Earlier this year I decided that I was going to start pushing myself out of my comfort zone a bit more often. There are two places that we don’t learn or grow, when we’re in our comfort zone or fire-fighting. That’s because in either place we don’t consciously think about how we can achieve the best result. So I knew that I was going to find some of my challenges stimulating but I hadn’t anticipated how much more aware I would become of my internal voice. Now for someone who is pretty extrovert and outgoing, my self-talk has been very challenging. I’ve noticed it getting anxious. It’s made me feel very self-conscious and in some situations it’s allowed me to create stories that aren’t anywhere near the truth.
So I’d like to share some of the techniques I use to quieten the negative voice and turn up the volume on my more positive voice, because the more we can do this, the more we will create a positive self-image. And the more positive we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to spot opportunities and achieve the results we want in life. When we let our negative voice reign, it sabotages situations for us and make us feel less worthy.
At the beginning of the year, I made a pledge to myself to attend a ladies networking group called Lady Val’s. They’re always great fun, she finds the most amazing speakers and organises some very useful after lunch workshops. At her last lunch, we had some spare time before the meal arrived and Lady Val asked the room if anyone would like to pitch their business. There was silence! Everyone averted their eyes and became busy with their napkins, including me, until one lady stood up and talked about what she did. As she sat down, Lady Val asked again if there was anyone else and after a few deep breaths I put my hand up and found myself walking to the front of the room. It felt as if my heart was pounding loud enough for everyone to hear, my mouth was starting to dry up and I was wondering what on earth I was going to say. But this is where one of my first tools comes into play. My ABC.
- Acknowledge the thought – thank it and tell it you’re going to continue
- Breathe – use square breathing. Breathe in for two, hold for two, breathe out for two and hold for two. The army use it to calm nerves and it’s really good for helping you to get a grip!
- Concentrate – put all your energy into focusing on the result you want to achieve
With that in mind I asked if there was anyone else in the room, who like me, had some voices talking very loudly in their head when we were asked if we’d like to pitch? Mine were saying things like
‘You might say the wrong things’
‘You haven’t been for a while, so sit down and listen to others’
‘You might make fool of yourself?’
‘What if ……this, that and the other?’
There were some smiles and nods and I could see that they weren’t of sympathy but of empathy as some of the ladies were experiencing exactly the same voices as me. I went on to say that the reason I’d decided to stand up was to show that although I teach people to work positively with their inner dialog, we are all vulnerable at different times, so we need to be brave and find ways to quieten the negative voice and replace it with a more positive one. When we don’t challenge our negative thoughts we allow them to become our self-limiting beliefs which, of course have an impact on the way we view ourselves and therefore create that self-fulfilling prophecy.
So onto my second tool. Being aware of what your negative voice is saying to you, is the first step of the journey to being able to change them. I call this negative voice my ANT – Automatic Negative Thoughts. They spring up at the most inopportune moment and can really scupper whatever we’re trying to achieve. Your negative voice is linking to your beliefs, those perceived truths that you have stored in your database in your brain. Why don’t you write down what your negative voice is saying to you to so that you can bring it into your conscious mind?
It’s now your job to turn your ANTS into CATs – Capability Affirming Thoughts. For example my ANT may say to me ‘don’t ask questions because you might make a fool of yourself’. I can turn this into a CAT by saying ‘by asking questions I have a deeper understanding of the subject …. and there’s probably lots of other people wanting to know the same thing!’
Another great tool I use is the Emotional Perceptual Lens. It’s based on recognising on how the emotions we feel drive our thoughts and behaviour. This then creates a short term result which reinforces a longer term result. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy and of course can be negative or positive. Let me show you in this short video.
Of course, using this technique isn’t as easy as just writing it down but it is a great starting point. The next step is to visualise yourself achieving all those things on the right hand side, as our brain will see it as a blue print. The more you visualise it and practice it, you will find your negative voice will be quietened. I find practicing out my various positive emotions on a daily basis with everyone I come into contact with helps it to feel more authentic for when I really need to call upon it.
My last technique is to remain curious. A couple of weeks ago I was in Yorkshire with friends. Ray and I were staying in Filey and they were staying at a village nearby. On the Friday night, before leaving we discussed what we’d be doing the following day which started with us having breakfast together at a place called Cobble Landing. What do you think happened with my self-talk when I received a text the following morning to say ‘We ate on the way to Filey’? Of course, you’re with me. My inner voice was saying,
- ‘What was the point of making arrangements last night?’
- ‘We better eat quickly and then go and meet them’
- ‘Why, why, why?’
So instead of allowing this to build into something bigger in my head, I rang my friend to see what was occurring. They hadn’t eaten at all! She’d meant to type ‘We are on our way to Filey’ but hadn’t checked the text before sending! Now I know this is a small example, but when we don’t remain curious we can have a habit of taking things too personally and can create all kinds of stories in our heads as to why they’re doing it. Before we go jumping to conclusions, isn’t it easier to have a check in with the person and get any misunderstanding cleared up before it grows into a monster?
As a way of finishing and to help you pay attention to your self-talk, I’d like to leave you with this fable. We’ve had ANTs and CATs in this newsletter and now I’d like to introduce you to Wolves!
One summer evening, a wise old man was sitting around the campfire with his grandson. He told him stories about life and the experiences and lessons he had learned along the way. He related one story that he said had the power to change the young man’s life. It was about the battle that goes on inside of all people. The old man said, ‘Grandson, there is a constant battle going on between the two ‘wolves’ inside us all.’
The ‘dark’ one lives with anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and a negative attitude. The one called the ‘good’ one, lives with joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith and a positive attitude.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The wise old grandfather looked at him and replied, “The one you feed.”
Which wolf are you feeding?