The language we use is important. It both reflects our internal working model of the world, and creates it. And so how we talk to ourselves is both revealing and influential.We talk to ourselves all day long. And it can be easy to slip into negative self-talk that sends us into a downward spiral which can be difficult to break free of.
Look out for these 6 negative self-talk patterns that are commonly impacting us at work.
#1. My success requires perfection
When perfection is the goal, we’ll always be left with a troubling sense of incompleteness, could-do-more and failure. And then we start to lose sight of what we have achieved; and what is actually required. Get some much-needed perspective and have a conversation with someone close to the situation. Notice that success is not a game of perfect.
#2. My destiny is fixed
It’s easy to “decide” that we are simply destined to succeed or fail. And this negative self-talk removes the burden of our responsibility – so feels good, initially. But it’s an excuse that ultimately stands in our way. And outside our own thinking, we know that it’s an irrational thought; that our destiny is in our own hands. So watch for the negative side of this thinking – and challenge it by taking responsibility.
#3. I always/never do that
“Always” and “never” are some pretty big words. But actually, there isn’t much we always or never do. Maybe we do something “a lot”. Or “rarely”. But not the extremes of always and never. This self-talk promotes the belief that we have no option for change. But of course, we do. Challenge your always. Ask: when, specifically? Challenge your never. Ask: when could you?
#4. I succeed only when others approve of me
External approval is a reality in the world of work. But it is only a part of the picture. And when our negative self-talk starts equating external approval with our only sense of success and of self, problems ensue. Our feelings of success are not given to us by others, but made within us. The approval of others is simply feedback to add to our own self-approvals.
#5. My past is my future
Our brain looks for analogy, patterns and like-thinking. Which is why memories are contextual: negative memories attract other negative memories. And so isolated incidents turn into series of recalled failures which erode confidence and make a different future seem impossible. Challenge this thinking by simply deciding this is your moment to make a change that creates a different future.
#6. My feelings are reality
We create (skew?) our reality when we attach to the stories we tell ourselves – and the feelings those stories evoke. Such negative self-talk keeps us from our full potential. But we can challenge this thinking by learning to take an objective look at our feelings: to separate fact from fiction. Practise simply noticing how you are feeling. No judgement, just observation. And name those feelings – in a word, only.
Developing awareness and taking responsibility
The different patterns of our negative self-talk all have in common that they keep us out of our responsibility. But by practising mindful awareness of such thinking (and believing), we can limit the impact on our careers.