|Posted on 5 January, 2022 at 3:55|
"You really are an idiot"
"You are only going to mess it up"
"You are too stupid/fat/ugly/old..."
If someone said any of these things to your face, you might at the very least think the person exceptionally rude. You might ask them who they thought they were talking to you like that. At the extreme, you might even deck them. They would certainly get unfriended on Facebook.
But there is one person who often talks to us like that. Someone we trust. Someone we believe is on our side. Someone we believe only tells us the truth.
We have a running commentary in our heads all the time and mostly, the voice isn’t a problem and can blend into the background. Sometimes it can be brilliant, our cheerleader, talk us through dodgy moments, help sort out problems and, when being constructively critical, can really support creativity.
However, sometimes, this little voice can become the enemy. That horrid little voice at its' most cynical and unhelpful can do you down and find fault. If you make a mistake, there it is gloating at your misfortune. It can leave you with a whole slew of unsettling feelings. Perhaps you know what I mean – those moments when you are about to make a presentation and voice jumps in: “why should anyone listen to me? What do I know about this subject? They will all laugh at me.” Or when someone asks you how much your work is: “how can I charge that much? What makes me think my work is worth that?”
These are just a few examples and most of us have our own particular occasions when the negative voice turns up. But this little voice, which we can believe as telling us the truth, is just a perception, often based on nothing. The important thing to remember is, as D H Lawrence once said, “The mind can assert anything and pretend it has proved it.”
The great thing is that we can break this negative conversation. The thoughts can still come up - we are human after all - but we can control what we do with them. Are they constructive comments? Then work with them. If not, I know people who have a variety of responses. One fellow coach imagines the negative voice speaking like Mickey Mouse, on the basis that Mickey cannot be taken seriously. Another says, "thanks for your input, but I've got this covered". I use the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy process of Catch It, Check It, Change It.
Catch yourself when you are having the negative thought. You will probably spot your emotional cues, such as feeling a bit anxious or nervous.
Stop and listen to the negative thought you are having.
Is it really true?
Is it how someone else would see the situation / see you?
What evidence have you got to prove what you say?
Does the negative thought support you?
Be as objective as possible. (This isn’t always easy, as we always think our thoughts are true, but practise will help.)
Now change your negative thought for a positive one. Make it realistic and look for evidence to support it. Then notice how it feels – does this make you feel happier, calmer, more positive? Keep that positive thought in your mind and your mind will begin to believe it.
In the short term, it may take you a few minutes to go through this process. However as you practise it, it could become second nature whenever you find that naughty negative voice piping up. You can use this tool to get you through a one off situation, but even then, the thought will have lodged as a truth in your mind, ready for the next time you find yourself in the same situation. In the longer term, the more positive conversations you have with yourself, the more confident you will feel as a matter of course.
The key is to recognise the negative thought, in itself a powerful step in letting the voice know it has been sussed and a great first step to shutting it up when it is being less than helpful. From there, you can find your most effective way to dispatch them, using one of the tips above.
And who knows, in time, that little voice might become closer to the best friend you want.