Let’s talk about talking!
More specifically talking to yourself. I’m not talking about audibly talking to yourself, monologuing about what’s going on, what should be happening or the fact that you are currently having a conversation with yourself… I’m talking about the kind of self-talk that happens all day every day. The messages that run through your brain when you interact with strangers, look at yourself in the mirror, discipline your kids, make dinner, go shopping, say “yes” to new things. I’m sure that if you think about it you can pick out at least 5 thoughts about yourself, your situation, someone or something you saw, or your future that you didn’t intentionally think. A few from my day might sound familiar; “If you go on that trip something terrible could happen.”, “Does it matter if I eat all of this right now?”, “Listen here, dude. Either you figure out this very basic thing or I’m done.”, “I could just eat French fries for dinner…”. Anyone? Our brains are pretty active places in my experience, so I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you have a few of your own examples.
Identifying messages that you find yourself saying and believing is the first step in the very important process of managing your own self-talk. Once you have the presence of mind to recognize the things that are being said in the “back of your mind” you have the ability to do something about it, even if that something is acknowledging it.
Most of us have the benefit of having some really great things in the backs of our minds thanks to loving and edifying parents and educators. We have messages like “be kind to this person”, “you are special and have something special to contribute”, “your ideas and words are valuable”, and “you are loved and cared for. Go and be great, I believe in you”. Regardless of whether or not such messages of love and support were written into your brain’s pattern as you grew up, the unfortunate truth is that for most of us those messages have been written over by so many other statements it’s almost impossible to hear them anymore.
From the minute we emerge from the womb, we experience a literal barrage of negative stimuli and your brain works in that stimuli to protect us from harm. Those thoughts include what happens to your body when you run faster than your legs, and what it feels like when your mom leaves for a long time, but also what it feels like when someone makes a joke about your face, or tells you that your favorite book is stupid. Day after day we have these statements piling up in our brains’ processors, telling us that being vulnerable is dangerous, no wait, it’s ok, no wait it isn’t, wait, maybe it’s could be ok sometimes? Things happen, we go to school, we read magazines and watch TV and make friends and lead lives and we learn the message that doing a new activity that we aren’t good at is only a good idea with our parents because they are safe. Girls should have babies and do laundry while men fix things and watch football. Thin people are the best, the most beautiful, and have the best lives. Doritos or low-calorie snack packs can be substituted for any part of the food pyramid as needed based on budget.
Thankfully, THANKFULLY, we have been given the amazing ability to TALK BACK!! Oh, man. I’m so glad. It gets so noisy up there, all those unhelpful and dangerous messages flying back and forth. Hearing the good and important things is so much harder with all those junk patterns clogging up the place.
We can all identify some of these thoughts as being run by our brains, so what now? Now that you’ve made me even more aware of the random voice in my head and it’s all that I can hear, maybe we could do something about it? Yes. Onward and upward, to clear and helpful minds!
The next part in managing self-talk is to run these thoughts and mental statements through a filter. We need to start evaluating these processes, and calling them what they are. Some of the thought patterns that have gotten into your head are just straight lies, so, we should call them that. Like full on, jump on that idea and call it out as BS.
“You can’t trust anyone so just keep going on your own”, “They’re all hanging out without you because they hate you”, “I ate too much again, man I’m such a loser”.
“UMM, NO, Brain, you’re lying. Those are lies. Big Fat Lies. Liar, liaaar!”
Those thoughts are the mind’s protective attempts at keeping us from emotional, physical or financial harm. Unfortunately, some of those have gotten a little extreme. They’re the tattletale little sibling who sees you going to do something amazing and maybe a little vulnerable, and sends alarms to the Mothership that you’re actually currently going to kill yourself in the worst way imaginable. Tony Robbins helpfully describes these kind of messages as coming from “The Mind”. It’s not necessarily your mind, it’s just the mind and the way the mind was programmed. In order to make any kind of real change you have to be able to identify when a message is just The Mind overreacting.
There’s another kind of self-talk that’s much more insidious than the first two. You can usually notice when The Mind is telling you something out of self-preservation. It’s also pretty easy to identify the thoughts we think that are just not true. Not necessarily east to correct, but easy to identify. There are also loads of thoughts that run through our minds that aren’t untrue, but they still shouldn’t be given space in our lives or be allowed to inform our decisions. I’m talking about the judgmental thoughts, the doubt, all those fears we entertain. From the negative thoughts we think about others, to the Worst Case Scenarios of any situation, these are the things that take the most effort to address and act beyond.
We have to decide that our goals are more valid and valuable than our current thought patterns.
Let’s say you have a goal of taking your significant other out to a five-star restaurant for their birthday and every time you think about it you think “That’s too much money, I’m going to fail, I don’t have what it takes to save that, I’ll never make enough extra for that” it’s going to be near impossible for your mind to overcome that stream of beliefs and make it happen.
It’s impossible for you to do something that you have no belief that you can achieve.
You have to decide that having that experience and making that amazing memory is more valuable to you than believing the messages that your brain is spitting out. That making friends is more important than believing that it’s safer to never meet new people. You have to let your visions of a better future overwhelm your brain’s beliefs that its way is the best way. If you aren’t ready to do that in a particular area, you might want to consider shelfing that idea for now before you fail so many times that you are convinced it can’t be done. Seriously evaluate your thoughts and goals and determine, decide, that your goals are worth some work! Then start replacing those negative self-messages with empowering truth!
One of my sneakiest temptations is to compare myself to other people. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, as someone who is here to encourage and empower others that sometimes I get so down on myself that my mind wants to judge others to make me feel more accomplished. It’s the truth and I know many people are right here with me, so let’s talk. I have identified that while some of the things that I think about others are true, they are not beneficial, and I don’t want to give space in my mind to things that aren’t making a positive impact. I love the verse in the Bible that says
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable (noble), whatever is just (fair, ethical), whatever is pure (wholesome, untainted), whatever is lovely (exquisite, beautiful), whatever is commendable (admirable), if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
It’s a pretty high standard to place on our thoughts, but it’s an excellent goal. If everyone in the world worked to only think and dwell on things that are excellent and noble and wholesome, I think we’d all agree the world would change for the better.
So, when I’m tempted to go down a pit of thinking about how my thighs compare to someone else’s or I whether I eat more salads than someone else, I remind myself of this standard and work to replace those harmful thoughts with an empowering truth. Sometimes I start with a truth about the person I’m tempted to judge (the closest person when I’m heading for a downward spiral). I work to replace the judgmental thoughts with beautiful truth. That person was made for a beautiful purpose. They have a unique and inspiring story. Sometimes it isn’t quite as poetic. I’ve used someone’s adorable fashion sense to kick my mind in the proverbial booty and remind me of the incredible person that they are. It’s much more helpful, however, to use those times of vulnerability to remind myself that those negative thoughts are coming from inside of me, probably to protect me in some misguided way, and speak empowering truth about myself. I was made for a beautiful purpose. I have a unique and empowering story. I have an adorable fashion sense… Day by day in every way I’m getting stronger and stronger. My past does not define me. My future is bright and gorgeous. Any kind of truth that speaks to that lie from my mind. And it works. The damaging thoughts get out of there, kicked out by thoughts of power. It’s a constant process, but I can say with 100% conviction and honesty that managing the messages that are being sent around between your ears is one of the most important and valuable disciples that you can cultivate.
I challenge you, for the next week to pay attention to your thoughts. Evaluate them. Call out your brain for the lies it tries to pass off as truth. Decide that living a life of peace, grace, joy, and gratitude is more valuable to you than the messages that your brain is trying to run. Change those messages. Because you don’t have to listen to whatever you start to tell yourself.
If you don’t already have some messages that you have identified that you need to play in your mind, I encourage you to give this series of statements a try. It’s an in‘can’tation written by Tony Robbins. Rewiring your brain to think this way is powerful, so get ready.
Now I AM THE VOICE!
I will lead, not follow.
I will create, not destroy.
I will believe, not doubt.
I am a force for good.
I am a force for God.
Set a new standard.
Step up! Step up!