Do you remember hearing your parents reminding you about the importance of using kind words? Perhaps they repeated to you constantly that your words carry significant weight. They were absolutely correct!
Many of us understand the importance of using kind words with others, but how often do we follow these guidelines when we speak to ourselves? Everyone has an internal dialogue–the words we speak to ourselves throughout the day–and just as the words we say to others can help or harm them, the words we speak to ourselves can do the same.
If you think your internal dialogue needs monitoring, how can you begin to control your tendencies to use negative language toward yourself? Check out this step-by-step guide to get started!
- Recognize your unkind words, thoughts, and feelings toward yourself.
The first step you can make toward monitoring your internal dialogue is identifying and labeling unkind words and thoughts. To begin developing a healthier inner dialogue, you need to understand which parts of the conversation need immediate attention.
If you’re used to being hard on yourself, this can take time. If it helps to keep yourself organized, keep a running list when you catch yourself using unkind words or thoughts toward yourself. If you aren’t sure what could constitute unkind internal dialogue, check out this list of examples:
- I don’t need to eat that. I’ll screw up your whole day of healthy eating and gain back a ton of weight again.
- I can’t believe I was stupid enough to say that.
- I’m too dumb to ever pass this class.
- I shouldn’t bother applying for that job. They would never hire me.
- I am not good enough to participate in that activity.
- I would look so dumb if I wore this.
- People would laugh at me if I tried to do that activity.
- ….and so on.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of events that can trigger negative internal dialogue. Things that trigger your unkind thoughts toward yourself can differ vastly from a friend’s. Learning to recognize yours is the first step toward replacing them with healthier internal dialogue.
- Find alternative ways to rephrase and frame your thoughts to yourself.
Psychology Today recommends finding ways to rephrase and frame your thoughts to yourself in a more positive way.
For example, suppose you’re experiencing a negative internal dialogue about going on a first date. In that case, you can use the following method to begin swapping out those negative thoughts for healthier, more positive ones:
- Have the negative thought: “I don’t know why she said she would go on a date with me…. I bet she meant it as a joke.”
- Recognize that this thought is negative. Also, consider why this isn’t the case. For example, if the person agreed to the date, this most likely means that they’re interested in going and spending time with you.
- Rephrase your thought to be more positive: “I’m looking forward to seeing how this date is going to go.”
- Develop an internal “motivator and complimenter voice.”
We’re all familiar with our internal “mean” voice. If you have a negative internal dialogue, you probably hear from yours often, unfortunately. However, what if you developed an inner “motivator” voice?
All the internal voices we hear in our minds don’t have to be negative or mean. Try building a positive one!
For example, bring out your inner motivator when you’re feeling uncertain, down, or stressed. This can tie in with the step above–your internal motivator voice can step in when it’s time to trash a negative thought and replace it with something positive.
- Practice, practice, and practice some more.
Getting better at anything requires a lot of practice. If it takes you extra time to begin monitoring your internal dialogue, stick with it and continue to implement strategies to make it more positive. Even small baby steps are still movement toward progress–and healthier internal dialogue!