How do you talk to yourself? Really think about this.
Take a regular morning routine, such as getting ready for work, and think about what you say to yourself. As you check the mirror before stepping out of your home, what do you say? If it's something like, "You look fabulous!" you're probably not suffering too much from self-judgment. But it might be more likely that you say something like, "I look so fat" or "Great, bags under my eyes again." As your day progresses, what's the self-talk? When you make a mistake at work, is your response compassionate or judgmental? Do you say things like "I'm such an idiot," or other negative comments?
It's important to point out that most people are very self-critical and at the same time, totally unaware of how damaging this is. Listen to your own self-talk and then picture yourself talking to a friend that way. The odds are, you would never speak to someone else as harshly as you speak to yourself.
Let's consider some strategies for reducing self judgement and its impacts.
If you are continuously having negative thoughts about yourself, it is very hard to feel positive about anything, much less yourself. A mindful approach to shifting this habit is to write down a few simple affirmations and say one of them any time you become aware of negative self-thinking. These don't need to be elaborate, but they need to feel at least possible.
For example, if you hear your thoughts calling yourself fat, you can self-correct with "I am getting healthier every day." Amazingly, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as you will notice at your next meal, you are at least considering making healthier choices. But the point is, you can't tell yourself that you're fat, then try to correct it with "I'm so skinny." When you try to use the positive words directly opposite your negative self-talk, your brain has trouble believing it. So find a statement better than what you're saying to yourself, that feels realistic, and keep improving it over time. If you call yourself stupid, you can do the same thing. If you don't believe that you're a genius, don't say to yourself, "I'm so intelligent." Say something like, "I'm actually pretty smart." Or you could try, "I'm pretty smart when I focus on something."
Stop now and write down a negative thought you have repeatedly about yourself. Then write a gentle but opposite thought that you can replace the negative thought with each time it occurs. Keep it short so that you can remember it. Then practice it each time that negative thought pops up.
Anytime you feel negative about yourself, pay attention to your thoughts. Ask yourself if you believe those thoughts and replace those thoughts with something more self-compassionate.
If you are having trouble recognizing or replacing your negative self-talk, an EFAP counsellor can help you to identify negative thinking patterns and reframe them in a positive way. Connect with us. We're here to help.