You may have noticed there is an awful lot of meanness and cruelty in the world. There always has been, but lately it seems to be at a fever pitch. I find that it’s like a virus, and one far more dangerous than Covid.
Person A is mean or cruel to Person B, and now Person B has the virus and they pass it on to Person C, and so on and so forth. Sometimes some of us are kind enough to not pass the virus onto others. Instead we bottle it up inside and infect ourselves over and over.
Can you relate? Do you find lately you seem to be even more mean to yourself? Is your self-talk completely toxic and negative?
Self-talk, in and od itself, is a completely natural thing. That voice in our heads is there to help us think and make decisions. But sometimes this mental chatter does more harm than good.
Research has shown that how we talk to ourselves impacts our mental health and well-being. Negative self-talk can lead to depression and anxiety. It would have to when the person who is literally closest to us seems to hate us and feel only negatively about our worth and abilities.
Negative Self-Talk is an Instinct
You most likely knew negative self-talk was harmful before reading this. So why is it so hard to stop doing it?
The answer is, while this negative thinking is harmful to us modern humans, our ancestors depended on it for their survival. Throughout our evolution, our ancient ancestors were surrounded by actual threats to their physical well-being and life almost 24/7. Thinking that everything was a potential threat was a survival mechanism. Over the years, negative thinking became more and more of an instinct in humans.
Instincts are hard to kick to the curb. While most of us have no daily threat to our lives, we can certainly feel that there are dangerous things going on in the world. In the midst of this modern chaos and stress, our ancestral instincts go into overdrive and many of us find the negative self-talk increases tremendously.
How to Stop Being So Mean to Yourself
Addressing your negative self-talk will go a long way toward improving your overall mental health and well-being. The more healthy and positive you are, the more YOU act like a human vaccine, putting an end to the mean and cruel virus.
Here’s how to stop the negative self-talk:
Recognize it in the moment
Like anything we do repeatedly, negative self-talk becomes a habit. And in order to break that habit we have to first recognize that it’s happening.
Become aware of your inner chatter. Meditation can really help with this. By trying to quiet the inner chatter you become even more aware of it in the first place. Meditation also helps us to not judge our thoughts harshly, but to simply recognize them and then let them pass.
Start a journal and write down some of the negative self-talk you discover. You’ll find you say certain things to / about yourself over and over again.
Notice these patterns of thought and then begin to investigate whether these awful thoughts are true or not. Put your thoughts on trial and ask some probing questions. Is the statement true? Do you have proof that it is true? Where did the statement/thought come from?
As an example, let’s say you noticed you were always telling yourself, “Well I royally screwed that up.” You found yourself saying this statement over and over again throughout the week. Put that thought/statement on trial:
Is it true that you royally screw everything up? If you have a family, friends, a roof over your head, a job, etc., then no, chances are you do NOT royally screw everything up all of the time. Can you point out things you do well? Can you remember getting praised by others for a job well done or for a particular talent or skill you possess? Where did this thought or idea come from? Did something happen in your past that led you to believe you were a royal screw-up? Did a teacher, friend, parent or sibling tell you this?
Use your journal as a workbook and investigate all of your negative self-talk. Chances are you will find not much of what you tell yourself about yourself is true!
When you do something that hurts someone else in some way, even unintentionally, you apologize. Do the same for yourself. Talk to yourself as you would a dear friend. Tell yourself how sorry you are for speaking to you like that and that you now know none of it was true.
You can cure yourself of the virus of hate and cruelty. By being kinder to yourself, you can also spread kindness in the world. And we could all surely use more kindness these days.
Remember to buy yourself some flowers today!
Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/@brigittetohm