Apr 16, 2021I’m always startled when someone asks me to speak, guest blog, or contribute a written piece. I mean, each and every time! I shouldn’t be. I’ve spoken to audiences of all sizes, written training courses, published articles, and have my own blog, and yet – if someone asks me to offer something up, I always pause and ask “why me”? I let the little voices in my head that say “you’re not worthy” or “no one wants to listen to you”. I let those voices overpower the ones that know and reaffirm that I am a credible resource.
Does that happen to you too? I call those little nagging voices the gremlins, and I believe we all have them.
There are two things about the gremlins that are of particular interest to me; why we all have them and what we can do about them. I’ve read many articles on these subjects, and I can boil it down to two reasons and three actions steps to control it.
The first reason we have negative self talk is simply because we are human. According to a 2020 Newsweek article, humans average 12,000 - 60,000 thoughts per day. Our minds are not quiet entities, and it is no wonder that a certain percentage of those thoughts are negative. I could not find research to answer how many thoughts an animal has per day. But right now, my dog is laying at my feet, snoring. And aside from looking at me longingly when I am eating something, and letting out a big sigh as she flops on my feet for a nap, that's about it. Her expressions range from happiness to joy. It’s a pretty limited range when you consider it all, but it’s a good gig if you can get it. Humans are just not wired that way – we think about “what if…” and our minds tend to go to the worse possible outcome. (And don’t you dare google any physical malady you may have or your will surely convince yourself that you’re going to die!) We spend a lot of time thinking about a lot of different things, so it is our human nature to have some negative self-talk.
The second reason we allow negative self-talk is that in our fast-paced world, we almost universally suffer from being too busy. When you are too busy, and you don’t allow for good physical care, your mental health will soon suffer. When your body isn’t at its best, it is hard for your mind to be at its best. For me, this remains incredibly difficult. The five pounds I wanted to lose 10 years ago is now 40 pounds. I rarely take the time to exercise, which I know is the key to releasing endorphins. I am self-indulgent and lack discipline in this area of my life.
Take 15 minutes right now to schedule that doctor or dentist appointment, or look through your calendar for the next few weeks to seek out some intentional time you can truly spend on yourself. That is something I need to do too, which leads me to the things you can do about negative self-talk.
Call it out! I just stated that I am self-indulgent and lack discipline. That really isn’t negative self-talk because it is true! But by naming it, and by naming the generalized self-talk “the gremlins”, I am allowing space for me to step away from it and analyze it, like any problem I want to solve. I can begin to tame the gremlins when I recognize them. Go back to the opening statement – my shock that someone asked me to guest blog. Well, because I know my gremlins will pop up and tell me that no one will read it, I can also tell myself that isn’t true because my own blogs and followers on social media are growing weekly. Giving a name to, and being able to identify the associated feelings is one strategy for taming the gremlins.
Another strategy is simply to practice positive self talk, combined with replacing negative talk. When you recognize the “gremlin” – or whatever you name it, as previously suggested, you may be able to ward the negative voice off by recognizing that you’re in a situation that could trigger you, and you can get ahead of yourself. Being aware of your feelings can help you control them. Then you can begin to intentionally replace that negative with a positive. “No one wants to read what you have to say” becomes “Your followers grew by 35% in the past six months”. This requires practice and discipline.
Try it this week – keep a journal or note when you are speaking negatively to yourself. Give those thoughts a name and pause to replace that thought with a positive thought. If you’re a parent, you know you wouldn’t let someone talk bad about your child so why do you let your own voice talk bad about yourself? Athletes know this and work to get their head in the right space. When I was first learning to play golf, my instructor asked me if I knew what was the most important shot in the game of golf. I answered “the drive – if you can get off the tee strong, you will have a good hole” and he said no…the most important shot in golf is the next one…because you have to be willing to let go of the bad shot you just had in order to focus on the next shot.
It’s a good lesson for life isn’t it? Bad things may happen, but how you respond to it and how you let the voices in your head respond to it will have longer term influence - so get control of it now. Tame your gremlins by naming them, take good care of yourself both physically and mentally, practice positive self-talk and replace negative talk with positive talk – even better if you can replace the negative with an already proven positive. You’ve got this!
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