You may know that in 2016 I have been focused on learning about positive affirmations, which provide a strategy to think and speak words of life to yourself. It’s more though than just repeating nice words to yourself to make you feel good. It is more about actually deleting any negative thoughts or beliefs that might be hard wired into your brain perhaps from past experiences or things people have told you about yourself.
Some negative self-talk is obviously negative.
For example, have you ever said anything like this to yourself?
“I look fat in these jeans.”
“Sara always has her act together and I’m a mess.”
“I’m so clumsy.”
“I’m terrible at remembering names.”
“Nothing ever goes my way.”
“I’m nothing before my coffee.”
“I’m getting so old.”
“I don’t really have any special talents.”
When we say these statements it’s pretty obvious that we are being hard on ourselves. If we heard a friend say something similar to one of the above statements about themselves, we would run to their rescue and convince them that they’re wrong and tell them not to talk about themselves that way.
But we do not usually run to our own rescue when we talk negatively about ourselves.
Since those statements are obviously negative, they’ve always been easier for me to identify and then work to correct.
I tend to lose my cellphone and keys a lot. Now, saying that I lose my cellphone and keys a lot will certainly help me lose my cellphone and keys a lot more, so a good affirmation would be, “I’m so organized, I always know right where I’ve left my cellphone and keys.”
When I’ve lost my cellphone in the past (usually right when I want to crawl into bed for the night), I would stomp around the house crabbing and desperately searching for it while whining, “Seriously, I do this every night, I’m such an idiot.” Whoa, if I ever heard my kids say something about themselves like that obviously I’d be upset! And it doesn’t set a positive example for them if they were to hear me talk about myself like that (they are asleep when I’ve been ranting). Why aren’t we upset when we say unkind things to ourselves?
Today, if I lose something, I literally say things like, “I am a smart successful woman. I am a college graduate. I’m a great mom. I will find my keys. I remember exactly where I put them. I’m so smart.” Those words may not help me find my keys any faster, but they sure make me feel a whole lot better than calling myself an idiot! And they make me and whoever is in earshot laugh.
There is a type of self-talk however, that I never even considered to be negative self-talk until coming across it in Shad Helmstetter’s book, What to Say When You Talk to Your Self. I call this type of self-talk a case of the “I really should ought to’s.”
Have you ever said anything like this?
“We should have coffee sometime.”
“I really need to clean out my car.”
“I ought to talk to my boss about a raise sometime.”
“I really need to get more organized.”
“I should really call my grandma sometime.”
“I ought to read more to my kids.”
These kinds of statements actually work against us. I was shocked at first, because surely these statements help us set goals don’t they? Nope.
Helmstetter refers to these kinds of statements as Level II self-talk and says that,
“Level II self-talk is characterized by words such as, “I need to…,” or “I ought to…,” or “I should…” Why does that work against us? Because it recognizes a problem but creates no solution. When you say to yourself (or to someone else), “I really need to get more organized,” what are you really saying? You are saying, “I really need to get more organized…but I’m not!”
Your subconscious fills in the blank with negative self-talk!
When I read this chapter, I took some time to identify where I might be using this kind of negative self-talk in my life. The first thing that came to my mind was my medicine cabinet in the kitchen. On one shelf in this cabinet I keep medicine, kid’s medicine, and all of my vitamins and supplements (I’m a Plexus gal, so that’s a lot!). I go in that cabinet a lot, because it also has cups for the kids and dishes that I use every day. I probably spent months opening that cabinet to have something fly out at me, because it was so packed full and unorganized. Every time I opened that cabinet, I would say or think, “I really need to clean this cabinet sometime.”
You know when I finally cleaned it? Probably months after it initially started annoying me when I finally read this chapter in Helmstetter’s book. I went right up to that cabinet, stared it straight in its beedy little cabinet eyes and said, “You know what cabinet, TODAY I am cleaning you out.” And then I cleaned it out. And the next day, I cleaned out my linen closet that had been puking blankets and towels out at me for months. And the day after that I cleaned out all of my desk drawers, which had been eating all working pens and secretly replacing them with inkless pens for months. And it felt AMAZING!
Some days I knew I couldn’t get to a task right then and there, but instead of saying, “I really need to call Suzy for coffee sometime,” I said, “I will call Suzy for coffee next week” and then I put a reminder on my calendar.
It’s amazing how bogged down this kind of negative self-talk had me and I didn’t even know it.
So, ask yourself, what have you been putting off lately? What’s been on your to do list for a while? What do you wish you could get done, but you haven’t even taken the time to add it to your to do list? Who have you been promising a coffee to or a date night with? Then explore the words you’ve been using about it and change your words into a powerful action packed statement with a deadline.
If you change these kinds of thoughts and words in your life, it just may help you in your productivity, in keeping your promises to people, and in unlocking your dreams and potential!
I hope you’re as inspired as I was to get over my nasty case of the “I really should ought to’s!”
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