What do we know about communication? For something that takes up almost every moment of our existence, not a whole lot.
Think about it. Even if we’re not in communication with another human being, we’re communicating with ourselves when we’re thinking.
The nature of that communication can affect how we feel in a given moment or for the rest of the day. We may not even be aware of the constant stream of information, perception, or commentary happening moment to moment. No wonder mindfulness continues to take on more importance in our culture and, hopefully, our lives. It gives us a break to be still, step away from the chatter, and find that all-important moment of stillness.
Stepping back and listening to what’s happening in our minds can profoundly affect how we live each day. Can you relate to:
OH, I look so (fill in the negative blank)
I’ll never be able to…
I don’t know what to say.
What if it went something like this?
I wonder if I’d feel more comfortable in a different outfit.
I’ll take this one step at a time.
I’m going to take the time to prepare for this important conversation.
I am enough.
Many years ago, I had a profound experience about how I was communicating with myself. I was taking my usual walk and talk with my friend/colleague Dave along the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago.
I was shocked but so lucky when he said, “Who says you’re not good enough?!?”
Needless to say, our conversation blew my mind.
He was asking who I was listening to in my head and questioning whether it was my voice!
I’d never thought it wasn’t my voice. After all, it was in MY head!
I’d been complaining about a work situation, my social life, etc. But really, my situation was fine. It was how I was feeling about it, what I was saying to myself about it, and what I was believing about both the situation and myself that was the problem.
“Not good enough.” “Not Good Enough.” “NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”
Those words—in their varying intensities at various moments—were affecting my life. Those words – not good enough – created other unhelpful thoughts as well. I would struggle with something I knew I could do but felt I couldn’t do. I would express doubt and need good friends to help me see myself accurately, or I would give myself a good talking to so that I could proceed.
What a struggle! Where did this contradiction come from?
It was so exciting to imagine—and then recognize—that what I believed was my internal voice was actually one that I co-opted from teachers, parents, or disheartening situations. The self-criticism came from messages I received growing up. Then, I had to decipher what was my own and decide what I agreed with or didn’t—a journey for sure and one worth taking.
Why is it easier to hold on to the negative messages than the positive?
My experience as a psychotherapist and coach is that we feel the impact of negative messages more deeply because they often catch us off guard or conflict with our self-perception. Unconsciously, we internalize these negative inputs more than we should.
That was what I had been doing. That self-talk had become a habit and a belief system. It was incredibly freeing to realize I could evaluate each of those questionable thoughts.
First, I became curious about when and where I had heard that message.
Then, I began to evaluate and decide whether I agreed with the message.
That gave me the agency to choose!
· Did I believe it?
· Was the thought true?
· Did the negative message evolve?
· Was it an accurate representation of the real me?
· Did I want that message to be mine?
Mostly, that negative talk is not true. It comes from hurt, unkind words, and moments when we have not been at our best. If you aren’t happy with some of the self-talk/self-doubt/self-critical messages that you are experiencing, try to be a detective and begin choosing which messages to listen to. Sometimes, it helps to talk to a good friend or a professional (like a life coach or a therapist) to sort it out if you get stuck.
Bottom line: The time has come to choose. Choose to allow you to be you – fully and freely -without restriction! And choose what message you are communicating to yourself.
Do you have a comment, a question, or a story? I would love to hear your thoughts! In the meantime, choose you!