The Words I Use . . .
#108 Friends or Foes?
I’m “out of the office” from Jan. 31st to Feb.10th. My daughter, grandson, his wife, and - yes - my great-granddaughter are going on a cruise to the Mexican Rivera. I’ve scheduled articles for publication but may not be available for comments and emails during that time.
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There is an old saying that says
SPOILER ALERT: As the song goes,“it ain’t necessarily so.” Long after cuts and bruises heal physically, wounds and scars from words - especially my words - linger and harm.
In the article, Self Critic or Self Coach, I explained that
Self-talk has two faces. One face is the “critic.” This negative self-talk is more likely to emerge when someone makes a mistake or works on something challenging. The second face is “the coach.” This positive self-talk occurs when a person succeeds.
Conversations with yourself can be a powerful stepping stone or a significant obstacle to reaching your goals.
Those conversations refer to peoples’ inner voice - a voice that many are unaware of but it’s there. Mine goes non-stop. It combines conscious thoughts with built-in beliefs and biases that create an ongoing internal monologue.
Self-talk significantly impacts how I feel and what I do. It can be supportive and beneficial - motivating me, or negative - undermining my confidence.
After writing last week’s article, Feeling Blue, I thought about the connection between self-talk and sadness. What caught my intention was that I talked about feeling blue and not accepting reality.
Those words said to readers and me that I was a) having trouble accepting change and that b) I was feeling sad. Was that a supportive, inspiring message? I think not!
Shad Helmstetter is the author of numerous books about self-talk. He explains significant points in the following Youtube video. I’m not recommending or suggesting that you participate in any of his programs - instead, I hope that what he says explains the whys and hows of this vital topic.
My take-home point was that what I hear myself say to others and think to myself impacts me more than I realized. Here’s an example.
I originally wrote two sentences for this article, “I’ve been in a rut of negative talk for several weeks. Everything is a struggle - I can’t or don’t know how, that was dumb, you forgot - again, and what’s wrong with you.”
After thinking about it, I rewrote the sentence, “For weeks, my thoughts and words had been unhealthy and unproductive.”
The second sentence lightened my mood, and I felt encouraged. The difference was that I wasn’t saying I was sad or criticizing myself. I had moved on because of the words I chose.
With that in mind, I took a little quiz - using the following definitions to grade myself on how often I used common negative thinking and self-talk. The definitions included:
Filtering - You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive ones.
I accomplish a dozen tasks but beat myself up about the one I didn’t do.
Personalizing - When something wrong occurs, you automatically blame yourself.
I consistently try to figure out my responsibility. It must be my fault - somehow.
Catastrophizing - You automatically anticipate the worst, knowing something terrible will happen.
If someone didn’t arrive at a meeting when I expected them, I fear the worst - they must have had an accident.
Blaming - You try to say someone else is responsible for what happened to you instead of yourself.
I blame myself - I “should have, or “could have” done something different.
Saying you "should" do something - You think of all the things you should do and blame yourself for not doing them.
I doubt or second-guess almost everything I do.
Magnifying - You make a big deal out of minor problems.
Especially since I was now on my own, I had little confidence in my ability to solve household problems like fixing the toilet or unclogging a drain. Guess what! There is information about every topic imaginable on a website or in a Youtube video.
Perfectionism - Keeping impossible standards and trying to be perfect sets me up for failure.
I am actively working to improve rather than to be perfect.
Polarizing. You see things only as either good or bad.
I regularly see things as bad.
I’ve identified several potential issues to work on changing. If you took a similar test, how would you do?
Numerous websites, such as Healthdirect, offer suggestions for turning around negative self-talk. The authors say, “negative self-talk can become repetitive and overwhelming. It often feels true. To break out of that cycle try these tips.”
Be aware of what you say to yourself. Stopping and recognizing negative thoughts for what they are is a big step. Would you talk like this to someone else?
Challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself for another explanation or way of looking at a situation. Remember that many things you worry about don’t happen.
Most worries don’t happen, but I manage to worry anyway.
Put your thoughts into perspective. Look at things from a different perspective. Write your thoughts down or say them out loud. Ask yourself if this will matter in a few years.
I write my thoughts on paper and respond from another person’s perspective - a strategy that works well.
Stop the thought. You can do this “thought stopping” technique visually — by imagining the idea being stopped or squashed etc. — or by having a ritual - as in “laying the thought to rest.”
I haven’t tried that.
Replace the thought with a neutral or positive idea. Ask yourself — what is a more helpful belief?
The trick is to hold onto more helpful thinking, I’ve found.
So, paying attention to the words I use and thoughts I think are another area to explore as I progress toward aging well.
Two articles I want to share with you this week are:
Overthinking Anxiety - When your anxiety is high, your body knows it. This article discusses the phenomenon.
Congratulations on Becoming Time Affluent - Time affluence is the feeling of having enough time in a day for things you want to do. If you have stopped working, there’s an excellent chance to be more time affluent.
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