Ever found yourself singing along to a song you didn’t even realize you knew the words to? We have an amazing ability to retain what we hear throughout the day. Songs. Words. Messages. If the messages are positive then we tend to feel pretty good and our mood is pleasant.If the monologue (or dialogue) is harsh and critical, we tend to go downhill mood wise. Think about hearing words like ‘idiot, pathetic, disgusting, fat, stupid, failure, loser…’ throughout the course of your day. How do you think that is going to impact you?
The scary part is many people don’t even realize what they are hearing in their head. They listen to the negative messages like background noise and don’t stop to challenge it or change the channel. No wonder people end up trying to escape their life or go on auto-pilot at the end of the day. Here are a couple of steps to take control of the monologue and change how it affects you.
Firstly, pay attention to what you are hearing in your head. What is your self-talk like? Is it harsh and critical? Is it kind and gracious? Or is it plain vicious? We can’t change the soundtrack until we know what is playing.
Secondly, check your filter. What are you telling yourself it means? We might hear something that is very benign or neutral but our beliefs about ourselves cause us to filter it and assign a negative message to it. For example, a general thing that could happen to anyone becomes a personal and specific failure about you. You are the problem rather than a problem happening.
Thirdly, change your filter. We have the ability to change out the filters we use to attribute meaning. If I go all ‘black and white’ in my assessment, I can challenge myself by saying, “that’s my all or nothing thinking kicking in. What is the truth?” An example of this is: my friend cancels our lunch date because of an unexpected work demand. The all or nothing statement might be ‘this always happens to me.’ ‘No, that’s my all or nothing thinking. What’s the truth? My friend wasn’t able to come today because of work. That’s all that I know. So I’m not going to add to it or make it personal. I’m just disappointed that it didn’t work out.’
Fourth, tell the voices to shut up! If you find that your inner dialogue is very demeaning and harsh, just tell it to stop. “Stop it! Those are not effective or helpful thoughts.” Literally picture yourself changing the channel.
Fifth, lighten up. Put some positive and pleasant messages into your day — listen to some music, have a dance party with yourself (or your dog), give yourself a break and be gracious. We often tend to have a double-standard between what we expect of ourselves verses what we expect of others. If you would extend grace towards a friend, extend that same grace towards yourself. If you would go out of your way to cheer up a friend after a rough day, do the same for you. Self-care isn’t just about taking a bath or having a massage, it’s about becoming the type of person you want to be.