This week’s Mindful Monday post is written by Natalie Bodenhamer of HelloDayBlog. I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie earlier this year (in a Trader Joe’s parking lot, of all places), and was really drawn to her energy and spirit. I love Natalie’s take on self-talk – it’s a BIG challenge for me, and I found myself wanting to fist-bump her while reading this post. Thanks, Natalie!
We all talk to ourselves – it’s not just for the crazies. Whether it’s a pep talk before an interview or humorous chitchat while in line at the grocery store, we constantly find ourselves engaged in self-talk.
One of my favorite self-talkers of all time is Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) in the movie, What About Bob.
Baby steps, get on the elevator. Baby steps, get on the bus. I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful! Is this corn hand-shucked? I’m sailing!
The lovable schizophrenic talks himself all the way to the mast of a sailboat, for goodness sakes. It gets me every time.
Self-talk is powerful. Yet, our thoughts fall on a spectrum – from honoring to destructive. The voice we hear can be a source of motivation and strength or, on our worse days, drive us to hopelessness and despair. While I would love to hear, “go get ‘em, girl”, sometimes I get, “never gonna happen, sister”. It’s not always positive. At times it sounds down right hopeless and mean.
If we simply listen to ourselves, we miss an incredible opportunity to shape our internal talk. With focus and care, we have the power to influence our internal voice.
• Pay attention. In the midst of wrangling kids, juggling a career and trying to be a good friend, it’s not easy to pay attention to our thoughts. Set your focus and be mindful of your own thoughts. Is there a common tone? When you listen, do you feel optimistic and empowered? Only after listening carefully can you really engage in a meaningful internal conversation.
• Be in a community. Assessing your own thoughts can be confusing as hell. The more tricky or dark the messages, the more valuable it becomes to address them aloud with close and trusted friends/family. It’s amazing what one conversation with a loved one can do to provide prospective and help reframe your thoughts. Before jumping right into such a conversation, I say something like, “I would like your input as I work through x.” Or, “Would you mind talking a few ideas through with me?” And if a certain thought seems alarming to share, I remind the special friend/husband that it isn’t a truth I believe, but rather a feeling I want to evaluate more closely with their help.
• Don’t be afraid to call Bullshit. Some of the messages we send ourselves simply aren’t true. Some are destructive. It’s important to listen, assess and either validate or call bullshit.
• Most negative thoughts are rooted in comparison. When confronted with negative messages, start by asking – “Is this thought related to my own or someone else’s comparison of me to someone/something?” If the answer is “yes”, then, “bullshit” is your response. Capisce?
• Put it in writing. If there’s something that I need to hear regularly, I write it down and stick it in plain view. My bathroom mirror & kitchen backsplash are popular spots for me. I encourage you to be bold in this – during a particularly tough time for me I had the words, “remember, you like a challenge” on my bathroom mirror. At first I worried what our babysitter would think if she saw it, so I hesitated. But, quickly realized using the card as a bookmark on my bed stand was getting me nowhere. So, on the mirror it went.
• Get moving. Moving the body triggers movement in the mind as well. When I exercise or go for a walk or run, something special happens. I’m more aware of my thoughts, feelings and sensations. It’s a great time to make progress with troublesome thoughts. And if the vibe is right, I will even have the conversation aloud. You know, just to mix it up.
• Be kind to yourself. I’m not talking about empty, positive, kumbaya bologna. No, be honest and without spin. But, do yourself a favor and choose a glass-half-full perspective. And, every bullshit thought encountered must be met with a response rooted in reality, hope and love.
Being known in a community of friends and family is the most important component for me to maintain a positive internal conversation. Those relationships are a source of truth, love and support and remind me of my value and purpose. There’s no book I could read or podcast I could listen to that would replace the value of hearing a dear friend say how much they love me.
So, if I notice my internal conversation taking a negative turn, my first step is to spend time with a friend. Because, they remind me of the hope, joy and excitement I have for this adventure called life.
How do you proactively influence your internal conversations?