Negative Self-Talk: Silence Your Inner Critic For Good
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:
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
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
There is a book called Coming Alive: 4 Tools to Defeat Your Inner Enemy, Ignite Creative Expression & Unleash Your Soul's Potentialby 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?
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.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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