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“The way you choose to think and speak about yourself (to yourself and others), IS A CHOICE! You may have spent your whole life talking about yourself in a negative way, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue that path.” ~~Miya Yamanouchi
“Self-stigma can be just a big a problem as the negative attitudes of others.” ~~Megan A. Arroll
“We were free of self-judgment when we were babies, and yet at some point, we developed a sensitivity that taught us to react with self-consciousness and negative self-talk.” ~~Elaina Marie
#2 Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
My first conscious sober act is to reduce negativity in my life.
In our WFS Program booklet it states “As women in recovery, we are learning that negative thoughts can be harmful. We were probably ruled by negativity for long periods of time, which took the form of defensiveness and fears.” When I first got sober, it was difficult to understand that I had or even felt fear but as my brain and body healed, glimpses of negativity began to be uncovered.
Unbeknownst to me, I had become my own worst critic. Oftentimes I made up what I thought someone else might be negatively thinking or saying and simply walloped myself. It didn’t take long to create a negative thought pattern and alcohol easily cemented this into habit. I was self-destructing yet didn’t see or even feel it. Sobriety and Statement #2 in action helped change that course and laid a foundation to build healthy self-talk and awareness.
This is the beauty of the WFS New Life Program. We begin to make small changes, even with just our thoughts, and we are able to reduce negativity while embracing sobriety and recovery. Here are 4 ways to aid in reducing negativity from Jennice Vilhauer, PhD:
1. Notice the critic.
To gain control over your inner critic you have too first be aware of it. During every conscious moment we have an inner dialogue with ourselves. Much of our thinking is so automatic and happening so rapidly that we barely notice it before we move on to the next thought. Making the conscious effort to slow down and pay more attention to your thoughts will help you notice when the critic is present. Your emotions will also cue you to the presence of the critic. Negative emotions such as doubt, guilt, shame, and worthlessness are almost always signs of the critic at work.
A good exercise to try for one week is to simply keep an inner critic log, either in a small notebook or on your phone. Every time you notice yourself being self-critical, just note two or three words about the situation—got up late, meeting with boss, fight with mom, lunch choices—and what the criticism was—I’m lazy, I’m a bad employee, I’m not a good daughter, I have no self-control. Once you are aware of the critical voice, you will be in a position to stand up to it.
2. Separate the critic from you.
The inner critic doesn’t want you to notice it. It thrives best when you mistake it for being part of your authentic self. However, you weren’t born with an inner critic. The critic is a voice that you have internalized based on outside influences and learning, such as other people’s criticism, expectations, or standards. One way to separate from the critic is to give it a name. Any name will work; to add some levity you might even try using a silly name like The Old Hag. What is important is that by separating it from your own identity, you are on your way to freeing yourself from its influence.
3. Talk back.
Talking back to your inner critic is an important part of taking away its power. Simply telling the critic you don’t want to hear what it has to say begins to give you a sense of choice in the matter. When you hear the inner critic start to speak, tell it to go away. Tell it you refuse to listen. Tell it that you know it is a liar. Tell it you are choosing instead to be kind to yourself.
4. Replace the critic.
The best way to defeat the critic is to have an even stronger ally on your side. You need to grow an inner voice that acts as your own best friend. In order to do this, you need to start noticing the good things about yourself. No matter what the inner critic has told you, you do have positive traits, although it may take you some effort to retrain yourself to see them.
Because of the way our brain works, we all have an automatic selective filtering system that will look for evidence in our environment that matches up with whatever we believe to be true about ourselves. We will then disregard other evidence to the contrary. If you are always saying to yourself, I am an idiot, you might actually do a lot of smart things, but you will still zero in on the small mistakes you make (e.g., locking your keys in the car). You will fixate on those things because they match up with what you say to yourself.
To break this automatic tendency, you have to first make the deliberate effort to say something different to yourself and then actively search for evidence that the new statement is true. When you hear your critic saying I am an idiot, talk back and tell the critic that isn’t true. Then replace the statement with something you know is true, such as, Sometimes I do smart things, and come up with as many examples as you can to support this new statement. The critic doesn’t like to be wrong. The more examples you come up with to support your alternate view, the less it will come around.
Hi 4C Women,
Years ago, Nina and I presented a workshop on The Inner Critic at the WFS conference followed by Be Your Own Best Friend the next year. Nina always told me that we teach what we need to learn. I must admit that each workshop we presented together became a life lesson for me. In doing research and sharing ideas, I realized that doing these workshops became a hidden gift of learning for me. After The Inner Critic workshop, I created a name for my inner critic and that name was and is, Ed, my ex-husband. After way too many years of being intimidated, feeling inadequate, I feel empowered to tell him he has no power over me when negative thoughts begin to take over. He may not be the one who said the exact negative words, but he is the last one that left an imprint on my thinking that I was unworthy, invisible, unlovable. I jokingly ask, what is he going to do – divorce me? I visualize him sitting on my shoulder when a negative, untruthful definition of me begins creeping in. I recognize them as old false messages. I will tell him to shut up and flick him off my shoulder, followed by a smile.
Through my growing up years the feeling of intimidation was quite strong and in reflection, I wonder if I chose a man to marry that would challenge those deep feelings of not good enough. I believed messages from people in authority, my biological father or those my age who judged me. Because I didn’t have the tools to reject these negative comments, I automatically believed them as true. It took WFS, therapy and belief in my own capabilities to stop the negative thoughts roaring in my head. I have come to the conclusion that thoughts unexpressed create negativity for me. If a boundary has been crossed, a put down of my character or condescending words, I have the choice to discuss it then or when I am ready or sit in silence with the false negative definition of me starting to grow. The situation may not be safe to express your feelings and that is when the support of WFS sisters comes into play along with positive self-talk. Sometimes I just say “OUCH!” to the person and that is a universal word that means whatever you said or did caused me pain. No long explanation, just ouch.
I encourage you to practice the 4 ways Karen shared to aid in overcoming negative thoughts that destroy only yourself. Let’s face it, many people are so unaware of the hurt they cause, go on their merry way and we are left with the pain. We are in a powerful position to change our thoughts, to practice positive self-talk, to address the person in a calm but direct manner and to have the support of 4C women in this wonderful New Life Program.
Bonded in reducing negativity and empowering our personal self-love thoughts, Dee