Candace Brown, registered psychologist
Northern Alberta Psychological Services
This is the second article of a three-part series on self-improvement for feelings of self-worth. The first article focused on self-acceptance. This article is about challenging your negative self-talk.
We are not born with feelings of low self-worth – it is created! It does not matter how many years you have heard what kind of a loser you are, how you cannot do anything right, or how you will not amount to anything, the truth is that no one person is that flawed! These comments are not even appropriate feedback. They are nothing more than one person lashing out at another and the irony is that abuser, is also the person who needs to change.
On your self-improvement journey, try to recognize whenever you engage in negative thinking about yourself. This can be a very difficult task, especially if your negative thoughts about yourself are deeply rooted.
The first article gave starting points into accepting and valuing yourself. An aspect of valuing yourself is to engage in positive self-talk. Your inner critic is too loud when you start devaluing your body, intelligence, talents and abilities, beauty, and so on.
When you speak badly of yourself (even if only to yourself) you reinforce negative thoughts, and they gain power over you. Quieting your inner critic will bring more positive thoughts to your self-image, which creates self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance.
One strategy to silence your inner critic is to add a positive counter-thought by inserting the word “but” after the negative sentence. In this way, you end up on a positive note. Therefore, when you catch yourself making a negative statement, such as, “I am so lazy”, add a positive statement to the end of the sentence, such as, “I am so lazy, but I did work hard earlier. I will give myself one hour to rest and then get busy again.”
One way to recognize the voice of your inner critic, is to ask yourself questions, such as: When I say that I am lazy, does it make me feel good? Likewise, would I say the same thing to a person whom I care about?
You can also remind yourself that no one works hard all the time. Therefore, challenge the truth of your negative statements: Are you always lazy – always?
Another strategy to soften your inner critic is to alter the expectations that you hold of yourself. For instance, if you believe yourself to be fat and ugly.
Is it a realistic thought to compare yourself to a model? By changing the expectations of yourself, you will understand that models have a make-up team who enhance positive features and diminish the features that are unflattering.
They also have a team of people who help them stay on track with their fitness schedule. Additionally, the photos of these models are edited to add or remove wrinkles and so on. Therefore, whenever you compare yourself to another person, you are performing a disservice to yourself.
You are unique! There is no one else like you in this world; therefore, treat yourself with kindness. The last article will discuss how you can create compassion for yourself.