The way we talk to ourselves
We all have stories we tell ourselves; that we’re not quite good enough, clever enough, confident enough. And sometimes, we convince ourselves that these stories as fact. We can start to hold ourselves back, keeping ourselves safe, never stepping out of our comfort zones so we don’t get the chance to reach our full potential.
The frustrating thing is, the personal narrative we often have for ourselves isn’t how other people see us at all. How many times have you coached a friend to apply for that job, message someone back, or push themselves out there in some way because you can see what they’re capable of, even though they can’t?
The language we use with others
None of us are born with self-deprecating qualities. We pick this up through our interactions with the world.
I was born in an era where there weren’t a lot of positive reinforcements in childhood. I don’t remember anyone ever talking to me about my talents or wanting to try and nurture them. I’m not trying to cry me a river here; I feel like my experiences are pretty similar to most people my age. It just wasn’t a thing.
If we compound childhood with other life experiences; toxic relationships, bad workplaces, mental health issues, then it’s not a surprise we start to create negative stories about ourselves. And actually, I don’t think a bit of self-criticism is necessarily a bad thing; the issue is when the balance tips so far towards the negative, you lose all sense in who you are.
Now, if I spoke to other people in the way I spoke to myself, I would rightly have zero friends and be a person you’d cross the road to avoid.
That doesn’t give me a free pass. There have been countless times when I’ve made little digs because I’ve felt a bit jealous or insecure. Or I’ve felt the need to take a snipe back at someone. It’s not behaviour I’m proud of. But, this is something really crucial to recognise – it was always about how I was feeling, never about them. People who feel good about themselves, are more compassionate towards others. They don’t tend to behave like dicks.
The impact of using the right language
Now, colour me needy but I respond (as I suspect nearly all of us do) far better to positive, empowering language than lots of criticism. That’s not to say there’s not a place for feedback, I don’t think it’s healthy to misguide people either but commenting on my strengths goes a long way with me.
Think about it. Most of us tend to work far harder for bosses that are encouraging, rather than bawling us out every 5 minutes. We want to spend time with people who raise us up, not knock us down.
Language really matters. The words we use to others have an impact; not only on the way we make people feel – but we can literally change the neural pathways in their brain. Talk down to someone and eventually you’ll chip away at their self-esteem. Use the right language and watch someone fly.
The science behind positive language
As humans, we’re predisposed to keeping ourselves safe. This is one of our primal responses; we’re hardwired to recognise fear. This is one of the reasons why negative language resonates with us, it’s a fear-based response. And like anything, the more you hear it, the more it starts to stick.
However, the more positive language you hear, the more it starts to retrain those beliefs, actually changing the neural pathways in your brain and the way you talk to yourself. In other words, surrounding yourself with the right people, can actually change how you feel about yourself.
How can you rewrite your personal story?
We’re only responsible for how we behave, we’re not responsible for the behaviour of others. I can’t always control who I spend my time with or if they use the right language towards me. Sometimes, we’re able to recognise a toxic situation and either leave it, or understand someone’s opinion is not fact. However, more often than not, these things have an impact and we have to spend time getting ourselves back on track and make a conscious effort to reframe some of our negative beliefs.
Oh sure, I hear you say… Undoing years of put downs and not being recognised by the world? How am I supposed to do that? Well, science shows it takes approximately two months to retrain your neural pathways, which are responsible for sending signals to your brain. These are the signals that tell you, you’re not good enough or you can’t do that (amongst other things). They are unconscious habits so you’re not necessarily aware all the time that it’s happening. But, like any habit, you can change it.
Affirmations are a way of reframing a situation to help you change the way you feel about yourself or about a a particular issue. The way I like to do is to take a situation that I find challenging and write a statement to encourage me to feel differently. I like to write them down and really reflect on them. Other people say them to themselves in the mirror. One of my friends puts post-it notes up around her house so she has a constant reminder of her positive points. The trick is to look at your affirmations little and often so you start to retrain your brain.
Speak it into existence
We all know the phrase, ‘fake it, til you make it’. I actually think there’s an element of truth in that – the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Speaking it into existence is also another way to focus on your strengths and can give you the confidence to go ahead with things. I had thought about writing a blog for years, but never did it because I was worried about what people would think. I mentioned the idea to a friend and once I said it aloud, it suddenly seemed possible. That’s what speaking it into existence can do.
Human Design is a way of understanding our own energy and how we should respond to the world. An in-depth reading can also help you understand a lot more about yourself, why you might respond to certain things when other people don’t, what’s important to you and your life purpose. It gives you a blueprint to understanding who you are.
Using the right language yourself
Using the right language yourself is almost one of the hardest things to do. But every time you catch yourself making a negative statement, try and pause. We all have periods of self-doubt or lack confidence especially after having a bit of a knock. These things don’t have to be our life story though. We’re all capable of more.