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Going through tough times can be discouraging. You find yourself becoming more and more critical of yourself and others. While each day offers an opportunity to work towards new solutions, our self-talk can become a major stumbling block.
Your Internal Critic
When negative thoughts and self-imposed judgments are constantly repeated, they become an ongoing internal dialogue, like a recording set on auto-replay.
This recording only contains our failures, the times we have been disappointed or rejected. I call this on-going recording your “internal critic.”
These messages have been around so long that anything positive is dismissed, and everything negative is magnified. It is so pervasive that we are often unaware of its influence on us. When activated, we are flooded with self-doubts and feelings of defeat.
Repetitive, critical messages program us to behave and act in predictable ways.
They always include a judgment of ourselves or others and predict a negative outcome to whatever we choose to do. Often, a label is attached. These judgmental reminders activate our first responses to whatever is happening. They become an internal critic whose only job is to continually remind us of how bad and incompetent we are.
Once we become aware that this is happening, however, we can stop these automatic responses and replace them with a new constructive dialogue.
This is not the same as “critical thinking.”
- With “critical thinking” you question and evaluate the pros and cons of different options.
- With “critical thinking,” you develop discernment, the ability to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work.
The difference between a critic and critical thinking is that with an internal critic you immediately believe you are a failure, and nothing can change that.
Devaluing statements and critical messages repeated consciously or unconsciously, form a self-fulfilling prophecy. They draw you towards that outcome.
When you put a stop to this repetition, you can think rationally about problems and make informed decisions based on the here and now. You can say to yourself, “Okay, I may have made mistakes and some bad choices in the past, but here is what I can do now.”
Persistent critical self-talk can sabotage our efforts to believe we can make it.
There is nothing positive or instructional in it. By challenging, we are rejecting that definition of who we are supposed to be and choose instead a mindset that believes in our ability to find constructive alternatives. We may not have had a voice as a kid, but we do as an adult.
Challenge critical self-talk and replace with affirming statements.
- Affirmations declare we have worth and value. They become a direct antidote to repetitive negative thinking and self-talk.
- Affirmations put in place possibility thinking. They allow confidence to develop and become a new self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Affirmations encourage, motivate, and reflect the value you have for yourself and others. It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or bad choices. What it does mean is that you are not defined by your mistakes. You are a child of God. And to quote an old phrase of the 70s, “God don’t make no junk.”
You are not your pain, shame, or abused child. The past does not define who you are today unless you allow it. Purposefully leaving the past in the past is telling yourself, I am okay – I can make it – I am worthwhile. There are no perfect childhoods or perfect parents. We all make interpretations based on who we were at the time.
A New Dialogue
Repeating affirmations every day installs a new dialogue. Choose from the affirmations listed below or create some of your own. Repeat them every day, several times a day. After a while they will become a new way of thinking that is encouraging and motivating.
- I am an intelligent, capable, and responsible person.
- I choose to expand my point-of-view and focus on what is positive.
- I can bring something good out of a hurtful past.
- I can become more than my hurtful experience.
- I forgive because hanging onto grievances hurts me.
- I work for excellence instead of perfection.
- I am methodical and careful in everything I do.
- I focus on what I can do and not on what I can’t do.
- I am not my past – I am me in the present moment.
- I accept myself unconditionally – both my strengths and my weaknesses.
- I am capable, competent, and discerning.
- I look for solutions to my problems.
- I am pro-active and my efforts make a difference.
- I am discovering more of my special talents, skills, and abilities every day.
This week, spend some time recognizing your internal critic. When does he/she begin haranguing you about all your failures? ]
Give it a name, tell it to sit down and be quiet. You no longer want to listen to all that stuff.
Then look over your past and find all the things that were helpful, instructive, and motivating, things you learned even in the toughest of times that can become a positive take away.