How Negative Talk Is Killing Your Success
We do this to ourselves. I see this almost every single day as a college professor and I see it every single day in the business world. You are self-sabotaging your success. Maybe it’s not all of you, but if this episode title resonated with you, you’re probably killing your success with negative self-talk.
What is self-talk?
First, let’s talk a little bit about what self-talk is. Self-talk is that endless stream of unspoken thoughts that go through our heads. It dictates your overall outlook on life, whether it’s optimistic or pessimistic, and that has a huge impact on your life, your health, your stress levels, your ability to get done what you need to get done.
I did a lot of research for this episode, and it was interesting because, I’m listening to a book, called Small Teaching and it’s all about how to incorporate small lessons into your classes, but the author goes into talking about how once you convince yourself that you can’t do something, it radically changes your brain’s ability to absorb new knowledge in that area. It’s almost like you’re flipping off a switch and your ability to learn in that area stops.
It is amazing, from a learning standpoint, that once you say “I can’t”… I can’t market myself or I’m not good at math. (How many times do we say that in front of our kids?!). I’m not good at this. I’m not good at science. First of all, you’re shutting it off for yourself, but then when your child struggles with it, your child thinks, “Oh, well, well, mommy is not good at that. Or daddy’s not good at that. So I must not be good at that either.” We need to stop this. We need to stop this right now.
What are the impacts of positive self-talk?
Positive self-talk leads to increased life spans, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical wellbeing, better cardiovascular health, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during hardships. Your level of coping may have a lot to do with the self-talk that’s going through your head. This is the research that I’m talking about, which is all from the Mayo Clinic. Think about that.
How many of you are struggling with health issues? Part of that becomes a cyclical thing. Maybe you’re in a lot of pain, and so you think, “I’m always going to be in pain. This is a permanent thing. It’s only going to get worse.” When you start going through that cycle, your physiology is actually going to start to respond to that and go, yep. The pain is worse.
My husband Jeff struggles with chronic pain from some injuries in the service. Before COVID, he went to a pain management course at the VA. A lot of what they talked about was psychology and getting your thoughts under control. If any of you suffer chronic pain or chronic illness, you know that you can get into these spirals where you just go down, down, down, and the pain gets worse and your motivation decreases. Because that’s what self-talk can do. I’m not dismissing what is happening to you, but what I’m saying though, is that we can control how we react.
The impacts of negative self-talk
Some of the impacts of negative self-talk are increased stress levels, gastrointestinal, and other digestive issues. About a year and a half ago, my anxiety levels and stress levels were through the roof. I started having really terrible gastrointestinal issues. It got so bad that I had a panic attack that caused tachycardia, which is when your heart rate starts to rise. It actually caused damage to my heart because of stress and anxiety.
Now luckily, I’ve done a lot of work with my cardiologist. I’ve done a lot of physical work, a lot of mindset work. I was that high-stress, really negative self-talk person.
Before I had Erik, I’d done a lot of work on this and I got a lot of it under control. And then there’s this thing, the mom anxiety. I know a lot of moms that suffer from this, but my anxiety just went through the roof and I’d never experienced anxiety before. I’d had self-talk issues and I’ve had stress issues, but I never had anxiety issues before.
It took a lot of work and a lot of talking to doctors. Interestingly, it was the first time that I really saw doctors dismissing what I was saying about my health. (I had that issue when I had cancer as well, but I think that’s just because nobody was thinking cancer at that point.) But I’d talk to them and I’d tell them I was having issues with anxiety and really bad stomach issues and they’d tell me to take some Prilosec, or take some of this, take some of that.
I had all sorts of medical tests and all my medical tests were coming back fine. What I wanted to know was how do we fix this? And they’re like, no, everything looks good. You’re fine. I finally went to a chiropractor who did integrated medicine, and he treated me for adrenal fatigue. That’s when I finally started back on the road to recovery. I’d heard stories of people having issues getting doctors to believe them. That was like the first time I’d ever experienced that.
If you’re having gastrointestinal issues and everybody says, you’re fine, it may be the stress that is being caused by anxiety, negative self-talk, depression, and other psychological issues that you might be having. Don’t let a doctor tell you that you’re okay. Don’t dismiss what’s happening to you.
Other negative issues that can happen are decreased motivation, giving up easily or not trying at all. Increased depression rates, increased illness, having trouble coping. Those are all real side effects of this.
How to stop negative self-talk
So what do you? What do you do when you’re in that cycle and how do you get it to stop? I’m going to give you some thoughts that I found from an article on verywellmind.com, as well as some thoughts of my own.
The first thing you need to do is recognize that these thoughts are going on. You need to catch your inner critic. I think it’s important to name that inner critic. I call mine fear because typically when I engage in negative self-talk, it’s because I’m pushing myself somewhere that I haven’t been before. Maybe I’m ready to launch a new business, or I’m pushing myself out there, marketing-wise. I know that a lot of you hate marketing.
Thoughts are not always reality. So you might tell yourself “I’m not a good marketer. I’m not a good business owner.” And it may just be that you need to spend some more time with it. When you hear things like that, challenge that negativity and seek out what the truth really is.
Many times we just let it go and we don’t challenge it. When I know fear is speaking, fear typically speaks in absolutes… “I’m never going to get a client. I’m terrible at marketing. It’s always going to be this way.” Look for the absolutes. Fear is very black and white. Negative self-talk is very black and white. You need to challenge that negativity and gain some perspective.
So instead, tell yourself, “I have five clients. I can get another client. I’ve gotten these five. I can get another one.” Or, “I’m doing our books, and our books look amazing. I’m getting that practice.” You could also say, “I passed the QuickBooks certification exam. I’ve got the base knowledge. I can go out there and get clients.”
You’ve got to challenge that perspective. When you’re struggling with this, treat yourself like a friend. If a friend came to you with these thoughts, what would I tell them? Use that to reframe the thoughts that you’re having.
One thing that works for me is speaking the truth out loud. So when you say, “Oh, you’re terrible at marketing, you can’t do that.” Instead, say out loud, “No, I’m going to practice my marketing. I’m going to get better at marketing. And I’m going to put myself out there,” because that’s the truth.
I’m 40 years old and I’m learning how to play the piano. Not as often as I should be, but that’s my fault because I’m not making the time for it. That’s something that I need to do.
If I sat there and said, wow, I’m terrible at the piano, well, I wouldn’t say I’m terrible at the piano. Instead, I’d say I’m learning the piano. I need to practice more. But I’m not terrible at the piano. I’m pretty impressed with how my fingers can move at the age of 40 with the fact that I’m just picking this up for the first time.
The truth is, it’s not that I’m terrible. It’s that I just need to practice. If I would have sat down at the piano the first time, and moved my fingers across the keys and said, “Gee, I’m terrible. That’s it. I’m done.” That’s not how this works. You need to practice.
Most things in our life are that way. But the problem is we let this negative self-talk stop us before we get to the point where we can say, I need to do better. I need to do more. I need to keep practicing and keep going. We let our brains shut us down before we get there.
Here’s the thing. If you say you can’t market yourself, or you can’t do math, or you can’t learn to sew, or you can’t start a business or whatever it is, do it anyway. You just have to break it up into pieces, and you can do anything. You might not do it at the caliber that you want to, but you can do anything. I might never be an Olympic runner, but I can run. Do it anyway.
I feel like I’m having a Ben Folds Five moment. If you’ve never heard the song Do It Anyway, it’s a great video and it has Muppets. Who doesn’t love Muppets?
Practice gratitude every day
The last thing is such a game-changer for the direction of your self-talk. If you are not practicing gratitude on a regular basis, try it. For me, practicing gratitude has been so helpful. It’s much harder to be negative when you’re thinking about the things that are going well in your life.
It’s really hard for your brain to stay negative when you think, I’ve got a roof over my head, I’ve got food on my table, I love my children. They’re not perfect, but I love my children. I’ve got money coming in. I’m blessed to live in a time where we have all of this technology. Even if we can’t see each other, I can connect with the people I love.
I think everybody thinks they can’t practice gratitude until they have the new house and the new car and the business that replaces their full-time income. It doesn’t have to be that way. Practice the little bits of gratitude right now. Just start there.
Do that every single day. You can work that in. When you wake up in the morning, the first thing you try to think about is I’m so grateful that I woke up this morning. I am so grateful that my husband woke up this morning. My son is happy. I find that when I practice gratitude first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, it just completely changes the way that my day goes. My days aren’t perfect. We run into issues all the time around here. When you’re running multiple businesses, and you’ve got tech issues, and you’ve got people issues, it happens.
My Fitbit tracks my resting heart rate and my normal heart rate, and since I started practicing gratitude on a daily basis, I am so much more relaxed. I’m thinking about the good things in our life. I’m no longer focusing on what I wish I could change or what I don’t think is going to go right. Little shifts can make a huge difference.