“I failed the test again. I’m never going to get any better at this.”
“They cancelled plans – they must not like me.”
“Everything I say sounds so unintelligent. I’m such an idiot.”
Any of these statements sound familiar? These statements are examples of negative self-talk. Self-talk is your subconscious inner dialogue that you engage with everyday. The average person has about 6,000 thoughts per day (Murdock, 2020). What do you notice about how you talk to yourself? How do these thoughts make you feel? If the answer is sad, unmotivated, upset, angry, or anything similar to these feelings – chances are you are being mean to yourself.
Why are we mean to ourselves?
Our inner dialogue is shaped in childhood by the way we internalize how we are spoken to by people around us – caregivers, parents, peers, teachers, relatives. Maybe you had a teacher who said you just weren’t a good writer after failing one too many writing assignments. Maybe your parents dismissed your feelings a lot. All this to say – even though we may have internalized negative thoughts about ourselves for years, we can change these thoughts to positive self-talk statements:
1. Start with awareness.
As with any change we take on in our life – we first need to be aware that there is something that just isn’t working for us anymore. The purpose of explaining the “why” above is to create space to use curiosity (not judgement!) to discover where your inner critic comes from.
2. List evidence against your negative belief about yourself.
You may notice that you say, “I’m such a burden,” a lot. What is evidence in your life that shows that you are not a burden? Maybe you have friends that initiate plans with you. Maybe you have a partner that always asks and genuinely wants to hear about your day.
3. Create a new, positive self-talk statement based on the evidence you listed.
With the example above, the evidence shows that “I am loved”.
4. Review the list of evidence often.
Keep a running list of evidence against your negative belief on your phone so that you always have access to it. Look at the list even when you are not being mean to yourself.
5. Practice self-compassion.
It takes time for these evidences to replace your long standing negative self belief – it’s like teaching yourself an entirely new language! Be kind to yourself as you navigate this process by using positive self-talk statements: “I’m doing the best I can.” “I can do this.” “I believe in myself.”
Practice using curiosity to identify your self-talk and how the statements make you feel. Therapy can support this process by providing a safe space to explore where your inner critic comes from and work on creating positive self-talk statements to replace negative ones. Wishing you healing on your journey to self-kindness!
As I am sitting here writing this blog, it is hard to believe that we are already in 2021! I am sure many people will agree with me that 2020 has been quite a challenging year to remember. It was a year filled with sorrow, laughter, anger, hope, frustration, surprises, despair, love, just to name a few. Can you believe we have survived all that? We always hear people saying that life is full of ups and downs – to say that for year 2020 is just an understatement. For me, personally, I have learned how to accept the ups and downs, embrace emotions (both positive and negative), and adapt to the environment with intention and meaning. I have learned not to be afraid of challenges but instead acknowledge them, take care of them and ask ourselves how we can turn these experiences into valuable life lessons. I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned in 2020:
Accepting the Uncertainty
Life is uncertain. There is never a time, even before the pandemic, when we can have any certainty of what is going to happen in the next minute. The only thing certain is the present moment and our actual experience of the moment. As Eckhart Tolle puts it: “People don’t realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.” It is only natural to feel stress in the face of uncertainty. Staying in the moment and be present has helped me face and accept uncertainty, and manage the stress of uncertainty. Do not be afraid of uncertainty, learn to accept and face uncertainty with resilience and ease. Together, let’s find peace in uncertain times.
Power of Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness has helped me turn my attention to the present moment. We should not dwell on the past or worry about the future, instead, we should focus on the present moment. Practicing breathing exercises and meditation throughout the day have helped me tremendously in the past year, these practices truly taught me how to be present with a non-reactive mind. I am also discovering how to incorporate mindfulness in daily living – mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful exercising. If we practice focusing on the present moment, it empowers us to be with it, and we start to find ease of living. I invite you to try these practices, even for just 2-minutes a time, you will see a difference!
The Importance of Connection
Separation is definitely one of the most challenging things we had to face in year 2020. The pandemic has kept us all physically distanced from one another. Many of us felt isolated and frustrated in our social distancing, but many found new meaning and connection with each other. We have learned to make connection with each other in many different ways — saying hi to our neighbors from a distance underneath a mask, having “zoom” holiday meals with our friends and relatives, sending kisses to our elderly relatives at a nursing home through the windows, seeing clients via telehealth, etc. As human beings, we instinctively need to connect with others, but to be able to build solid human connection, you have to first connect with yourself. Doing mindful check-ins throughout the day to get in touch with my own feelings where I pause, take a deep breath, acknowledge how I am feeling right here and right now and how I would like to proceed with this moment have really helped. Make space for self-reflection each day, it can bring clarity to the moment.
Practice Positive Mindset
Every cloud has its silver lining, but whether you see it or not is a choice you make. Focus on what you control, do not stress over things you cannot control. The year 2020 can be a difficult year to love, but if we just look on the positive side of things, I promise you can find something you are grateful for. Just as importantly, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.
It Is Okay to Reach Out for Help
Believe this, we are all in this together. You are not the only one suffering, you don’t have to do this alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust, or seek therapy if you need to. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Take care of your whole body, inside and out.
Create Your Own Happiness
Take responsibility of your own happiness, never count on someone or something to make you happy. You don’t find happiness, you create it. Many people think that only if the pandemic is over then things will get back to normal and they will be happy. No. If you think that way, you will never be happy. Happiness can be created, under any circumstances, by you. If you take charge, you will find your own happiness.
You are more resilient than you think. We went through a lot in 2020 – the pandemic, economic crisis, lockdowns, the politically polarized election, the racial justice movement, RBG death, just to name a few. We all have the strengths inside us to overcome life challenges. “It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” – Dalai Lama
Make Self-Care a Priority
We are always busy helping and taking care of others that we often forget to take care of ourselves. Get to know yourself, be truthful to yourself and find out what your true needs are. Only when you take care of yourself you can then have the capacity to take care of others and be able to get through tough times.
Thank you, 2020, for all you have taught me! Hello, 2021, I am ready to take on challenges that you are sending my way this year! I look forward to learning and growing to be a better person one moment at a time. “No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Life can be challenging at times, but it can also be amazing!
“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra
What have you learned in 2020, and how you are going to move forward in 2021?
Maybe you have heard about EMDR and you are curious about what it is or if it may be a good fit for you? EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It essentially mimics the processing that occurs during REM sleep to help your brain reorganize and heal difficult memories and “unstick” negative beliefs. This is done by administering bi-lateral stimulation through eye movements or tappers – helping both hemispheres of your brain to “turn on” at the same time while processing a memory.
Now, if you are like me, this may sound too easy or maybe just too woo-hooey for you. I felt this way also when I first heard about EMDR… and I am a trained professional in this field! But let me bring you some support as to why this works. For the ease of understanding, let’s think of your memory network like a filing cabinet and the information your brain gathers as pieces of paper. In “normal” daily situations, our brains take in mass amounts of information and filter it through a process to collect necessary data, file it where it needs to be accessed appropriately, and gets rid of what we do not need to keep. However, when we are under threat or a high stress event occurs, the processing gets interrupted and information gets stored incorrectly. When this happens, it causes distress, flashbacks, dysfunctional beliefs, and triggers.
In a controlled manner, EMDR allows you to bring up the triggering pieces of paper, encourages the brain to look and re-identify it, and then correctly files it where it needs to go. By reprogramming the traumatic memory, you remove the upsetting emotions that come with it and it will become neutral or even positive!
Please understand that this does NOT take away experiences or make lessons learned from the event non-existent. It simply removes the real-time distress and anxious responses from it. This is still part of your story and part of what has shaped the positive aspects of who you are- but the negative effects no longer need to follow you.
EMDR is a gentle option to treatment. It is most known for working with traumatic memories, but it is also great for when you feel “stuck” and can not seem to get around harmful patterns or negative beliefs. If this is you, EMDR might be perfect to refile those papers and get you back on track!