How many of us talk to ourselves like this?
“Way to go, good job, you got this, yep that’s the way.”
Or does it sound more like, “You idiot. What do you think you’re doing? No one’s going to want that.”
A lot of us who have trouble getting things done are very mean to ourselves.
“I never do what I’m supposed to do.”
“I don’t do it the right way.”
“I say I want this but I don’t do anything. I must be a _______.
We would never say or even think those kinds of things, in that tone, about a friend.
I’m not advocating for a T-ball world where everyone gets a trophy no matter what, but I do believe that kinder, gentler self talk breaks down resistance.
I’ve seen other strategies applied, for example, shouting like a drill sergeant to increase achievement. But for me and the people I coach that would simply make us give up and go home.
Here’s what I’ve found works for people like us, and is at the core of my coaching philosophy: Forgive yourself, recognize your strengths and build on them. Learn to trust yourself.
You can’t do that when someone is yelling at you or condemning you with disgust– especially when that someone is your own inner voice.
I learned a technique a number of years ago when my father was ill. We read about it in Norman Cousins’ book, Getting Well Again. As I remember it, Cousins imagined his illness as a part of self. He gave it an appearance and a personality. He spoke to it and gained insight. The key to understanding is to assume that this part of self is working on your behalf. It may seem misguided to you but the part thinks it’s helping and will continue to act in this way as long as it thinks its role is necessary.
That’s how I envision that cruel self talk– it’s a part of self (a LOUD one) that thinks denigration will keep me from making mistakes. If I can get centered and listen with forgiveness I can move past the non-useful shaming and stop beating myself up.
Try it the next time that impatient, prune-faced, mean girl starts up. Breathe deeply and say to yourself, “Hang on a second here. We’re on the same team. Let’s take a step back and look at this together.”
(Then the person next to you on the bus will glance at you strangely and go find another seat).