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Negative Self-Talk: Silence Your Inner Critic For Good

Negative self-talk weaves itself into every day of our lives. Here's how to stop it.

Inspiration

Negative self-talk isn't something to take lightly. It weaves itself into every day of our lives. It convinces us that we should not attempt whatever it is that is in our heart's desire. It's a breeding ground for Imposter Syndrome.

I grew up in a strict household. At home, I was often corrected or criticized; I was seldom celebrated or praised. My mistakes were magnified and my successes ignored because that is what I was supposed to do. The pros of growing up like this are that I truly have created the habit of attempting excellence in whatever I do. The cons of growing up like this are that I took over the habit of criticizing everything I did with what I was saying silently to myself. No accomplishment ever feels big enough. I spent years of my life picking up where strict parenting left off. Praise myself? Never.

I'm in sales training currently where we are covering topics like sales and lead generation. The idea of picking up a phone to call people is so terrifying for most, they never even try. New technology seems like a behemoth of a mountain for them to climb. There's a way in which our imaginations create disastrous outcomes so strong and vivid that we're absolutely convinced that beginning in the first place is futile. There are common themes among the women that I work within my coaching program and negative self-talk is extremely common. Why wouldn't it be?

Anything that we practice over and over again starts to run on autopilot. We can start thinking of our negative self-talk as an auto-correct that only gets it wrong.

When spell check mishaps happen to our phones do we stop, look at the mistake, correct the spelling without torturing ourselves for bad spelling and then hit send and continue with our day? Or do we send the automated words, whether it has typed what we intended or not, and then spend the day berating ourselves about it? Negative self-talk has become the spell check misspellings that we ignore because we've been doing it so long. How do we stop it when it is incessant?

Here are four things that can be done to help stave off automatic negative self-talk:

1. Observation

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Start watching your reactions as if you are outside of yourself looking in. Watch yourself with curiosity. If you're having a tough moment ask yourself, "What's really wrong?". Are we upset about what happened or is it an oft-practiced reaction on autopilot? At first, it may seem strange but with practice, it can be illuminating.

Are you upset about what is going on or is it because it feels like the way you were always silenced as a child? What are the emotions you're having teaching you? Observe yourself both when happy and when upset. We get to feel our feelings and should. There seems to be this incorrect assumption that being positive means blocking out our negative feelings. Being positive doesn't mean negating unpleasant feelings. It is positive to take a step back and listen (without judgment) to what comes up when we ask ourselves questions.

2. Self-Soothing & Praise

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We get to be our own best friend. When our friends call us in distress, we jump to being their best cheerleader. When we find ourselves upset, we can be our own biggest critic. We deserve to be our own best friend in our head.

I can be found reminding myself that right now, everything is OK. Even if there are steep challenges to overcome, in this moment, everything is OK. How often do we have to get to the other side of conflict before realizing that it was a lesson that we needed to get in order to grow? We can find ways to remind ourselves of this even as we go through the fires of life. As a survivor of sexual assault, I have to remind myself often that it is OK to be OK. I can be on heightened alert at all times. Even the smallest setbacks seem huge building blocks.

I call my inner best friend my personal superhero. She is always on-hand to say I'm doing better than I'm giving myself credit for. I'd bet money the same can be said for many of us, survivor or not. My inner best friend will clear the worry space out by declaring: "Nothing to see here folks!" Be the cheerleader friend you are to others for yourself in your own mind because you can say more to yourself than a superficial, "You got this!"

3. Pivot Your Inner World

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There is a book called Coming Alive: 4 Tools to Defeat Your Inner Enemy, Ignite Creative Expression & Unleash Your Soul's Potential by Barry Michels and Phil Stutz. Inside this book are four tools that can be used on the spot to shift our negative thought patterns.

Let's say that your negative self-talk is loud and distracting. Find a place that you can stop, close your eyes, and feel what you are feeling with intensity. Imagine doing this while sitting in a room with large glass windows. Make everything outside the window disappear. Then make everything inside, except you, disappear. You are left with yourself and silence. The space created by this exercise may help you quiet your mind enough to continue on with the day. Not everything works for everybody. I encourage you to find out about the other tools because they can be implemented on the spot when you need them.

4. Who Gave You That Script?

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Ask yourself whose voice that negative self-talk really belongs to? In my case, I took up where my strict parent left off. I also remained in an unconscious state of survival mode. I never gave myself a break and I only paid attention to what I thought needed fixing. Whatever was fine in my life, I ignored. It doesn't need fixing so it doesn't need focus. Plus, if everything is going well, I'd be preparing for the next shoe to drop. Then one day, it dawned on me that I had taken up right where my strict parents had left off.

One of the things I do if the negative self-talk starts is to remind myself, this is not my voice. I don't have to do this for them. I can choose the inverse.

You are the adult in the room now. How do you choose to talk to yourself? Write down the things that you say most often. Now rewrite them inverted. Start practicing the repetition of these inverted statements to drown out the auto-negative. Pre-program your responses to the negative self-talk so that they automatically flow. It took several years to get the automatic reaction going, so it is going to take practice and time to change it. Be easy with yourself as you practice. Beating ourselves up for not doing something new perfectly right away only adds fuel to the negative self-talk machine. Choose a few from this list to practice as soon as you notice the negative monologue beginning. You do have the power to rewire your automatic response to life's challenges.

I am a fan of starting small. For example, I got into the bad habit of saying "f*ck my life" if a mishap happened. Now, I catch myself before I say it and say "Bless my life," instead. It seems so small but every house is built bit by bit. Retraining our brain is the same way.

In fact, I'd argue that small but consistently gentle changes are the best ones to practice for lasting change. What do you say to yourself when mishaps happen or challenges arise? Practice your own version of "Bless my life". When you stay consistent with your practice, one day you'll step back and observe that you are now saying your new supportive self-talk.

Being your own best friend in your head is much better than broadcasting those naysayers installed by someone else. Strip away all the noise and you realize that right now, in this moment, inside of yourself everything is fine.

Pre-planning the response challenges and stresses will slowly faze out the unwanted voices and truly bless your life. Please know that there is no shame in getting help from a coach like myself or a therapist or even a support group. Take Action and practice, practice, practice.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Why Every Woman Should Write A Love Letter To Themselves

Jada Pinkett-Smith Wants You To Chill With The Negative Self-Talk

How Pursuing God Taught Me Self-Love

Feeling Yourself Is The Vital Step To Finding The Love Of Your Life

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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