Our critical inner voices are shaped by our life experiences, the ways we were viewed and treated growing up, in our friendships and important relationships. If you’re anything like me then you became a pro at not facing these experiences, and stuffing them into a box hoping they would fade away on their own.
Facing our past plays a massively important part of addressing and understanding self-sabotaging and developing a more compassionate view toward ourselves. It’s not easy to be open to yourself about what you feel or how you act, but honesty with yourself is a huge sign of courage and it will give you the strength to face these thoughts and have the opportunity to change them.
Our brains will often naturally start to self-sabotage when feeling vulnerable, like starting something new, taking a risk, or entering a new phase. Like it did when I started this website. Even though I knew I could do it, my critical brain was constantly fighting me with a horrible ‘what if’ and ‘it won’t be good enough’ narratives. This is the main reason why we quit right before we’re about to get started.
Our brain will tell us lies not because it thinks it’s the truth but because it will tell us what we need to hear to maintain business as usual ‘safety’ inside our critical comfort zone, even if that means misery.
If we can accept this as part of our brain’s hard-wiring, we can start to intentionally circumvent and disempower it.
Like a lot of the self-reflection work mentioned in this website, this requires us to be mindful of our thoughts and notice them when they occur. We can get so used to this process of self-sabotage that we don’t even realise that we’re doing it. This becomes a lot easier over time and with practice.
I really don’t think it’s possible to completely avoid or stop all negative self-talk. The difference is how we notice it, respond and manage it - with a goal of rendering it powerless so it no longer triggers you or controls your life decisions.
So each time we notice a thought arise about ourselves, ask yourself - is this thought self-limiting or is it empowering?
If it’s positive and empowering - awesome! Soak yourself in that feeling and celebrate your winning mindset moment. If it’s self-limiting, then try this:
Our thoughts have a lot of power in our heads, but when you expose them, they can immediately seem less true, sometimes even sound dumb and don’t even make any sense. They then have the opportunity to minimise, dissipate and eventually LOSE THEIR GRIP.
Grab your journal and make a list of the limiting beliefs you tell yourself (I keep notes on my phone throughout the day). Things like insecurities, fears and frustrations about yourself. Such as:
These thoughts are all normal and they are most likely rooted in something that occurred in your life. Don't judge yourself for these thoughts, just observe them as self-limiting.
Ask yourself - are these statements without a doubt 100% true? Treat yourself like you would treat a loving friend. Take a step back and question how you would respond if a loved one expressed a thought that you’re feeling.
This is how we can start to redirect the self-limiting thoughts simply by stating the truth. Here’s a couple of examples:
“I will never be well, I can’t do this”. You don't know this for sure and are assuming based on low self-esteem = LIE
“Actually, this is a temporary period where I’m experiencing physical and emotional challenges, and I am working towards being well” - TRUTH
“I can’t publish this website, it won’t be good enough and people will think I’m a fraud” - LIE
“Actually, my thoughts are worthwhile and people will find it helpful” - TRUTH
We need to start being bolder with the lies we tell ourselves. We need to start talking back! We all have these thoughts, just try not to allow yourself to take out real estate in them. Hear them, question them for lie/truth, but keep moving past them.
If we make this a habit, over time our minds will change, we will believe more truths than lies or at the very least we will be able to consider them being a lie and notice our self-sabotage in action. You could even add some of your exposed lies and new truths into your Daily Affirmations list to read every day to further solidify them. The truths we tell ourselves will eventually start to outweigh the lies.
Any time you manage to switch a lie to a truth - document it and celebrate it, its no easy feat! I sometimes write them down in my journal to help reinforce that I’m moving in the right direction.
When I felt that TMS recovery was too big, too difficult and unattainable for me, I started to record my ‘mini wins’ any day that I had them, by writing them in my journal at night. Any day I felt I managed to switch my mindset from fear to indifference, I made a note of it. When I managed to journal 7 days in a row without a single day off, I wrote it down and celebrated it (rather than annoying myself about the one day off I took!) When I had a couple of hours without pain, you betcha that got a big bold mention in capital letters! Keeping a 'positive wins' journal is a great way of recording your breakthroughs, no matter how small they seem and it gives you a really positive place to come back to when you're having dark days.
My goal was to become completely pain-free but that seemed impossibly huge at the time. But seeing a progression of mini wins as I headed towards that goal really helped push me forwards. Trust me, it’s difficult to beat yourself up during a celebration.
Decide on your mini-milestones and congratulate yourself on reaching them. Whether that be something small like managing to do some chores, not needing pain killers today, completing your JournalSpeak and meditating, setting boundaries for self-care, whatever that is for you.
Documenting your milestones along the way will let you know you’re moving in the right direction and automatically motivate you to keep doing those things. Why? Because what gets celebrated gets repeated.
If you can, ask a friend or a partner to help you with this. It’s not essential but could help you see your traits happening before you do. Whoever you converse with regularly - ask them to help keep you on track. If you start self-sabotaging conversations, ask that person to (lovingly) volley that shit right back at you, someone that believes in what you're doing and supports your goal.
Your negative self-talk is creating your life and stopping you from moving forward. If we change and disempower those thoughts, then the changes will manifest themselves into our lives accordingly.
Improving self-esteem takes rehearsing and it takes practice. I am working hard on this myself...but when I used to say “I will never be confident or feel worthy”, I now KNOW this is a damn LIE.
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will - so try it, you might like it!
Check out my Recovery Journey Roadmap if you would like more details about exactly how I became pain-free! You can also watch a video interview about my recovery here. Reach out with any questions, or follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more resources and updates on everything chronic recovery.
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