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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 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?

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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

Featured image by Shutter Stock.

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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