Developing a Kinder Inner-Dialogue
We recently began taking a look at changing our thoughts, and today we’re going to dive a little deeper into that running inner-dialogue we have with ourselves. You may find that perhaps it’s not so kind at the moment—maybe you’re quick to criticize yourself, or you respond to yourself in ways you’d never say aloud to another human, or maybe you’re downright mean to yourself. We are often, of course, our own worst critics; but we don’t have to be. We can foster and develop a kinder inner-dialogue with ourselves, full of loving self-talk and support.
This begins with awareness. If we don’t even notice how we speak to ourselves in our minds, it’s hard to change. We noted a “pause and reframe” exercise, and this is helpful to get a baseline understanding of our inner-dialogue here. Continue to pause, take note of where your thoughts are, and make a mental or literal note. Pay special attention to your reactions to yourself; when something goes wrong, or you’ve let someone down, or you didn’t ace the test. What do you say to yourself in those times? This is the self-talk we want to begin to mend.
If you’re looking for a new book to read, check out Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass. It’s a wonderfully funny and instructive book, and she notes a mantra that has changed my personal self-talk dramatically. Instead of responding to a mistake or error you’ve made with “I’m so stupid, why would I do that?” (as we often tend to do), try “I’m just a little bunny figuring it all out.”
It sounds simple, silly even, and yet, it’s a magical tool. Whatever the phrase is for you, find something to replace “I’m so stupid” with a kinder, more forgiving reaction. And if you find yourself reverting to that negative self-talk, stop yourself in your tracks and replace it with loving words of support.
Another helpful exercise is to imagine saying the things you say to yourself—”I’m so dumb, I can’t do anything right, how could I do that?”—to the person you love most in the world. Hard to imagine saying those things to them, isn’t it? These practices begin to bring this self-talk into our awareness, and the more cognizant of it we are, the more we can flip the script.
When we’re beginning to examine our internal dialogue, this is a good time to also take an inventory of what we are consuming; the books, television, social media, that we ingest daily. Also take note of your social circle and people you spend the most time with. How do they speak? What is the tone of the media you consume? Is it kind, forgiving, gentle, or is it gossipy, critical, and harsh? All of these things contribute to the words you speak in your own head, so edit where you need to. Listen to an uplifting podcast first thing in the morning, stop hanging out with gossipy friends, and unfollow the influencer who is constantly negative. You don’t need it.
Today, spend some time journaling a list of some of the harsh things you say to yourself. Once you’ve got a list of some of your worst offenders, rewrite them with the kindest, most loving response you can think of. And then next time you catch yourself saying something nasty to yourself, pause, reframe, and speak loving kindness to yourself.
Sincero, J. (2013.) You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Running Press Adult.