As human beings we are masters at creating narratives. We create colorful stories that have the capacity to stir up emotion. And that can be very wonderful and inspiring. I’ve often said that emotions are the elixir of life. The problem with our innate gift for story telling is that we often tend to cling to the negative and painful narratives and replay them repeatedly in our minds.
If she just hadn’t said that. If I just hadn’t done that. Then the relationship wouldn’t have been ruined. I wouldn’t be in such dire straits.
We create headlines of negativity
And off this rumination we create high level headlines, scripts that sound like:
I am always getting taken advantage of.
I am estranged from this relative.
I am always making bad choices.
I am bad at leadership.
I am horrible at relationships.
I am not assertive enough.
I am weak.
I am not hardworking enough to pull that off.
I am overweight.
I am stupid.
I am never going to get ahead in life.
I am damaged.
I am a victim.
I am powerless to change anything.
Just let it go, right?
We’re often told by self help experts that we have to let go of these negative scripts. Release the negative self talk, they exclaim! But how? Especially when they’re so ingrained. Many of these stories have been kicking around in our brains for decades. Maybe I’m crazy for saying this but “Let that sh%t go” sounds trite and condescending. If it was that easy, I would have done it by now, is what I often think when I’m met with platitudes like that.
I often speak about the power of language with folks I am coaching, and direct coaching clients to pay particular attention to anything that comes after the phrase “I am.”
Why? Because words are literally magic. And they have the capacity to expand the possibilities in our lives or close them down for good. Words, whether spoken out loud or spoken in our head, are incredibly powerful. If you’ve ever read or heard of the book, The Four Agreements, Ruiz speaks to this when he addresses the first agreement – Be impeccable with your word, who says:
“You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word.”
Beware of the negativity bait and switch
So what would impeccability of word look like as it pertains to releasing negative self-talk? Would it be the converse? Instead of I am not weak, perhaps the answer lies in the reverse – I am powerful. That would be convenient, wouldn’t it? Just a simple bait and switch should be enough to do the trick, right?
In my experience it’s tough to go from one extreme to the other. We as humans also have an animalistic ability to sniff out the falseness of a message. If I keep telling myself I am powerful, but I don’t really believe it, this can feel super demotivating. We know and can feel a cheap trick when we see it.
So I’m going to share a little tip that I have recently come to embrace that is working wonders for me in releasing negative self-talk, which was passed to me recently by a very trusted advisor and friend.
A tip that really works for releasing negative self talk
Up until today…
Now I am in the process…
Up until today I have struggled with my relationship with my brother. Now I am in the process of opening my heart, healing old wounds, and letting him in.
Up until today I have struggled with managing my emotions in the workplace. Now I am in the process of developing more self-awareness of my triggers, understanding what I can do about them, and making more considered choices.
Up until today I have had difficulty setting boundaries and have often felt taken advantage of. Now I am in the process of learning why I do this, and learning more effective strategies to communicate my needs and wants.
Up until today I have felt like a victim because of the abuse I have suffered. Now I am in the process of healing this trauma, developing a greater sense of worth and making powerful choices for myself and my life.
When you think about the difference between these two approaches, it’s a subtle shift in language, but it’s incredibly profound. This way of thinking and reframing acknowledges the story, acknowledges the history. And then it leaves it there. And then it creates space for who you are being in the now, how you are growing and what you are learning. And with growth and learning come possibility. And with possibility comes optimism and believe it or not, much needed lightness in one’s heart.
Coaching Questions for Thought:
- What are some of your limiting story lines you repeatedly ruminate on?
- How might you reframe them using the technique of Up until today, now I am in the process?
- What change does this make in the way you view the situation and in releasing negative self talk?
Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their talents and step into their greatness. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!