What we Say About Ourselves
So many of us would never speak to another person the way we speak about ourselves or to ourselves in our thoughts. I know where I am living and probably many other places it might be social etiquette to put yourself down a little. After all, nobody wants to appear as though they are full of themselves. But be careful what you say about yourself. You are always listening… and sometimes it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. We can live up to the things we make statements about.
If you are in conversation with someone else who is doing negative self-talk, get into the habit of not joining in. Change the subject. Choose your words wisely, instead of saying for example ‘I don’t have any will-power,’ you might say ‘I’m working on improving my will-power.’ And if you find yourself dwelling on something you feel you did wrong, try to remark on it just as you would to a very good friend.
Similarly the thoughts you think about yourself, if they are negative can be challenged. Ask yourself ‘is that true?’ ‘Where’s the evidence?’ Often our thoughts are outdated and based on beliefs stemming from a much earlier time which is now out of date and might never have been true in the first place.
Thoughts are just that: thoughts. We don’t need to treat them as facts particularly if they are negative or worrisome. Just as we can decide to change our clothes half way through the day so we can with our thoughts and for the betterment of mood and well-being if we choose wisely. I know that sounds a little strange, the idea that we can choose our thoughts. Surely they just arise and we are at their mercy? Well, no actually. We can make a concerted effort to change the way we think if we would like to think more optimistically or in a way that supports feeling good.
In mindfulness the concept of becoming the watcher can help us to detach from the thoughts instead of being swept away by them. When we think about ourselves in a critical or unloving way we can say to ourselves ‘isn’t that interesting, that I should think that?!’ ‘Being curious, without judging, we step back from the thought and watch it almost as though it were outside of ourselves somewhere.
Exercise: try to become the watcher of your thoughts for the next few minutes. Notice where one thought stops and the next begins, and how they might be connected or not. Do the thoughts seem kind, critical or neither? If you get distracted and carried off into thoughts simply bring yourself back and start again. After you have done this, think about what thoughts you might like to be having, if you could switch them on like a song. If you were feeling kind and compassionate to yourself (if you aren’t already) what thoughts might you be having?
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