I am the first person to admit, I am an anxious driver. Negative self-talk and self-doubt popped up the instant I got in the driver’s seat from the moment I failed my first driving test at 16 years old. However, I couldn’t let my thoughts stop me from getting where I need to be.
“Wow, I can’t believe how hard I bumped that curb when I tried to parallel park. I am a terrible driver. Why did I think I could do that? I couldn’t do it before, why would I be able to do it now? I should never try to do that again to avoid embarrassment.” Sound familiar? This is one example of my negative self-talk.
Lao Tzu has a famous quote, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for they become your destiny.”
From time to time, I still feel that initial sense of nervousness, but creating the habit of positive self-talk gives me confidence and motivation to push forward.
To me, positive self-talk is one the most important forms of self-care. Positive self-talk has been linked with increased emotion regulation abilities and higher self-esteem, while negative self-talk correlates with increased levels of anxiety and depression.
I found myself asking, “How do I flip the switch from persistent negative self-talk to positive?”
If you are like me, instead of engaging in negative self-talk, ask yourself:
- Where is the proof that this thought is true?
- Who told me that and why should I believe it?
- Would I say the same thing to someone I care about?
- Is it really “always” or “never” or am I just frustrated?
- Am I expecting myself to be perfect?
- How can I reframe this?
- What would my best friend say to me?
- What have I learned from this? What’s a positive?
An additional strategy that helped me reframe my negative thoughts was giving them an identifiable name. When I have self-doubt or negative thought spirals, I can quickly reframe my thinking by identifying, “is this really me that believes this? Or, is it “Anxious Agnes” getting in the way again?” I can easily help others faster than I can help myself sometimes and giving my negative self-talk a name helps me reconsider – how can I help Anxious Agnes? How can I help myself?
Reminder of the day: The way you speak to yourself matters.