Your inner critic can contaminate your whole life. You know that voice, the one that tells you that you’re not good enough to get what you so deeply desire – a loving relationship, a more fulfilling job, a body that makes you proud, a supportive group of friends, a decent golf game, etc.
Studies have shown that this inner critic is one of the primary reasons that people languish in a life of mediocrity. To improve your life, you must learn how to effectively “change the channel” – tuning out the voice that’s transmitting self-defeating messages in your mind.
What you tell yourself often becomes your reality. Because your self-talk is based on your belief about how the world works, a lot of negative chatter about yourself leaves you constantly doubting your ability to create positive outcomes. If you believe that you’re likely to fail, you’ll procrastinate and experience low energy. Because you don’t make your best effort, you assure a poor result.
By turning off the self-critical channel and switching to the self-affirming station, you can release yourself from the bonds of your self-limiting beliefs. Studies of successful people have shown that they have mastered the ability to combat their negative self-talk, freeing themselves to focus on their strengths and possible pathways for attaining positive outcomes.
Here are 7 strategies for turning your self-talk from negative to positive:
- Write out your vision of what your life would look like if it were working really well. The process of actually writing down your dreams and desires helps to focus your attention on what’s important to you. Looking at the first steps you could take to start moving toward those goals creates intention, which is the best predictor of future behavior.
- Know your strengths. While you can’t be great at everything, there are some talents that you have that make you special. You can allow your mind to dwell on your weakness and sabotage your self-esteem. Or you can refocus your thoughts to what you do when you’re at your best. Write down what are you thinking, feeling, and doing when you’re at your best. Memorize your responses so that you can remind yourself what it’s like when you’re being your best possible self.
- Learn to explain life in optimistic terms. Optimists tell themselves that their good qualities are always accessible; that they can bring their best traits to bear in almost any situation; and that they’re personally responsible for having achieved success in the past. When facing problems, optimists tell themselves that the challenges they face are temporary, specific to one aspect of their life, and are the result of some unexpected external change in their situation.
- Affirm your capability to achieve success. When you think about the past, recall the times you put in the extra effort that ended up making the difference between success and failure. How did you motivate yourself? When you’re feeling strong, what have you done to get your energy flowing? List the steps you took that enabled you to be successful in one dimension of your life, like work. Then imagine applying those same steps to another area of your life that you want to improve, like your marriage.
- Convert your “shoulds” to “coulds.” For instance, instead of thinking that you should be making more money, tell yourself that you could be making more money. That prompts your brain to begin wondering how to make it happen. Engage in possibility thinking to generate pictures of several pathways that could potentially lead to the result you want to accomplish.
- Ask yourself, “What can I do to feel good about myself today?” Take the time to build and broaden your self-esteem. If each and every day you set aside some time to do something that enables you to appreciate yourself – like calling to check up on a friend that’s sick – you’ll develop a new self-image.
- Reframe your negative thoughts. When you’re kicking yourself for having made a mistake, ask yourself, “What lesson can I learn from the experience that will allow me to do better next time?” Or consider disputing the catastrophic conclusions being suggested by the internal critic. For example, if you’ve said something stupid to someone, change your thinking from “they’ll never want to talk to me again” to “I want to make amends for my having been so judgmental.”
You’ll be a much more positive person if you to talk to yourself like you’re your own best friend.
Dr. Tom Muha is the Director of The PROPEL Institute. As the science of optimal human functioning has emerged, Dr. Muha has become a leading practitioner of Positive Psychology. He has been at the forefront in the study of how people involved in healthcare systems can achieve the highest levels of success and satisfaction.
By combining the research he conducts at a major academic medical center with studies of other extraordinarily high functioning individuals and organizations, Dr. Muha has developed the PROPEL Principles. This approach teaches people to apply six Positive Psychology principles – Passion, Relationships, Optimism, Proactivity, Energy, and Legacy – in order to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable results.