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Your Own Worst Enemy


Negative self talk is one of the many things that hold us back from enjoying life to it's fullest.  Many people don't even realize how hard on themselves they are.  When you have it out for yourself you can't win.  

If you stop and listen to the chatter in your head, you may realize you are your own worst enemy.  If this is true for you then you will want to change your thought habits.

Here are some of the method's you may use against yourself;  

Name calling:  How many of us call ourselves names like, "you idiot,"  "stupid knucklehead," "dummy," or other similar names.  Would you let a friend of yours be treated that way?  Why then would you treat yourself that way?  Stop being your own mental bully.  

Perfectionism:   This is when we demand that we do things perfectly.  We set the bar unrealistically high and then when we fall short we focus on how we didn't measure up.  The problem is that nothing is ever perfect, and the bar can get raised higher and higher as we exhaust ourselves trying to meet this evasive perfect standard.  

Personalization:   When something happens that is disappointing we may take it personally.  We assume it is our fault.  We may feel it is our responsibility to fix it.  Sensitive individuals may have internalized childhood messages such as, "It's your fault."  Other people's moods get filtered through this lens and we feel it must be our fault that someone else is in a bad mood.  We forget to take into consideration other factors.  

Should's and Must's:   This is when we place excessive pressure on ourselves.  We feel we "should" do something (perfectly), or we have failed.  Albert Ellis was a cognitive theorist who started Rational Emotive Therapy.  He used (sometimes crass) humor to help us remember.  He would say, "Stop shoulding on yourself!"  

Catastrophizing:   Some call this making mountains out of mole hills.  We do this when we fall short of our excessively high standards and we declare that it is "horrible!" or "awful."  This is also called "awfulizing."   When this happens, we then conclude that because what happened is awful (in our perception) then we are essentially bad (personalization) and then resort to name calling. 

These are just some of the ways we can abuse ourselves in our heads.  People might think you have it all together, and by all appearances you do, but then there is this intense negative self talk in your head and no one would know how tormented you are.   

So, then, How do you fix it?   

First you need to be self aware enough to pay attention to your thoughts and perceptions.  Second, you need to stop your thoughts (called Thought Stopping), and evaluate it.  Is this really true?  Is there any evidence to the contrary?  What do I believe about myself or my situation, and where did that originate?    Third, you look for alternate thoughts and begin to implement them.  

Name calling:  Make a policy with yourself to not call yourself names.  When you do, stop and tell yourself, "I am not an idiot, I just made a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes sometimes."  I had a client who needed to say it out loud.  She would verbalize, "Stop calling yourself names!"  Her friends grew accustomed to it and began to help her out.  

Perfectionism:   Do you dare lower your standards?   Yes.  As a matter of fact, you must!  Be realistic, forgive yourself for being human and therefore less than perfect.  Give yourself grace and kindness and focus on what you did get done.  Stop perceiving yourself as a failure if it's not perfect.  "It is good enough," needs to become your new phrase.  Many of my clients will say they almost feel physically ill when I suggest this.  If this is a new concept and it feels difficult then you may need help. 

Personalization:  Begin to broaden your perspective.  Step back and see it might not be about you at all.  Maybe someone is grumpy because they bounced a check, or their basement flooded.  Possibly, someone is just tired or worried about something else.  It might not be something you need to, or can, fix.  Recognize that you cannot control other people's moods or perspectives.  Take responsibility for yourself and let other's take responsibility for themselves (also known as a boundary). 

Should's and Must's:   Use different words such as "I prefer," or "I would like."  When we feel we have to but we don't or can't then the self abuse occurs.  Again be more gracious to yourself   Would you be more gracious to a friend?  Try extending that grace or kindness to yourself also.   

Catastrophizing:   Tell yourself it is, "not the end of the world."  Use phrases such as "I am disappointed" rather than, "this is horrible!"  Give yourself a vote of confidence, "this feeling is uncomfortable but I can stand it."  Accept disappointments as part of life not a reflection of who you are. 

The number one rule; be kinder to yourself!

If you have trouble implementing this on your own find a counselor trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you.  They are trained to recognize distortions in thinking and to work the problem through.    

I hope this was helpful to you! 



by Gretchen Flores