We all have an inner critic. You know that voice that whispers, ‘How is this a good idea?’ Sometimes, this voice is actually helpful, and keeps us motivated towards achieving goals such as reminding us that what we’re about to eat isn’t healthy, or what we’re about to do may not be wise. More often than not though, this little voice can do more harm, particularly when it becomes excessively negative. This is known as negative self-speak and it can really bring you down. The good news is that a life coach can help you overcome this.
Negative self-speak is something most of us experience from time to time and it comes in many forms. It also creates significant stress, not only to us, but – if we’re not careful – to those around us. You need to know how to recognise negative self-speak and its effects on your:
- life, and
- loved ones.
10 common types of self-speak and how to overcome them
The list below looks at 10 of the most common forms of self-talk which is unhelpful. This type of self-talk leads to us feeling badly on a regular basis. The below also looks at tips to overcome this.
- Mind reading: Mind reading assumes we understand what other people think without any real evidence. We imagine what’s going on in someone’s head, but in a way that is biased and inaccurate.
- Overgeneralisation: This is the habit of telling ourselves that a negative event will continue to happen in the future.’
- Magnification: When we exaggerate our flaws.
- Minimisation: When we dismiss our strengths and positive qualities, this often keeps us in a cycle of inferiority.
- Emotional reasoning: The habit of decision-making is based on how we feel rather than what we value. This usually means we end up spending all our time running away from discomfort, rather than towards what we really value.
- Black and white thinking: The tendency to evaluate things exclusively in terms of extreme categories. When our expectations are consistently exaggerated, we never meet them, and then always feel bad about ourselves.
- Personalisation: Assuming excessive amounts of responsibility, especially when things are largely out of our control.
- Fortune telling: Predicting what will happen (usually with a negative outcome) based on little or no evidence.
- Labelling: Describing ourselves in an extremely negative way.
- ‘Should’ statements: These statements set up false expectations, and assume we have more control than we actually do.
How to eliminate cognitive distortions, change negative self-speak – and feel better!
Here are some straight-forward steps we can all take to build better habits of self-talk. As a life coach, you’d be teaching your clients this invaluable skill.
Look for specific cognitive distortions in other people’s speech.
Obviously, the idea is to change ourselves, and not other people. Sometimes, however, it’s easier to identify examples of negative self-speak in other people first. Once we get better at noticing negative self-speak in others, it is easier for us to see the same in our thinking and self-speak.
Change your inner tone of voice.
We all know that the way someone says something to us often affects how we feel at least as much as what they are actually saying (think about sarcasm). The same thing applies to how we speak to ourselves. As well as paying attention to what you say to yourself, be attentive to the way you talk to yourself. Are you harsh, judgemental, or sarcastic? What would it appear like if you were more gentle, empathetic, and straightforward when you speak to yourself?
Validate your feelings, don’t analyse them.
When we are feeling discomfort or pain, we tend to start talking to ourselves about those feelings, and what they mean. Instead of doing this, try to simply observe and notice these feelings. If we rush to fix or solve our feelings instantly, we train our brain to consider these feelings problems.
Be intentional, not habitual, with your self-criticism.
There’s nothing wrong with self-criticism, pointing out your own mistakes, and holding yourself to a high standard. But you’ll be much more productive (and accurate) if it’s intentional and deliberate, rather than based on a gut reaction. Instead of instantly passing judgement on yourself in the moment, schedule a time to reflect on a perceived mistake or flaw intentionally. Consider using a journal or talking to someone you trust.
If you’re interested in learning more about life coaching, or perhaps even becoming a life coach yourself, have a look at Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Life Coaching Certification Course. For more information, please follow this link.