As a result, I firmly believe that kind self-talk holds the power to everything when it comes to a sense of a life well-lived.
However, although I am learning to be much kinder to myself, and reaping the benefits, I also find that it takes constant work to not slip-back into the negative self-talk patterns that can greatly diminish the joy to be felt in each moment.
So, how do we transform a mean voice into a kinder one?
Kind self-talk starts with a healthy dose of positive thinking. It goes back to the straightforward adage: misery loves company.
By this, I mean that it’s far easier for unkindness to thrive, and for self-criticism to dominate, when we are focusing on the dark shadows of our world. Which we all have.
For kindness to usurp, we need to up the positivity and shine a light on the brighter aspects of our lives.
With this mind-frame as the new set-point, it is possible for anybody to turn negative thinking into positive thinking, and thus turn an unkind mind, kind.
The process is simple enough, but it does take perseverance. After all, this is about creating a new way of thinking:
Start by applying one rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend.
Be gentle with yourself when you notice negative self-talk.
When a negative thought enters your mind. Stop it from running away by, firstly, recognising what you are doing and smiling. Then, secondly, evaluate the thought rationally and challenge it with affirmations of what is good about you.
Write down thoughts. Especially when it comes to any persistent thoughts. By writing in free-flow (letting the pen express thoughts without judgement) we can tease out the key elements that drive our negative self-talk.
Replace saying “I should have…” with “I choose to…” Not only is it kinder, but it also helps to give less space for guilt to grow. This prevents it from becoming another stick to beat yourself up with.
Say “no” more to others and allow for more kindness for ourselves. This, in turn, reduces resentment – which helps to silence negative self-talk.
We can choose to surround ourselves with empowering people. Notice how others make you feel, and think about whether you really want to spend precious time with them?
Get comfortable with being disliked.
It really is alright if someone does not like you. It is so liberating to stop people-pleasing in the name of acceptance. It is usually beyond our control whether somebody likes us or not. So, there’s no point trying too hard to be liked. It just displaces our vital energy. A polite lack of concern equates to far less critical self-talk because you’re not judging yourself or your actions against someone else’s standards. As long as you are coming from a place of integrity, then it’s unnecessary to justify yourself. Certainly not to those who, often due to projection, are hell-bent on seeing others in a negative way. Let them go.
Set achievable goals and celebrating progress, however small. There’s no point in berating yourself for not achieving something if the odds on achieving it were minuscule. It’s much better, much kinder, to break down goals into realistic and achievable targets. Then, by celebrating the progress made on these smaller victories, we build an inner culture of self-kindness and self-respect.
If you tend to have a negative outlook, go easy: don’t expect to become an optimist overnight.
But, by practicing kindness in these ways, self-talk should contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance.
What’s more, you may also find that you become less critical of others; sharing your kindness beyond your own mind, and out into the world around you.