Using Mindfulness to Banish Negative Self-Talk
It is important to be mindful of negative self-criticism
Gill Hasson suggests some ways we can help ourselves accept our thoughts and turn them around
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How do you feel about 'future you'? Can you see possibilities and positive things for your future or is your future negative and difficult?
When faced with a new challenge, do you find yourself filled with self-doubt? "I'll never be able to do this", or "I'm not good enough", or "I can't". How do you feel about 'past you'?
When you judge yourself in a negative way it can lower your self-esteem. For example, when you've made a mistake, do you tend to judge yourself for it? Does your self-talk include comments such as "How could I be so stupid?" or "I'm hopeless" or "I've screwed up again". This sort of self-talk leads you into mind traps (jumping to conclusions, catastrophising, tunnel thinking etc.) that undermine your confidence and make you believe that you can't do certain things.
Negative self-talk also knocks your self-esteem, making you feel bad about yourself. Mindfulness can increase your awareness of these judgemental thoughts; how unhelpful they are and how bad they make you feel. Next time you make a mistake or feel that you've screwed up, take a mindful approach. Instead of going back over what happened and spending so much time feeling bad about it, accept that you can't change what you did or didn't do. Know that you can influence what happens from now on.
Accept and learn from your mistakes:
Self-acceptance is an important part of self-esteem and confidence. Some people believe that if they accepted themselves as they are now, they wouldn't make any positive changes to themselves. But feeling so bad about yourself can paralyse you and stop you from making changes.
Whatever you've done or whatever happened - remember that acceptance means recognising that what has happened cannot be changed. Of course, if you make a mistake or fail, you are probably going to feel bad; you might feel guilty or regretful and that can be the motivation you need to make changes. But feeling bad is only helpful in the short term. If you feel bad about yourself most of the time, all that does is use up the energy you could have used to make positive changes.
People with good self-esteem see mistakes and failures as opportunities to learn about themselves. They take a "beginner's mind" approach - putting aside the judgements and conclusions from past behaviour and actions and, instead, thinking about what they've learned from these experiences. You identify new insights and they can help you do things differently, next time.
Focus on the things that make you feel good about yourself:
Confidence and self-esteem are based on the issues and areas of your life that are important to you; in the things you enjoy doing and do reasonably well. They are 'flow' activities; activities where you feel a sense of control; no fear of failure or feeling of self-consciousness. These activities are intrinsically rewarding and although they might be challenging, the effort required doesn't seem overwhelming. You get immediate feedback - you know what you have and haven't done well, and you adjust what you are doing to accommodate difficulties.
Crucially for your self-esteem and confidence, when you reflect on the activity you feel productive and good about yourself for your part in what happened. What do you enjoy doing? What is it that is fun and brings you pleasure? Are there activities in your life that bring you a sense of satisfaction, that help you feel calm, centred and connected? Find out what you enjoy doing and do more of it!
This is an extract from Gill Hasson's Mindfulness: Be Mindful. Live in the Moment