Do you ever hear that voice inside your head tell you things like:
"I screwed up again. I'm worthless."
"I can't do this. I was never able to do it. It's not going to work now."
"I am nothing compared to those people."
Self-talk is a normal process that happens to most people. Yet when self-talk becomes negative and is used to reinforce an irrational thought or idea, that's a problem.
Each time you allow that inner dialogue to play out those phrases, you are making it stronger, increasing your stress level, and limiting your thinking and potential.
So what's the solution? A neat little positive psychology trick called reframing.
The process of reframing is fairly simple, but requires a real commitment on your part.
6 mental tricks of reframing a negative mindset
- Begin by consciously identifying the type of inner dialogue or language you use daily. We all have one. What's yours?
- Take a mental note, or journal about the negative words or phrases you use at the end of the day. For example: I can't, I don't know how, this is impossible, I always get this wrong, etc.
- Now, really pay attention to the times when you use them again. What are the triggers? Are demands at work piling up? Are things at home not so peachy?
- Note where you are, who is with you, what time of day is it, and what you're feeling at that moment.
- As you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought midstream by saying to yourself (or in your head), "Stop!" Saying this aloud will be more powerful, and having to say it aloud will make you more aware of how many times you are stopping negative thoughts and where.
- Now, dig deep down inside yourself and rethink your assumptions. Are you assuming something is a negative event when it isn't, necessarily? Stop, rethink, and see if you can come up with a neutral or positive replacement. Example: Notice the difference between telling yourself you can't handle something and asking yourself how you will handle something. Doesn't the second thought feel more hopeful and lead to more creativity?
By reframing using some of the examples above, you're challenging your irrational ideas, thoughts, and generalizations--yes, and those voices that tell you you're hopeless, a bonehead, or always do things wrong!
The beauty of reframing negative self-talk
Doing the steps above consistently over time, you'll also develop optimism and increase your self-confidence. Both skills will help you perceive yourself and the world differently.
I would even suggest choosing your words carefully. When you tell yourself something is "difficult" or "unfair," it will probably become a drag to have to deal with it. Instead, tell yourself it's a "challenge" or a "test."
But don't take only my word for it. Here's a great quote from Albert Einstein on reframing:
"Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."