Hands down, the best effect of developing my spiritual practice has been increased freedom from my negative self-talk.
1. What is negative self-talk?
We all have “self-talk,” which includes our thoughts and accompanying feelings and emotions. I have heard self-talk referred to as mind chatter, the mind, thinking / thoughts, and inner monologue. (If you are thinking, “I don’t have self-talk,” that is self-talk.)
“Negative self-talk” is self-talk that does not serve any worthwhile purpose and, in addition, makes you feel bad about yourself. For example, with our negative self-talk, we may allow fear of change to prevent us from pursuing what we truly desire; replay the same old, sad story over and over again in our heads without actually moving forward and healing; and rarely feel centered as we flip back and forth between emotional highs and lows, all while feeling like a huge loser.
You may wonder, “Well, what about the gray areas, such as worry? Is my worry a signal from my intuition that something is wrong or rather, related to my fear of change, no matter what potential upside?” Some of us try to rationalize or argue with our negative self-talk to find the answer to that question. But our self-talk is not always reasonable nor rationale. Thus, instead of spinning ourselves into a tizzy to figure out our self-talk, I encourage us to pivot to focus on something else. That could be on focusing on your breath, which connects you to the higher intelligence within yourself, or on something positive.
(Not to forget the original question, to help you distinguish between pointless chatter and your gut feeling, tune into your body and see if you sense any messages on the topic of your self-talk; in addition, a meditation practice helps you build up your ability to distinguish intuition from mindless chatter.)
2. We are more than our self-talk
We are much more than our self-talk. We often feel like we need to react to our self-talk or else we are not listening to ourselves or that we have no choice but to do so. For example, I used to believe that if I thought that something scared me, I was fearful already. I believed that I lacked control to disengage from that fear because it was a part of me, as much a part of me as my right hand, and that disengaging from the fear would be as painful as chopping off my right hand. But I was wrong - we can disengage fairly easily.
While negative self-talk can be used as a tool to increase our awareness of ourselves, we tend to go overboard and allow it to hold power over us. The simple yet powerful truth is that we are able to stop identifying with our self-talk, especially that which does not serve any worthwhile purpose and instead is just dragging us down. The next section provides some tips on how to do so.
Moreover, there is something much deeper within us that can provide us with the fulfillment and acceptance that we often seek in our self-talk. Some call it a higher intelligence, our connection with God or the Universe or Source, your Higher Self, your intuition, or your essential self. Regardless of your name for it, it’s the part of you that regulates your breathing at every moment, without you consciously doing so, and the peace you feel when you first wake up in the morning, when your head is clear and spirits high. (In this newsletter, I have included a breathing exercise to help you connect to this part of yourself; enjoy!)
3. Tips on how to increase your freedom from your negative self-talk
Below are additional tips on how to increase your freedom from your self-talk.
a. Politely invite your self-talk to go ahead – Instead of engaging (including rebuking) your self-talk, acknowledge it. Then imagine yourself holding a door open and inviting the self-talk to walk through the door first. This helps you see yourself as separate from the self-talk and not fight it (which would give the self-talk more power / energy), and thus, the self-talk loses its power over you. (Insights are from Michael A. Stringer’s book, “The Untethered Soul.”)
b. Redirect your attention – As stated above, redirect your attention to focus on the positive of a situation, even if it’s something small, or on your breath.
c. Ground yourself – Connect to the Earth every day and release to it any self-talk that you no longer wish to hold onto. (Click here for my guided grounding meditation.)
d. Be playful with your self-talk – We often have the misconception that the way we see past situations replayed in our heads is how they actually happened, so we cannot modify them. That, however, is not true; even in replaying the stories, we add our own subsequent reactions / emotions to it (in most cases for me, cue in the self-pity). That being said, be playful with these replays, for example, run the stories backwards, add humor by giving people different accents or having them speak in pig Latin, etc. This helps you disassociate from the stories and let go of any heavy emotions attached to them.
e. Shift your perspective - You also can focus on different aspects of a situation in which you have negative self-talk, to gain additional perspectives. Zoom in and out of the picture in your mind, focus on others – not just yourself, and explore your assumptions underlying the picture in your mind. (Click here to check out my previous blog re: perspectives.)
f. Breaking agreements – Use the protocol of breaking agreements to explore and let go of your underlying beliefs, typically acquired by observing your parents during your childhood, that underlie all you do and may be holding you back. (I’ll cover this during my October 1, event at the Dancing Moon in Raleigh; please join!).
Though we typically see negative self-talk as “negative,” it has the purpose of signaling to us areas that need healing. It is always powerful to explore these areas in a space of healing and support. If you’re interested, I would love to collaborate with you on your journey of self-development and provide this space for you. Please let me know as it would be my honor.