When did you last take time to listen to the “mental chatter” that runs through your mind? Not the voices outside you – those are the easier ones to hear. How about the inner voice that goes with you wherever you are – often such familiar background noise you don’t even hear it.
Although the running commentary of self-talk can be under the radar of awareness, its presence can shape your life. It can be a source of resilience or stress, supporting or sabotaging your wellbeing. Taking time to uncover the story that’s playing in your mind – and deciding if it needs to be re-written – offers an opportunity to enhance self-acceptance.
If you listen mindfully, you can hear that inner voice. Sometimes it’s supportive, positive, energized –“Going great… Lookin’ good!” At other times, it can be judgmental, an inner critic who demands perfection. Self-talk can be harsh, saying things to yourself that you’d never say to anyone else: “Screwed up again… Never get it right… That was stupid…”
If listening to your inner monologue reveals that negative self-talk overshadows self-acceptance – it’s time for a change!
Simply being present in the moment in a gentle, nonjudgmental way – can help you cultivate self-acceptance as you begin to disarm your inner critic, one moment at a time.
Learn to Listen
As you shine the spotlight of attention on self-talk, you learn to listen internally. Do so with curiosity, without judging yourself. If you become aware of negative words or phrases floating through the mind, hold them gently, with compassion. This is an exercise in discovery – gaining insight is a gift you’re giving yourself. As you explore self-talk, take some full gentle breaths in and out… and simply be interested in what’s going on.
Listen… and Learn!
Understanding that self-talk is comprised of thoughts, not facts, can help you begin to let go of the story your self-talk is telling. If self-talk says “I never get things right,” try saying to yourself, “I’m having the thought that I never get things right.” This can help put things in perspective – it describes how you feel in the moment, not who you are. Naming a recurrent story (here’s my “I’m a Screw-up” story) can help you recognize a negative thought pattern that’s become a habit over time.
Perspective, Patience, and Positive Change.
As you begin to put self-talk in perspective, recognize that patience is important. Instead of generalizing these thoughts – simply accept that they’re thoughts floating through the mind. Not facts. Once we shine the spotlight of attention on the stories we tell ourselves, we can begin – with compassion – to change the script!
About the Author: Co-author of The Three Minute Meditator, Nina’s work has been seen in O, The Oprah magazine, Shape, and Real Simple. In her work as Director of Mindfulness Programs at Mohonk Mountain House Nina leads programs and teaches private classes on how to use mindfulness in “real life,” including issues related to weight loss, disarming your inner critic, and wellness.