We all do it.
But is it sabotaging our chances at happiness?
There is one thing we all do, every day, that can dramatically impact the way we feel about ourselves. It is so powerful that it can be the one thing that makes the difference between feeling utterly depressed and feeling completely unstoppable. What I’m referring to is our self talk.
What exactly is self talk?
Self talk is the internal dialogue that goes on inside our minds. It can range from what we think our day will look like, to how we feel about ourselves and our relationships, to how we think about our overall value and potential in life. Our self talk is the connection between our conscious and unconscious minds. Like I said, pretty powerful stuff. There are two main players when it comes to self talk, and when these parts are stuck in the negative it can have a massive impact our self esteem and quality of life. They are automatic thoughts and core beliefs.
These are the thoughts that simply pop into our minds as we go about our day. We don’t actually have to think about them much, if at all. They are the ideas, responses and statements that are habitual and come to us, seemingly on their own. Our automatic thoughts are directly linked to our emotional responses, so it makes sense that if we find ourselves having a lot of distressing thoughts, chances are we likely are going to experience a greater amount of emotional upset as well. And although our thoughts seem to pop out of nowhere, the truth is they do come from somewhere; they are connected to our deeper held core beliefs.
Core beliefs are at the root of our thinking habits. They are the foundation and essence of how we see ourselves and the word around us. They are formed through experiences in our lives, usually those that are meaningful in some way, and once we begin to develop a belief our brain automatically looks for evidence to strengthen and support it. The problem, however, is that when we have unhealthy or faulty belief systems it can result in unhealthy and faulty thought patterns. So if someone has the belief that they are unworthy of love, they will unconsciously look for evidence to support this, and their automatic thinking will then express it. For example, the person might shrug off someone asking them out on a date as, he was just being nice.
What to do about negative self talk and core beliefs?
So, what if we are holding on to one or more core beliefs that are destructive to our mental, emotional and physical health? What if we believe something to be true but this might not actually be the case and we are ignoring evidence that says otherwise? What are the potential consequences for our life and happiness? Are we walking around each day telling ourselves limiting things that are not only destructive but also untrue? Yikes!
So let’s go a little deeper, and then I’ll let you in on how being more mindful of the ways in which we speak to ourselves can chip away at those unhealthy core belief systems and greatly change the quality of our lives. But first I want to share with you a powerful morning ritual that you might not even be aware you’re doing.
I would like you to take a moment to think about a particular point in your day. More specifically, I would like you to think about the moment at which you first look at yourself in the mirror in the morning. What does that first interaction with yourself look like? Do you cringe at the sight of yourself? Maybe grumble at the pimple that popped up overnight? Do the three way pose and judge every nook and cranny of your body? And what do you say to yourself in the mirror each morning? Are you thinking about how much you hate going to work or how you really don’t want to do that thing you promised to do? And finally, how do you feel? Frustrated? Disappointed? Exhausted? Chances are a lot of these thoughts and feelings are a part of your automatic thinking patterns. You’ve been conditioned to this process, so you don’t even think about the fact that you are doing it. But take a moment to consider this; could this automatic and unconscious self talk that you engage in every morning be sabotaging your day, damaging your self esteem and holding you back in life? Is it possible these thoughts are connected to deeper core beliefs?
Am I blowing your mind yet?
The experience we have when looking in a mirror can be extremely powerful when it comes to self talk. Louise Hay is a fabulous life healer and self-help founder of our time, and has spoken at length about the use of mirrors as a tool in changing one’s life. She says,
Mirror work is the most effective method I’ve found for learning to love yourself and see the world as a safe and loving place…because the mirror reflects back to you the feelings you have about yourself. It makes you immediately aware of where you are resisting and where you are open and flowing. It clearly shows you what thoughts you will need to change if you want to have a joyous, fulfilling life. – Louise Hay http://www.louisehay.com/what-is-mirror-work/
Let’s think about this. If someone walked right up to you and straight to your face told you some mean or nasty comment, you would probably feel pretty hurt. Now, I hope you don’t have people in your life who would do such a thing (and if you do, I hope you might recognize that this may be an area of change for you), but…do you do it to yourself? Do you look at yourself, right in the eye, and act like a bully? Saying things that are hurtful or that break you down? You wouldn’t say these things to anyone else, so why is it okay that you say them to yourself? Because you’re used to it? Because it’s automatic? The self talk you have with yourself in the mirror can play a powerful role in affecting how you feel about yourself and your life.
My own ‘Woman in the Mirror’ story
For more years than I would like to admit the mirror and I had a contentious relationship. Not only did I use the mirror to project nasty thoughts about the way I looked but also about my value and who I was as a person. I can recall experiencing a sense of disappointment at that first glance in the mirror. Kind of like, Damn, it’s still me. And as I continued to get ready in that mirror I was unconsciously and automatically telling myself a story that just dragged me down. And then the craziest thing would happen, I would see this terrible story play out in my day, which would just strengthen my thoughts and beliefs further. This was all done unconsciously, of course, I didn’t pay enough attention to know that I was sabotaging my own life. I just thought the world was against me. And then I would do it all over again the next day; it was an awful and self-destructive cycle. Can anyone relate?
Challenging automated and negative self talk
Make a choice
The first step is simply making a choice. For me, I finally made the choice to love myself. That’s it. So first things first, make the choice here and now to love yourself, to embrace and accept yourself, or simply to learn to love yourself. You do not have to take any action just yet, but simply let this intentional and mindful choice sink in. Let the idea, the belief that you love yourself, nourish your soul for a few moments. Get all that goodness in there! You might even notice some emotion coming up, and that’s okay. Deep breath, and keep reading.
Pay attention and stop that thought
The next step is to pay attention. Be more aware of the ways you speak to yourself, not only in the mirror but also throughout your day. I would never say the things I told myself to anyone else. Not a friend, acquaintance or stranger. So why was it okay for me to be saying it straight to my face every.single.day. It wasn’t okay. And that’s the bottom line; not for me and not for you. So, with that being my new truth I would stop myself when I started in on my negative self talk spiral. Sometimes I would have to catch myself 5 or 10 times in a given morning. Stop, Melissa. That’s not nice. Don’t say that. If I found myself grumbling about my day ahead, Stop, Melissa. You have the choice to accept the things in your life. If things suck that bad then you also have the choice to change them. Stop spiraling. For some added support and motivation I also found ways to stay on the more positive side each morning. Turning on a playlist of songs that pumped me up, listening to a fantastic podcast or e-book, and having positive messages posted where I could seem them all helped me to stay mindful of the state I wanted to be in as I took on my day.
Learn to enjoy your own company
The third step, although I believe to be the most difficult, can also turn out to be the most fun. Begin to have positive moments with yourself. Enjoy your own company. I have made it a habit to smile at myself first thing in the morning. I can even tell you, without shame, that I give myself a little, Hey there, with some wink and a gun action on some mornings…and the bird’s nest on top of my head just makes it that much more entertaining. I do not focus on the flaws of my body. I seem them, I acknowledge them as my perfect imperfections and then I move on. And when you learn to start loving yourself you do more self care activities, so my morning mirror ritual now includes the time to admire the little bicep I’ve begun to build, or to enjoy the skin care regime I’ve developed.
Oh, and dancing is encouraged. I would dance in the mirror all day if I could. Learn to have fun with yourself. Not only does this improve your emotional state for that moment, but also your day, your week…heck, your life. Because when your thoughts are more positive and vibrant, you feel happier and vibrant. And when you feel happier and vibrant you are open to opportunities and possibilities in your life because your brain hasn’t been so quick to shut them out. There is more to laugh about, be grateful for and get excited about because your internal state and the things you tell yourself are aligned with this.
Time for action!
So, now it’s your turn. I encourage you to try giving yourself a little self love in the mirror. You can start off by just giving yourself a smile, doing a little dance or taking the time to appreciate something you like about yourself. If all else fails, you can look yourself in the eye and acknowledge that you are working on getting to a place where you can do all these things. That you are choosing to love yourself.