Stop the Negative Self Talk and Thrive in 2021
I’m concerned about our mental health as a nation. And I want to help. I’m not going to write a load of trite cheering comments and this email may strike you as an odd one. This is not a normal email. It’s lengthy too. It will enlighten you in some way if you read it through. But it’s a road (journey) with short cuts if you prefer. The whole thing is split into 4 – you can read it all by following the path or you can take an abridged view – there are choices on the way. It’s going to start off depressing (or real) and then I hope once you’re put in the picture, leads to you feeling more empowered and encouraged. It may be a bit intense for some but please read on if you will or fast-track down to the links if you want a short cut my personal thoughts and opinions in current thinking and state and cut straight to the positive teachings and solutions then please do so.
Maybe it’s a sign of my own mental state but I don’t think I’m alone in this mood. I’ve been oscillating between feeling driven to keep going and ready to face new challenges and then feeling drained and lethargic even despair at times, worrying about global problems I have no control over. There’s a general feeling of helplessness and paranoia around – the C-Word, Trump, China, Brexit, lack of freedom to travel, environment, jobs, economy, riots, children’s mental health …. on and on. So dreary. It all feels a bit like the best has passed. The shine has gone from the world. (I warned you it was depressing to start with).
This time has reminded me of when I grew up – in my late twenties, I lost my idealism for the first time as I matured. I slowly realised I couldn’t change everything. I fought for my ideals and had no real worldly wisdom. But as I’ve matured, I’ve embraced the wisdom of knowing I can’t change things out of my control and influence. I accepted this (mostly) – tinged with sadness but also relief that the world was not all my responsibility. I enjoyed reading and keeping up with the political picture. I began to trust others to deal with things as they chose. I learned to value the opinions and views of others being as valid as my own.
But I still felt I could change or influence my world somehow – voting, protesting, petitioning, keeping good morals and high standards, bettering myself – I felt some power and pride as an individual.
Last year, today, maybe tomorrow, it feels overwhelming and out of my realm – corrupt, too powerful, hidden agendas at play. I’m more paranoid – less trusting of those in power. I don’t enjoy reading the news. I feel less pride, less influence. Less personal power. The echoes of this loss of idealism are loud – I feel like I cannot control all or any of this.
It’s a New Year – wishing a Happy New Year initially felt like a cry in the dark and normally, we’d all be feeling optimistic and charged with new beginnings, wanting to share our joy.
This year, it’s been uphill to say the least. We’ve been bombarded with bad news and change. We’ve had to adapt, live with fear, feel suffering all around. But we’ve not been fighting a real war as our parents and grandparents did. We haven’t all had equal shares of loss, grief and fear. We’ve not all suffered. We’re living through and unpredictable, tempestuous swirling storm – and we in different boats. Some have had a great time, busy and prospering, loving the freedom and relaxed life. Some have been devastated and driven to despair. The randomness of this fate isn’t in our control. Tragedy could still strike us. Fear and guilt pervades our minds.
So we’ve all become more insular. Just looking after ourselves and our own as it’s all we feel we can do. Doing what we feel is right for us as individuals and hoping others will do the same. Facing people daily as we become more and more conscious that there are people in a worse situation than us. Feeling angry and resentful of new rules being either imposed or being broken.
That’s the end of the depressing view. I’m sorry if it was grim reading. I personally wanted to share it but not inflict it and so I hope you forgive me the indulgence. To change direction, improve your life or be creative is definitely harder today. I would never have contemplated writing this essay of gloom before – but the rules have changed, people need different messages. I’m too old for Instagram and sending out silly empty words.
Let’s shake it off now and move on with how to deal with this positively.
MOVING ON with MENTAL CHATTER
I’ve discovered how to actually change our mindset and I’ve realised what is being the most unhelpful at this time and that it is possible to challenge and change it. I want to feel refreshed and empowered again. I want to add a slice of lemon to my water. I want you to feel empowered again, on a small level so that we can feel stronger and clearer in our minds.
This past year has shown us that it’s much easier to just let things go, look down, put on a bit of weight, excuse a lack of activity, dress in PJ’s all day, wear no make-up etc
It’s the perfect climate for negative self-talk. Just like a disease, it grows and spreads and infects our thoughts, bringing us down and weakening us.
This is curable! Let’s get rid of this negativity by fighting it. Name, shame and reject it.
Mental Chatter – those small thoughts which prompt us, cajole us, guide us in our daily lives. Sometimes, we feel determined and motivated and these voices help us if we’ve got inner strength, support and self esteem. More often, these thoughts are not helpful – we have multiple thoughts stopping us in our tracks, causing us to hesitate and put off improvements.
I want to show you how to fight back and feel clearer, more determined, more focussed and feel your self-esteem rise with each achievement of your goals. Make and keep positive change in your life.
First things first. I’m referring to thoughts in our heads which spoil the day. These are thoughts which invade your aspirations and hope. These are thoughts or memories and are therefore not real or permanent nor completely true or relevant.
You do not actually have a crowd of gremlins and nay-sayers in your head. They are thoughts added in from our past. Thoughts which stick as they hurt and become a memory which causes self-doubt. You were not born with a low opinion of yourself or your abilities. They were given to you by OUTSIDE voices and now feel like inside voices.
People in (perceived) power or authority over you – a parent, sibling, adult, teacher, dominating friend, bullying boss, spouse….. all contribute to a cacophony of thoughts and voices and opinions while you try and PROGRESS – progress is basically changing our state / life / job / relationship with people / food / money etc.
The “body and mind” as a whole doesn’t like change. It likes to stay the same and repeat familiar patterns. It tries to avoid pain and return to the safe and “normal” space it feels comfortable and lazily easier in. It will persuade you to stay safe here – even if that space isn’t actually healthy and safe. To change means taking a risk and that can cause anxiety and bring all of these gremlins out. The thoughts which keep you on the sofa, eating those crisps, not doing your tasks, not leaving your loveless relationship / job, not improving your life, body or mind – and the thoughts which tell you this is OK. These thoughts are wrong. They are not fact.
FOUR VOICES IN YOUR HEAD
That confusing mental chatter can be organised and dealt with – and beaten. They can be defined into only FOUR types of negative voices.
- CRITIC – the cruel judge.
An outside voice saying “you’re so lazy, you’re so fat, you’re ugly, unattractive, unsexy, pathetic, lazy, you’re not worthy, you don’t deserve that, you’re not good enough …..”
The critic tears us down and gives an excuse. There are many ways of saying or inferring – you don’t deserve this good thing / goal and you may have many phrases which hamper your happiness.
You can stay on the sofa and pity yourself – another negative spiral. It can be useful to have a critic stopping you – you get more attention, perhaps more drama in your life this way. It’s a way of fishing for compliments and support from your friends or co-colluders. They’ll reassure you that for example, “you’re not fat or a failure, you are the most amazing fabulous person I know”. You can then feel safe in your inaction and avoid action and change and risk.
2. CYNIC – the inhibitor.
This voice is very powerful as it’s believable as it uses half truths which you cannot deny. The cynic is an outside voice saying – you’ve tried this before and failed. This is not going to work; you’ve failed in the past so you’ll fail again. You never have and so you never will.
The cynic is believable as it speaks half-truths. You have failed in the past. But it isn’t the whole truth. It hooks you in but cannot predict anything so it’s a falsehood.
The cynic is very powerful because it’s a believable voice. It speaks half-truths using evidence of the past and then predicts the future. Only half of this is true but it’s human nature to believe a half truth. The cynic uses the “if..then” approach. If you failed once, then you will fail again.
It tries to forecast the future but it cannot lie to you. It can only state a half truth. It takes a part truth and attaches a false statement to predict future failure.
3. PROCRASTINATOR – a cunningly disguised way of giving a false promise of success.
Procrastinating is attractive as it deceives you into believing you’ll do it – sometime. It buys you time – tomorrow, later. It’s an avoider.
It’s why we fail in diet – I’ll start on Monday – I can’t start yet as there’s a birthday coming up, I’ll just have this one last one and start tomorrow….
An inside voice preventing change – saying you haven’t got time today, do it tomorrow. It’s ok, you’ll do it later. You don’t want to do this today, but you know you should.
3. RATIONALISER – Likes you to believe the wrong actions are actually the right action given the circumstances
It makes you believe you have no other option but to …… (go against your decision)
I had no choice! I was offered the cake.
It gives the power to outside of you as to why you acted – I can’t help it if she offered me the cake! I had to eat it. I can’t go to the gym as my ….. so I’m going to eat out instead – it would be rude not to!
You’ve had a tough day – you deserve that ice cream
It’s an inside voice saying you’re in the right to choose the bad option.
It’s OK to relax today, I’ve earned it. I can have this cake, I‘ve done really well all day – I deserve to enjoy this.
THE SOLUTIONS TO UPGRADE YOUR LIFE
If you’ve read the previous bit, you’ll understand this more.
The answer and solution is simple: CHALLENGE AND QUESTION these saboteurs of success.
SOLUTION TO THE CRITIC – question this outside voice – Who are you?
What is being said – what words are being used? Who originally said this?
This voice is a voice you heard and heeded when you were younger. The voice is outside of you and has been added since your birth. You were not born with internal critical thoughts. They have been said by people you felt in higher status than you in your past. They are not here now. This may hurt but it’s only a bad memory. They are not here right now and they are not right. They are wrong. This is just their opinion and they have no right to judge you. They are not here now. They don’t know me now.
I want to upgrade my life – who’s the critic stopping you?
Challenge and question the critic
Ask yourself – would a champion be thinking this? Would a winner be saying this?
Reply to this thought: I name you and defy you. Shut up and let me get on. You don’t know me now.
Reduce them to the fearful / jealous / small-minded judgemental person they actually were. They cannot control you now. They are not real. They are in the past. They are outside of you. They are not you. Remember – would a champion say this?
SOLUTION TO THE CYNIC – using the simple word to argue the evidence. UNLESS
You can change the outcome by adding UNLESS.
I failed then I will fail again UNLESS …I do this which I have learned learn and then I can succeed.
Challenge the evidence and add UNLESS – giving your solutions to that problem.
You have to acknowledge that you may have failed in some way in the past and so you may fail again – but only if you repeat the same. So insert the learning condition “UNLESS.. “ you change something. You can learn what caused the failure and change it.
“I failed this diet before then I will fail again UNLESS I learn that evenings are difficult and so I will allow myself a few carbs to get me through without feeling guilty.
Don’t let the Cynic decide for you. Remember UNLESS
SOLUTION TO THE PROCRASTINATOR – take action
The problem is that we fail to commit and actually take action.
Procrastination thrives on law of inertia – an object at rest will stay at rest until a force acts upon it. To stop the procrastinator you must build a goal and must not deviate from that goal until it is achieved – ignoring all the other voices.
Build in deviations if needed – ON YOUR LIMITED TERMS
Set your own rules on your terms so that temptation isn’t as strong. Procrastination will use your fear of missing out, make you feel deprived. Go for a less extreme shift – compromise with a healthy option. Limit times, frequency – DAMAGE LIMITATION – reduce the shame and self-loathing (Critic and Cynic)
SOLUTION TO THE RATIONALISER – take responsibility
You’ve worked really hard and lost weight – have a cheat day – You deserve a treat.
The answer is to ACCEPT TOTAL AND ALL PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for your own life.
Saying I don’t / I will not / I choose not – rather than I can’t / I daren’t
Once you’re in possession of control for your own responsibility and power raises your self-esteem
Life shouldn’t be hard – if you are finding it hard and need a break, then decide to give yourself a break.
You decide for you without beating yourself up or blaming others.
I hope you found this enlightening and helpful. It’s a bit off-piste but it’s just my thoughts.
The only thing I want you to to delay now – is your own ageing!
Stay safe, sane and smile often.