“You are a failure.”
“You look ugly today.”
“Everyone’s life is better than yours.”
Have you ever said these things to a close friend? How about a family member? I’m guessing the answer is no.
Then why do you say these things to yourself?
We are often harder on—and crueler to—ourselves than we are with other people. We hold ourselves to higher standards and berate ourselves more. What’s the effect? Depression, low self-worth, and deep feelings of shame.
Here are four antidotes:
1. Talk to yourself like you talk to your friends.
If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.
Next time you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, try this quick exercise. First, get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and draw a box with two rows and five columns. Label the columns Thought, Emotion, Evidence, New Thought, and New Emotion.
If you’re beating yourself up about your career, under Thought you could write, “I’ll never have a successful career.” After you’ve written it down, sit with the thought for a few minutes and focus on the emotions that bubble up. Do you feel anger? Shame? Sadness? In the box under Emotion, write down all the feelings the thought triggers.
Under Evidence, write anything that challenges the negative thought. For example, “I went to a good college” or “I’m a hard worker.” Under New Thought, write a replacement for the original thought that takes into account the evidence. For example, “I haven’t found the right career yet, but I believe I will soon.”
Finally, under New Emotion, write down how this new thought makes you feel. Optimistic? Energized? Repeat this exercise daily until thought-stopping and replacement happens naturally.