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Transform Your Self-talk from Negative to Positive!

Joseph S. Rubino 12-17

The key to reversing the process of self-doubt lies in creating empowering interpretations about what others say or do rather than interpretations that berate us and fuel feelings of inadequacy. Become proficient at distinguishing facts from interpretations.

We, too often, confuse what was actually said or done with the personal meaning we attribute to these occurrences. Those who suffer low self-esteem share a greater tendency to tack negative meanings onto life’s events. The significance they place on these situations has negative personal connotations, even when none were intended or existed. These damaging interpretations immediately trigger anger, sadness or fear. These emotions rapidly become familiar and induce a false sense of security. Although we hate feeling angry, sad or afraid, we continually create explanations of events that land us in these moods. Our human machinery takes full advantage of the power of these strong emotions to keep our low self-image in place. We continually collapse facts with interpretations. The stronger the emotions become, the greater our tendency to attribute incorrect connotations to situations. The more we do so, the further our self-esteem erodes.

The good news is that anyone can learn new behavior of attaching positive or neutral meaning to things that are said or done, replacing the typical negative implications. The first step requires developing the ability to distinguish facts from the interpretations we attribute to the facts. This is especially useful during times of stress and upset, when the emotions of anger, sadness or fear are present. Like red flags, these emotions warn us that we are confusing facts with interpretations, triggering the negative self-talk that eats away at our self-esteem.

Let’s examine this destructive self-talk in detail. Picture your negative self-talk as a cynical character that clings to your shoulder that we’ll call Chip. It’s important to distinguish Chip’s disparaging voice as an entity separate from and outside yourself. Chip can be male or female and will often take on the persona or qualities of a disapproving parent or early detractor. It is important to distinguish between Chip’s pessimistic counsel and the wise guidance of your intuition and conscience. The former is skeptical and fear-based while the latter reflects wisdom and inner insights. Your intuition is never wrong. It is the knowing inner light that guides you through life’s turbulent seas.

In contrast, Chip may be single-minded but not very valuable in championing your excellence or making you feel good about yourself. His job is to either keep you unimportant and protected from risk or on the treadmill forever trying to do better and become worthy. He does this best by whispering nonsense into your ear that causes you to feel bad about who you are. This results in two common scenarios. The first has you sell out your needs and dreams, avoid new situations and shrink away from your true magnificence. The second has you driven to achieve and prove Chip wrong about how unworthy you are. Maybe you recognize having played out both scenarios in different parts of your life.

Let’s examine the first situation. Chip likes when you become a victim as this makes his job easier. Victims don’t belong. People don’t like them and they don’t look good. Victims also don’t risk outside their comfort zones or aspire to any great (and dangerous) accomplishments. They live in a world marked by resignation, a world that excludes them as not good enough to play.

Chip can have you mistakenly believe that it is safer to hide out, quit trying and give up than it is to reach for the stars or go for the gold. He’ll have you believing that it’s actually better to play it safe, avoid risk and circumvent failure. He is quick to point out all the reasons why you should feel bad about who you are. He prefers that you believe his put-downs so that you will not think yourself worthy enough to try new ventures and find success or freedom. If you don’t try, you can’t fail, and so Chip will have protected you from that unpleasant possibility. He knows that by listening to his guidance, you will mangle your relationships and sabotage your success. He considers both unnecessarily risky and, like an overprotective master, prefers you to stay home and hide under the bed rather than lead the hunt. He’d rather you get angry at yourself for being a loser than risk a worse fate by overstepping your abilities. Chip is also the master of guilt. By reminding you of all the times you messed up, were selfish, hurt others, and fell on your face, he causes you to beat yourself up repeatedly. By doing so, in a contrary way, you actually feel better knowing that you have been properly punished for your transgressions.

Chip may tell you that life is not so bad if lived quietly, without the stress that accompanies the need to accomplish great things. Maybe you rationalize that you are not experiencing all the bad extremes by playing small and beneath your potential. But perhaps, your life is dimmed, void of the passion and power that would be possible to experience if you played at a higher level. Restoring a healthy sense of self-respect will support you to reclaim your magnificence and generate a variety of new possibilities for happiness and accomplishment.

Chip also can run your life by convincing you that you can overcome your unworthiness if only you try harder and strive for perfection. He has you convinced that your worthlessness can be managed or camouflaged if you climb to the top of that ladder that’s leaning against the wall of flawlessness, with the end of the ladder obscured in the clouds above. Once you reach what you think is the top of the ladder, you discover that you’re still not perfect, haven’t accomplished nearly enough to counter your worthlessness and must continue to climb the ladder until you reach that faultless state. Of course, the ladder never ends. Perfection is always disappointingly out of reach and mistily out of sight and you get to continually beat yourself up as your life is driven to achieve an unreachable objective. The more Chip berates you as not good enough, the harder you try to be worthy – which you equate with being perfect. Coming from this disempowered state of self-flagellation, you are less likely to be your best and achieve to your potential. There is no peace in this setup.

In either scenario, Chip succeeds in shattering your self-esteem and having you resign yourself to never being good enough by messing with your ability to separate what happened from your interpretations. Reclaiming your self-esteem will result from your ability to recognize when Chip is speaking his nonsense and realize that his misguided counsel does not support your excellence, happiness or magnificence. Guilt is always optional. Instead of berating yourself for your faults, your excellence will result from being able to respond in a manner consistent with your vision, values, commitments and life purpose.

Also, many of the derogatory messages that Chip whispers did not start with us. We didn’t always program the disparaging phrases or misinterpret words or actions, causing our self-esteem to suffer. Many times we were actually told that we were not good enough, unlovable or unworthy of the best things in life by others. However, we did accept and absorb someone else’s belittling delusions. Perhaps, a parent, grandparent or other person told you that you were flawed in some way and you believed them. Chip now may take on this person’s words to remind you of your inferiority. Whether your derogatory thoughts originated from your own misinterpretations or from the unkind words of others, you still have the ability to recognize that these thoughts are untrue and do not support your happiness. You possess the awesome power to stifle your critic every time he or she speaks those critical words.

Chip will never go away for as long as you live. He lives to create dissatisfaction regarding who you are at the core and what your life is about. The more upset, strife and suffering he helps create, the worse you feel about yourself and the more Chip is validated. You will find Chip to be especially vocal during times of stress or upset. He uses these opportunities to remind you of how poorly you measure up. The best you can do is to recognize his misguided intention to either protect you from harm or motivate you to be better – and then put in emotional earplugs so you can’t hear his sabotaging messages.

Recognize his voice when he shows up to speak his opinions and know that you need not listen to what he says. His imprudent, distrustful advice puts you down, ruins relationships and promotes upset. The most effective way to temporarily silence Chip is to forcefully tell him to SHUT UP and TAKE A HIKE! You need to be as forceful in silencing his cynical chatter as he is in continually dishing it out. Your ability to discern between Chip’s dominant disparaging voice and the softer wise counsel of your inner intuition will support your self-esteem to prosper.


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