• Dr. Carolyn Frost

The Way You Talk to Yourself Matters

Updated: Jun 15



“It’s not what we say out loud that really determines our lives. It’s what we whisper to ourselves that has the most power”.


You talk to yourself more than anyone else.


Yet most of us are wildly unaware of what we’re saying.


We don’t know how and/or don’t take the time to pay attention.


The problem is, when we’re not monitoring our thoughts and our self-talk, it has a tendency to go negative very quickly.

And this negative self-talk leads to negative emotions and ultimately undesirable behaviors, actions and results.


And that leads to you living in anger, regret and sadness, rather than enjoying the beauty of self-compassion, positivity, and forward movement.


 

THE MORE WE REPEAT SELF-TALK, THE MORE INGRAINED IT BECOMES


 

We know that our brains love to repeat themselves.


Our primitive brains are largely responsible for these repetitive thoughts. It’s the part of our brain that thrives on habit and efficiency; it wants to continue saying what it’s always said.


Why? Because it’s easy; it’s efficient.


Unfortunately, the negative thoughts speak a little more loudly, they’re a little more insistent; and they are the ones that are often repeated.


But we are so used to talking to ourselves with criticism and negativity, so we don’t take much notice of it.


This talk becomes the Background Static.


We passively take on it’s content, begin to believe the thoughts are true, and then wonder why we feel bad all the time.


There can be a big difference between what you’re saying to yourself and the truth of who you are.


The more we repeat self-talk, the more ingrained it becomes.

When you purposefully notice what you’re saying to yourself, you might find a lot of negativity in there.


It’s ok.


We can work with this.


Change is well within your reach.


So, our work here is threefold:


** Bring awareness to our inner dialogue


** Reframe it when it turns negative


** Notice and acknowledge any shifts


 

MISTAKES ~ WE ALL MAKE THEM


 


Think of the last time you made a mistake.


You probably don’t need to go back very far in time to identify one.


Any of the following sound familiar?


Hint! They all do to me ;)


* You were late to pick the kids up… and then you got mad at them because you weren’t there. Parenting at it’s finest!


* You sent an email without proofreading, or to the wrong person, or to ALL the people.


* You missed an important deadline.


* You missed your daughter’s performance because you didn't read the email and had no idea it was happening that night.


* You separately signed the same daughter up for an after school activity, never attended because you forgot it existed, and then got annoyed with the manager because they didn’t remind you that you signed up. I need to be reminded of things I signed up for?


* You somehow didn’t include the key point in a presentation.


* You left the food too long under the broiler. Hello burnt cheese!


* You didn’t go for the walk or to the yoga class like you planned.


* You put your pants on inside out, went all over town, and only realized the oversight when you came home.


* You stayed up too late.


* You kept the kids out too late and then are surprised when they are predictably tired and cranky. A favorite of mine.


* You drank too much wine and/or margaritas with salt.


* You ate well past the point of fullness.


* You ate so much that you needed to unbutton your pants/put on pajamas immediately.


* You wasted the last hour of your life reading BuzzFeed articles about tv shows you’ve never heard of.


* You threw your kid’s artwork out and when they came looking for it you blamed the dog.


* You didn’t trust your instincts on something important.


* The list goes on - for actual miles.


Some of these are no big deal (burnt cheese), some embarrassing (inside out pants), but some are a little heavier (your daughter crying on a stage because her parents missed her performance).


We ALL make mistakes; it’s part of our shared humanity.


We are more alike than we are different.


The point is not, “Holy cow, Carolyn better get it together!”, though…. maybe ;)


The point is, and what’s really important here, is what are you saying to yourself in these moments?


How do you talk to yourself in these moments vs how would you speak to a dear friend in the same situation?


Probably a little different....


But it doesn't need to be.



 


YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF HOW YOU SPEAK TO YOURSELF



 

Because, of course you are.


Who else would be?


It’s so important to bring awareness to the language you use when you talk to yourself.


For a lot of us, in the face of mistakes like the ones above (or even perceived mistakes!) it's:


* You're so stupid

* How could you do that

* What is wrong with you

* You’ll never get it together * When are you going to grow up

* This is all my fault

* I never should have….


Let’s start noticing when we’re engaging in this kind of damaging self-talk.


You might ask “How can I, when thousands of thoughts race through my brain every day - and most of them are under my radar?”


The trick is to check in with your feelings.


We can use our feelings as a feedback mechanism.


* Feeling happy, content, joyful, at ease?

Wonderful! That’s a byproduct of positive thinking and self-talk. Acknowledge it and you'll naturally seek out more of it.


* Sadness, hatred, anger, frustration, grief, shame?

That’s a clue that your internal dialogue is taking a turn for the worse.


Here’s the rub…. we need to be present and aware in order to notice.


And so we go.



 


LET’S PRACTICE



 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular and effective form of psychotherapy which recognizes that our thoughts affect our feelings, and our feelings drive our actions.


In other words, if we want to change the way we feel and the things we do, we need to first change our thoughts/self-talk.


Positive Thoughts > Positive Feelings > Positive Actions


Negative Thoughts > Negative Feelings > Negative Actions


BTW ~ Feels like THIS is the kind of stuff we should learn in school, rather than, oh I don't know... long division, no??


I can envision MANY scenarios that would have played out far differently if I understood this simple fact of life.


But now I do, and it's been invaluable to me.

I have seen this cycle play out time and time again in my own life.


* I first notice that I’m not feeling great - sad, unhappy, angry etc….


* That’s the cue that I need to pause and check in.


* I love the worksheet below as a way to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper where I can really look at and study them. I'm often surprised at what is actually going on in there.


* Writing them out this way ALWAYS gives me much needed dose of perspective, PLUS I notice an almost immediate shift in the physical tension in my body and the bad mood that negativity creates.


* Win win.


Hope it’s helpful for you too.



 

AUTOMATIC THOUGHT RECORD


 

I’ve adapted a popular CBT tool, the Automatic Thought Record, to help you bring awareness to, understand the effects of, and eventually reframe negative thoughts so you can move forward with more self-compassion, intention and clarity.


Next time you notice negative feelings, or an unhappy mood, print out the Automatic Thought Record.


Automatic Thought Record
.odt
Download ODT • 26KB


Step 1: Write out the SITUATION. What is the event/what happened? Facts only, no judgments.


I slept through my alarm.


Step 2: Isolate a troubling THOUGHT. What is a single thought you would like to explore?


I got up late and now I can’t do any of the things I wanted to do.


Step 3: What feeling or EMOTION comes up? How do you feel (single word emotions!) when you think this particular thought?


Angry, annoyed


Step 4: What is my BEHAVIOR? How do I act when I'm feeling this way?


Stomp around the house. Act out at others. Rush. Go over and over in my mind how I should have done it differently.


Step 5: What is an ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT. Here’s your reframe. This is KEY. What is a more supportive, helpful and BELIEVABLE thought to think instead?


I got up later than I wanted, but I will make the best of the time I do have by doing a 20 minute walk and an abbreviated journaling practice.


Step 6: What do you NOTICE? Sense any shifts as you practice saying and believing the new thought. How do you feel? Write it down.


I can take a full breath again. I notice the tension from my shoulders dissipating, and my hands and jaw unclenching. My chest feels more open. The morning is not exactly how I envisioned it, but I’m making the best of the situation.


Try this CBT practice the next time you notice negativity in body and mind.


You will be surprised at the impact noticing and reframing your self-talk has on your mood, your day and your life.



 

“It’s not what we say out loud that really determines our lives. It’s what we whisper to ourselves that has the most power”.


You get to choose what that whisper says.











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