The inner critic.
Being hard on yourself.
Maybe even "being a realist."
Whatever you call it, negative self talk is a prevalent behavior that's been coming up a lot lately with writer friends, coaching clients, and even popped up as an issue of concern on a podcast I was listening to yesterday.
I'm going to guess that it affects you too. I know it certainly affects me. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could be our own best cheerleaders, encouragers, and motivators, rather than our biggest critics and demoralizers? Imagine how many creative risks we might take, how many new things we might explore, how much more good we might do in the world?
The first step to solving any problem is understanding it, so let's tune in to Self Talk Radio KERRY, a station that is playing continually in the background of my consciousness, usually without my awareness, and see what's playing.
(NOTE: When I wrote the first draft of this I included stuff other people have said and kinda made stuff up. This is the honest transcript, because I want you to know that whatever is going on in YOUR head, you are not alone.)
What makes you think you can pull this self employed thing off? You'll be crawling back to the day job before a year is up.
Getting a little big for our britches, aren't we?
Maybe you used to be able to write, but you certainly can't write now. Nobody is going to read this shit.
I don't know what you were thinking to start this podcasting project, because you know you'll just get bored and drop it and nobody will ever listen anyway. All full of ideas, but you never finish anything.
You know you're going to fail, so why bother to start...
Yikes. Okay. That was helpful.... NOT.
Know this. If your private self talk station sounds anything like this, you are not alone. Pretty much everybody I know deals with this type of self criticism on a regular basis.
Recently, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise with Cruising Writers, hosted and run by Christina Delay, my business partner for Creative Wellness Retreats. I facilitated a group for the writers on the cruise about our inner critics that turned out to be surprisingly powerful, even for me. We all took a few minutes to download the negative self talk going on in our brains (something I'm going to invite you to do in just a few minutes.)
One of the writers stopped writing, looked up at me, and said, "This is so mean."
Well, yes. It is mean. And it got meaner.
Because the next thing I asked them to do was to choose one of those things they were saying to themselves, and then deliver that line to somebody else in the group. There were actual tears, here, my friends. Not from the person the line was delivered to, but from the deliverer. Things they had been saying to themselves unconsciously for years made them cry when said out loud to another human being.
I would never look at another human being on a journey and say, "You're totally going to fail at this," or "Your writing sucks, dude."
This isn't being a realist. It isn't tough love. It's mean and hurtful and not helpful.
Imagine the damage done by having this kind of toxic garbage playing in your subconscious day in and day out, year after year after year.
Now, are you ready for the good news?
You can change it! You can convert the Self Talk Channel into a motivational channel that will encourage and inspire you rather than dragging you down. I'm going to give you the steps of a simple practice, drawn from Kaizen-Muse coaching, that you can implement to start this transformation.
1. Awareness. Start tuning in to that negative voice so you know what it's saying. Much of its power comes from the way it runs in the background, influencing you while you're busy doing other things. Take five minutes to free write the critical messages. Don't stop to think or analyze, just scribble them down.
2. Draw a big heart around them. Write a message like, "This is normal, I accept that everybody does this." Or, "I am not alone with this." Or, "Thank you for sharing." (Do this step, even if you want to skip it. It's important. It takes some of the energy away from the critic.)
3. Reframe. Look at those things you've written down and see how you might turn them into encouraging messages. Imagine you are delivering them to a friend you love and believe in. What might you say then?
Try focusing on a positive aspect. For example, I'm converting "You know you're going to fail, why bother to start?" into "You're awesome for starting this project. I love your energy and enthusiasm!" That feels so much better. It gives me energy to keep going, rather than fulfilling an expectation of failure.
Or, reframe the negative into a positive question. Like this:
"Nobody is going to read this shit," becomes "What if this grows into an awesome book and my readers love it?"
Again, this question makes me want to keep going. To keep writing. It gives me permission to grow the book, to develop it into something good even if it isn't awesome yet.
4. Say nice things to the woman or man in the mirror. I got this one from the podcast I was listening to yesterday - LOA Recon with Jeannette Maw. What you do is say nice things to yourself, every day (or as many days as you remember - no beating yourself up for missing!) while looking in the mirror. I think Jeannette mentioned a magic number to aim for - like 40 days, or something - but anything you do will help.
One important rule: You don't get to beat yourself up for your negative self talk.
A funny thing happens when we start in to change this pattern. We start beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, in an ongoing endless cycle. Funny how we're like that, right?
It's taken a lifetime to develop this pattern, so don't be surprised if it takes some time to shift it. Hey, if you’re reading this, you've already taken the first step! Now, where can you find a few minutes to do the exercise?
I do have some more resources for you to take this work deeper. I made a little video, and my 2nd episode of the Creativity Quest podcast with Authors on the Air Global Radio Network is on this topic and will be up later today. If you missed the very first episode, on Becoming the Fear Whisperer, you can listen to that here.
I'm also offering coaching calls where we can work together to create an individualized plan for transforming your self talk radio station into positive motivation.
Reprogramming this one thing makes such a powerful difference, my friend. Undertaking this work is one of the most important steps you can take toward being your best, most creative self--which in turn makes the world a better place for all of us.