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Show Notes:

Self-criticism loud? Inner talk belittling, shaming, and harsh? This episode is for you. I’m taking you through my 5-step process for transforming your self-talk from drill sergeant to supportive friend.

Welcome to Hello Rebecca Ray, our collective home for courage, growth, and human to human connection. I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Ray, human, clinical psychologist, author, and educator. I know only too well how fear, comparison, and self doubt can stifle your potential. This podcast is all about brave and meaningful living, and how you can make your authentic contribution to the world today, and every day.

Hi, lovely ones, welcome to episode 53. Of Hello, Rebecca Ray. This is a five step process for when your self talk is more drill sergeant than supportive friend. And I really wanted to dive into self talk because I think that it’s something that if you don’t, I was gonna say the word master. But I don’t really want master because that implies that you can be perfect at it. And I really don’t think that you can. I’m a psychologist, and I’ve trained in this stuff for many, many years not to mention, practice it with clients, as well as use this strategy that I’m about to show you, myself. This is how I approach my own self talk on a daily basis. And I’ve been doing this for decades now. So, and I’m still not perfect. So I don’t want you to think that you can be perfect either. But I wanted to dive into it because your self talk is one of the most fundamental aspects of your relationship with yourself. And so practising these techniques can make a huge difference for strengthening your relationship with yourself and being able to really step into a place where you feel worthy in a more enduring way. Now, the caveat to that is that as human beings, we have evolved from a survival perspective, when we were out roaming the savanna in clans 100,000 years ago, where it was actually really adaptive for us as human beings to worry about belonging to our clan. To worry about whether or not we were good enough, because doing so meant that we had continued access to the clan, which gave us access to critical resources for survival, things like protection, information, food, water, and the chance to reproduce, of course, which is pretty important for the survival of the species. Now, a characteristic of a species that helps it to survive will always strengthen over time and not weaken. And so that’s how we arrive as human beings today. And in 2022, as I record this, people who we continue to worry about whether or not we belong, and we continue to have a struggle with this feeling of am I good enough. Now, because of the evolutionary nature of that struggle, it’s not going anywhere. Unfortunately, I wish I had some kind of key where we could fix that, but I don’t.

So instead, I want you to just accept that it’s there and understand that there are things that you can do, though, that are actually really helpful for still strengthening your relationship with yourself, and for having an idea of your ongoing worthiness without having to be anything other than what you are. And being able to do that means that you need to be mindful of how you speak to yourself. So if you’re anything like me, then you may have had a voice in your mind that is far more drill sergeant than it is supportive friend. I certainly had that voice in my teens and in my 20s perhaps even in my early 30s. And this drill sergeant just didn’t ever cut me some slack. It didn’t ever give me a break. It was present around body image. It was present around my studies, it was present around my work. It was present around my relationships, mainly labelling me, criticising me and telling me all the ways in which I don’t measure up and what I had to do to be more, better, to improve, to somehow be perfect. Now, if you’ve had that voice, perhaps even for a few decades, like I did, then you have probably worked out before now that unfortunately, there is no way to turn it off. And also unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily make you better or more. It doesn’t help you to improve, especially when that voice is coming from a place of shaming you are belittling you.

So I want to take you through a process now that you can use to be able to change your self talk or maybe not change, maybe respond differently to your mind, I want you to think of it like that. So, initially, your self talk before you’re aware of it will be an automatic process that just happens. And for things that just happen, there’s not much that you can do about them until you actually bring awareness to them so that you know that it’s there in the first place. And so I want you to think about self talk as how you respond to the information that your mind is giving you. Bearing in mind that minds generally have a negative bias. And that means that they’ve evolved as problem solving masters. So they actually spend a lot of time focusing on what the problems are in our environment, in our situation, in our relationships with ourselves. To figure that out, or to kind of realise that all you need to do is to ask your mind to focus on your breath for 30 seconds. And very quickly, it will kick in with a whole series of questions like, how long are we doing this for? What’s the point of this? Should I be breathing faster, should I be breathing slower. And what’s happening there is your mind wants a job to do if your mind has a job to do, then it feels comfortable, it feels safer and it thinks that its job is ultimately to get your attention and it doesn’t really care what it has to say to do that. And so often it says negative things, because it’s those negative things that push our buttons even more. So if you find that a lot of your self talk is negative, you’re incredibly normal. Please know that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. So I don’t want you to necessarily feel like you have to change that material. But where your power lies is how you respond to that material that your mind is giving you.

So let’s go through these steps. Step number one is to bring awareness to what your mind is actually saying. Now, this might sound simple, like, you just kind of have to listen, right? But it’s not all that simple, because listening to our thoughts is an automatic process. So we actually do it without even realising. So you need to have a practice where you consciously check in to what your mind is saying. Now, if this is difficult for you, it might be helpful to use visual cues. For a couple of weeks, you might grab a post it note and put a question mark on the post it note and put it on your desk or put it on your bathroom mirror or put it on your steering wheel in your car. So that wherever it is that you are on a regular basis, so that that visual cue prompts you to just take a couple of seconds to check in with what your mind is saying right now. Now the way you check in matters, I want you to do it without judgement. So we’re not judging the material that your mind is giving you. Instead, I want you to come at this awareness building from a place of curiosity instead. 

And then understand that the reason that it says what it says this because of our evolution. So if your mind is being negative, it’s simply just trying to get your attention. So I just want you to be gentle around that. Please don’t decide that there is something wrong with your mind because it’s saying negative things or because it’s talking to you in a way that is disparaging. The reason your mind does that is because it works to get your attention and therefore help you to feel safe and survive. Now, obviously, you know that for most of us in 2022, who have the privilege of not having to worry about whether or not our livelihoods will be threatened in the next 24 hours, then it’s not necessarily life or death situations, the way it was 100,000 years ago. But it does mean that your mind will focus on the negative fairly automatically. So step one is, practice this awareness check-in of what is my mind saying right now.

Then step two is, I want you to bring some awareness to where the tone that your mind uses has come from. Because we don’t just kind of come out of the womb and then develop internal self-talk that’s horrible to us without it coming from somewhere. So I want you to think back to your parents or your caregivers or perhaps a mentor that was really important to you. And think back to times that were fairly critical in your upbringing. I don’t mean critical as in negative, I  mean critical as in, they had quite a big impact on you. You felt particularly vulnerable and someone didn’t respond to you in a way that was helpful or caring. Now, what can happen in our upbringing is we can be raised by caregivers who think that speaking to us critically as children, will help us to be our best selves, will help us to shine, will help us step forward and develop key traits that are really useful for humans like, like discipline and kindness, and being able to show up and do things that helps us to thrive. But unfortunately, especially for the generations that have come before us, they didn’t necessarily have access to the research that we have access to today that says that, that’s actually not all that helpful. And it’s certainly not helpful for developing little people who need to be able to survive in the world with a sense of worthiness in order to feel okay. So if you were spoken to by a parent, or a caregiver or a mentor in a way that was shaming or belittling, and that that happened more often than not, or especially at very vulnerable times for you, then I just want you to be aware that your own mind may have taken on that tone with you in adulthood. 

So it’s not necessarily your voice, you don’t own this tone, it is not coming from you, it’s just being repeated, because that was what you heard in very important times during your childhood where you needed to be cared for, and perhaps weren’t or you were perhaps criticised, condemned or shamed in some way. So step one is awareness of what your mind is saying step two, is awareness of where that tone has come from. And those words even have come from because they’re probably not yours. 

Now, step number three is a commitment to do things differently. And this is really important, because the most easy thing that we can do as human beings is just do nothing. And just continue on exactly the way we are, without thinking through what it is about our functioning, what it is about our thinking, what it is about the way we respond to our emotions, that’s not actually helping. So the least effortful thing that you can do is not change, not improve, not evolve. So step three is really important. And that is a commitment to actually do something about your self-talk to respond differently to yourself, in order to be able to strengthen that relationship with you. 

And the things that I want you to remember here that might be helpful around this is to be who you needed during those vulnerable times when you were younger. So those needs that weren’t met for you when you were little that your adults or your grown ups did not meet for you. It’s our responsibility as we grow, and then we enter the world as adults to meet those needs for ourselves. This is your chance to re parent yourself in a healthy way. So quite often, when we become parents, we make the choice to stop the cycle for our children. So you’re not going to speak to your children. If the way you were spoken to by your grownups when you were younger, was harmful. And you think I’m never going to do that to my children, I’m going to speak differently to them, I’m going to treat them differently. When I’m frustrated. I’m going to regulate my own emotions before I respond to them when they’re having a tantrum. And that’s amazing. It’s wonderful if you’re the one breaking the cycle. However, to do that effectively, you need to break the cycle for yourself first. And that means to respond to yourself differently. Okay? That means that the choice to speak to yourself differently in your self talk more often than not, is exactly the start. It’s where you need to start in order to break the cycle for your children. So it’s not just about your little ones, it’s about you. It’s about re-parenting yourself in a healthy way. 

Now step number four is to speak to yourself as you would a friend. So, sometimes it’s really hard to think, well, what should my self talk be like? How should it sound? And I want you to think about how you would speak to your best friend, how you would speak to the person closest to you. And I’m betting that you don’t speak to them anything like you speak to yourself. And possibly if you did, your friendship, or your relationship wouldn’t be as good as what it is. And you just don’t go there, you give them so much more compassion, so much more space than what you give yourself. So step number four is to develop this tone that is friendly with yourself. It doesn’t have to be super positive, it doesn’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, it’s just simply as you would speak to your friend. And that might mean that sometimes with your friends, you’re honest, gently honest, but honest all the same. So this is not you copping out, it’s not you giving yourself a free pass every time things get hard in life, it still means that you’re going to encourage yourself to reach your goals and to be able to sit with the discomfort to do that. But you do so in a friendly and encouraging and supportive way, not in a critical shaming, belittling way. So some tips for this is that you replace ‘must’ with so rather than saying to yourself, I must do this, I must go for a walk, or I must make sure that I release a podcast episode every week, or I must be there for my parents, as they’re ageing and do everything that they need, without boundaries around that. The ‘must’ gets replaced with ‘what’s in alignment with my values here, and what personal resources do I have available’? Because sometimes it can be in alignment with your values to be loving and supportive for the people around you. But to do so in a way that’s not boundaried means that you often run the risk of giving of yourself in a way that’s not equal to what you have available in your giving tanks at the time.

So I want you to think about that, I want you to think about what is in alignment with my values here. So rather than must, how do I make a choice in this very moment to turn towards my values, while also honouring how the level of my personal resources in my giving tanks right now. So your personal resources have things like attention, love, energy, all the different types of energy, so mental energy, emotional energy, psychological energy, as well as you know, money, time and concentration, those types of things. How much do you have available? How much do you need for yourself and what you need to do on a daily basis and how much then therefore do you have leftover for others. 

When you’re talking to yourself, and you speak to yourself as a friend, another tip is to replace should with could, I should go for a walk this morning. Well, I could go for a walk this morning, it makes it a choice. And that choice then you can consciously attach to your values, which makes you more likely to be able to do self supporting habits rather than self sabotaging habits. Labelling is replaced with seeing yourself as a human with all parts, even the parts that are less palatable than others, the parts that you’re not so fond of, and perhaps parts that you’re improving or forgiving, or working on accepting as part of your whole self. So rather than labelling yourself as lazy, or labelling yourself as too difficult to handle or too much, or whatever it is that you say to yourself, not good enough, there’s probably some version of a not good enough story that you’re telling yourself. Now that’s probably the most common story that I saw in all my years of clinical practice. And don’t I think I ever saw a client that didn’t have some version of an I’m not good enough story that they were running in their head. So rather than labelling yourself as that, as not good enough, what I want you to do is to see yourself as a whole human. And that means that you have parts that are absolutely amazing about you. You have parts that are incredible, parts that are able to shine parts that are able to be the things that people absolutely love about you. And then there’s also parts of yourself that you don’t like so much parts that are qualities that you would rather not have as part of your personality, but they’re there. In order to speak to yourself as a friend.

You’re coming from a place of acceptance and this is super important. In order to be able to develop a friendly tone. You’re coming from a place of acceptance and knowing that you’re improving and forgiving and accepting parts of yourself, while also highlighting the parts of yourself that you like. And as I said, tone really matters. So the way you talk to your friends is the way that I want you to talk to yourself. And remember to introduce compassion. having compassion as the basis for your self talk is not, as I said earlier, it’s not like a free pass from life. It’s not just, oh, don’t worry about it, you know, you’re fine is you are you don’t need to try. It’s not kind of cutting yourself so much slack that you end up copping out. Instead, it’s about just simply giving yourself empathy for the fact that living is hard. It’s hard for all of us, there are difficult things that happen on a daily basis. When you have empathy around those things. It makes it so much easier for you to be able to back up and to try again, when you come from a place of criticism or shame or belittling, then generally what you’ll do is shrink and lose your motivation and feel small and not be able to step forward to be able to do the things that are important to you in life. So believe it or not speaking to yourself in an encouraging way is actually going to get you so much further in life than what will speaking to yourself as a drill sergeant would. 

So step one awareness of what your mind is saying. Step two, awareness of where that tone has come from, where those words have come from. Step three is a commitment to do things differently, to be who you needed when you were younger. Step four is to speak to yourself as you would a friend. And step five, now the final step is to go for progress over perfection. So please, know lovely one, please understand, you will never be perfect at this. I’m not. I’m a psychologist, I’m the one teaching you these techniques, right? I am not 100% perfect at all. But practice helps. And the more often you respond to yourself in this friendly way, the more likely you are to develop this tone in an enduring way, which therefore strengthens your relationship with yourself and helps your sense of worthiness. So, please go gently with your self talk. 

I hope these steps help to be able to turn your self talk into more of a supportive friend than a drill sergeant. I’ll catch you very shortly for the next episode of Hello, Rebecca Ray. 

Lovely ones. Thank you so much for listening to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you’ve got something meaningful from this episode, and the most meaningful thing you can do is jump on over to wherever you listen to your podcast episodes, and leave a review. Because it’s those reviews that help this podcast stay here. Make sure to subscribe. And if you’re generous enough to share this episode, thank you so much. I love seeing your shares on social media. So please tag me, catch you next time.