I want to talk about negative self-talk. Before I do that, I need to tell you about the day I sat on the toilet (too much information?) in a cubicle at work and read the poster that was on the back of the door.
I was working in a primary school that had an amazing chaplain. Each week she popped up posters with encouraging quotes and phrases around the place. The back of the toilet door was one of those places!
The particular poster in mention said,
"If you wouldn't say it to a girlfriend, then don't say it to yourself!"
Are you guilty of this? I know I am. I participate in negative self-talk!
I say things to myself, about myself, that I would never dream of saying to one of my friends.
The other month, I made a biggish mistake at work with my budget spending. It isn't like me to make these types of mistakes and I felt pretty down on myself because of it. I had to pull on my big girl pants and go and talk to my line manager about what had happened.
As I entered his office, and as I started the conversation I heard the negative self-talk come out,
"Hi, I need to tell you that I am an idiot and I've made a big stuff up."
Do you do that? Do you talk down about yourself when you have to admit to a mistake?
I am not an idiot! I am a spectacular specimen of a human being.... okay, well, let's just say I am your regular, responsible and competent employee, who just happened to have made a mistake on this day.
So why did I say I was an idiot? Why did I belittle myself in front of him? Why did I feel the need to speak negatively about myself?
It was an act of defense. If I get in first and criticise myself, then others won't feel the need to and I won't get hurt. It was an attempt to soften the blow of any reaction that could come.
Does it really matter that I used negative self-talk?
I think it does and from what the Bible says, I believe God thinks it does too.
In the book of Proverbs it says, "Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts." ~ Proverbs 4:23
Okay, so my one conversation of calling myself and idiot probably isn't going to do too much damage to the way my life will turn out.
Let me confess some more negative self-talk I am guilty of saying.
Sometimes inside the quiet of my mind where no one else can hear, these phrases are repeated to myself on weekly basis:
*You should exercise more.
*You should do more hands on activities with your son.
*You should make natural organic snacks like the other mums.
*You really should have written a ten page essay lesson plan rather than dot points.
*I don't deserve it anyway.
*I'm not good enough. (I actually had this thought often when we were waiting to be pregnant with our first child!)
*You really should have done more today - you are just being lazy.
These are just a handful! I have PLENTY more.
Can you imagine your best friend coming over for a cup of coffee and confiding in you how she is having a bad week and then turning around and saying some of these phrases to her?
"Well, I know you are having a hard week looking after your little one, working a few days on your job, running your household BUT you REALLY should be fitting in three more workouts, do some sensory play with your child and make organic snacks. I mean, how can you even THINK about letting your child snack on a packet of Tiny Teddies?"
You just wouldn't! Not because you don't want to hurt your friend's feelings but because they just aren't true!
Telling The Truth
My parents would often say, "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all!" I am sure you have heard that said in your lifetime too. I had never thought about applying that same motto when talking to myself or about myself. Yet, I want to encourage you to do more than just refrain from negative self-talk. I want you to keep up with the self-talk! Just speak the truth though!
Negative self-talk tends to stray from the truth. Yes, there may be elements of the truth in what we are saying, but it is not the whole truth.
When I made a mistake at work, it was simply that - a mistake. The truth is, I had made a stuff up, but saying I was an idiot, that part wasn't true. Including the negative self-talk actually painted the wrong picture to my line manager as well as my own recollection of what had happened.
The Bible says:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ~John 8:32
If you have a friend sitting on your couch, beating themselves up about their bad week, you would wrap your arms around their shoulders, remind them of their strengths and their beauty that lies within.
You would get along side and support them. You would help them focus on the things that are true and what really matter, not the things that they beat themselves up over.
So, if we can see that so clearly when our friends are in that position, why are we hard on ourselves?
This is what the Bible tells us to focus on:
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, no the worst; the beautiful, no the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. ~Philippains 4:8 - The Message
Yes, I am going to make mistakes and yes, there will always be room for improvement. I am sorry to break this news to you, but you are going to make mistakes too!
However, if you are a child of God, then you need to remember this beautiful truth. When God looks at you, He sees the righteousness of Jesus! He overlooks your ugly parts because of what Jesus has done on the cross. (Read more It's Who I Am)
If God doesn't speak negatively about us, then why should we?
Do you get caught up in negative self-talk? I would love for you to share in the comments some practical ways you have tried to overcome this!