- Posted by Kristin Thompson
- On September 4, 2018
- 0 Comments
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
People with trauma histories typically have enormous self-loathing. We “beat ourselves up” and blame ourselves. We have more negative things to say than positive. What ever happened to balancing every 1 negative comment with 5 positive ones, like we learned in grade school?
Have you ever really stopped and listened to how to speak to yourself? I mean, it’s absolutely horrid! This is a pattern of reabuse, and for many of us, we learned this in our childhood. Sometimes parents use this harshness as a method of control, and overtime we have adopted and internalized this voice as our own.
Today, we’re going to talk about giving up our destructive self-talk and replacing it with compassionate self-talk. It’s going to feel a little weird at first, because many of us, we are not used to doing it. It’s going to feel unnatural, extremely difficult and even wrong.
1. Notice Harsh Self-Talk
We have anywhere between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day! That’s a total of 35-48 thoughts each minute. If you had to guess, how many would you say are positive and self-affirming? How many negative and self-destructive?
The very first step to practicing self-compassion is to tune into ourselves. We can’t fix what we’re not noticing. For the first few days, keep a journal on you and just jot down how often you catch yourself saying either positive or negative thoughts. For those over-achievers out there, take notice to the repeating themes; worth, body-image, confidence, etc.
2. Reality Testing
Try to explore the reasons behind your thinking by testing your reality. Once you notice how often you are overly critical or self-negative you can begin to explore why. Try asking yourself these questions:
Is it based in sound reasoning?
What is my evidence for or against my thinking?
Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?
Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?
3. Use Kinder Language
When we’re feeling stressed or anxious our self-talk is likely to become extreme. We’re more likely to expect the worst and focus on the most negative aspects of our situations. Putting your life into perspective can help with this.
Think about all that you’ve been through… all the things you’ve endured and survived… Once you do this, you can begin to treat yourself with more love and appreciation. You are a miracle. You are strong. You are resilient. You are here! You may still be struggling, but you’re doing the work to get through it.
Find a softer way to talk to yourself. Replace phrases like, “I’m a failure” with “I have suffered a lot, so my progress may be slower.” To help integrate kinder language, try asking yourself these questions:
Is thinking this way helping me to feel good or achieve my goals?
What can I do that will help me solve the problem?
Is there something I can learn from this situation, to help me do it better next time?
How can I reframe this to make me feel better?
4. Test It Out
There are two surefire ways to see if you’re on the right track with self-compassion and it involves your best friend and a young child! If you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to your best friend in the same way you talk to yourself (direct, overly harsh, rude), then you surely should not be speaking to yourself that way.
Next, how would you talk to a young child? Some may argue that they are fully transparent with their friends or aren’t overly concerned with how they deliver harsh criticism. If that’s the case, then ask yourself this, would it feel good talking to a young and impressionable child in the same manner in which you talk to yourself?
5. Experiment with Compassion
Experimenting with compassion is the fun part. You can choose to try it out on friends or family first. Notice how they react when you show compassion and empathy. Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. Most of us will feel a deeper connection to those who listen with care and provide love, support and encouragement.
When you’re ready, experiment on yourself, even just for a few minutes. If it feels weird or difficult, you may want to try “thought stopping” as a first step: Say “Stop thinking that!” loudly or to yourself to help break the cycle of harsh self-talk. Try asking yourself these questions:
Is this situation as bad as I am making it out to be?
What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it?
What is the best thing that could happen?
Will this matter in five years time?
6. Practice Makes Progress
NOT PERFECTION. We are all beautiful, messy, silly, and confused works in progress. No one is perfect. As you start your journey to self-compassion, it’s likely you’ll slip up from time to time. In moments of stress you may revert back to old ways of thinking. But once you learn something, you can’t unlearn it. You are forever changed just by knowing it.
So is the same with integrating self-compassion. As you practice, it will become easier to recognize and stop the negative self-talk before it becomes destructive. Before you spiral out of control. In time, you’ll embrace imperfection, allow for more self-understanding, and make room for more grace and self-acceptance.