I’ve done a lot of thinking, podcast listening and reading about negative self-talk. Quieting the inner critic, shutting down the “inner mean girl” that tells me I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not fit enough, etc.
You can’t shut the voice down completely, but you can reframe it. In the book Reform Your Inner Meal Girl by Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo, they talk about reframing. They talk about the fact that your inner critic, or “mean girl” is there to protect you, even though it may be misguided in its message or tactic. They teach readers to thank the voice for trying to help, but reframing the message into something more positive. It’s definitely a worthwhile read (or listen on Audible) if you’re battling your own inner mean girl.
The other day I was driving my daughter home from Brownies and just as we pulled up she realized she’d forgotten her Brownie bag. It had literally nothing she needed until the next meeting and I knew the leader would put it away and we could get it the next week, but she was desperate to go back and get it.
On the way back down the hill, she said “I’m always forgetting things. I forget things all the time.” Now, I have NEVER said this to her, or criticized her for forgetting something. I’m not sure where she got this, but even though it was something relatively minor, it hurt my heart to hear her putting a negative label on herself. I assured her she wasn’t a forgetful person, and we talked about how when you say something like that, even if it isn’t true, your brain starts to believe it. We thought of ways to reframe the situation, how to acknowledge that she forgot her bag but in a more helpful and positive way.
I was sharing this story with a colleague at work, who also has kids in elementary school. His son has just started Kindergarten in French Immersion, and they were at a teacher meeting last week. The teacher has the boy “What can you count to in French?” and he said “I can only count to five.” She immediately said “Why did you say ‘only?’ You can count to FIVE! That’s fantastic!”
I loved that way of reframing the way he was talking about himself, and it reminded me that we as adults need to do this too. Words like “only” can diminish our accomplishments.
Side note: I found this awesome article about helping kids with negative self talk, and how you can respond. Worth a read if you’re hearing this in your kids as well as yourself. Plus the tips might help you too!
Before we can reframe our language though, we need to do what that teacher did and ACKNOWLEDGE it. You need to practice noticing that inner voice that is maybe not so nice to you. Hear it and then ask WHY you had that thought in a negative way. Did it serve you? Did it make you feel better or solve the problem at hand? Once you start actually noticing this voice in your head, it will become more obvious and soon you will NEED to start making some changes. Right now the voice might be subtle, but when you really start to hear it, it will help you take the step to change it. Who wants to be around a friend that criticizes you in everything you do and tells you you’re not good enough?
Once you’ve acknowledged the negative thought, think about how you might reframe it. If the thought was “I can’t do that,” what if you changed it to “I can’t do that…YET.” Or maybe “I’ve never had the opportunity to TRY.”
There are experts out there that can give you a TON more ideas on this than I can list in a simple blog post. Maybe this post has been enough to start you noticing and thinking about it, and that’s awesome. Acknowledging the inner critic and even THINKING about how I could reframe each thought has absolutely had a profound impact on my life, my confidence and my happiness.
We are all freaking awesome, and I will happily fight the inner critic who tries to take us down!
Here is the video I posted live on my Facebook page on this: