5 helpful ways to tame negative self-talk
“You’ll never be able to do it.” “You’re going to fail.” “What’s the matter with you?”
Do you dream of starting a business, only to be confronted by negative thoughts like these?
When we take risks in our personal and professional lives, we can be our own worst critics. It’s important to know that negative self-talk comes up for virtually everyone – it’s natural and you’re not alone. However, for your mental health and professional success, it’s essential to know when to take a step back, raise a proverbial finger to your lips, and tell those voices to shush while you chase your dreams.
At Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, we support all business owners and independent professionals. Our mission is to empower you with tools and strategies to grow your business and live life on your terms. We also understand that your ambitions in your professional life need to be balanced with strategies for self-care and relaxation.
When does your negative self-talk come up most? Is it connected to money, your level of experience, or simply being afraid to step away from a traditional 9-5?
Wherever it pops up, here are 5 ways to help keep it at bay:
1. Become more aware of your self-talk
The way you talk to yourself has a significant impact on your happiness – whether you are aware of it or not. It’s good to start by raising more awareness about how you speak to yourself. Your thoughts are always there, but do you stop to focus on what specific words they’re saying?
Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:
- What tone does your inner voice use when you think about your dreams?
- Which specific words and phrases are on repeat when you think about starting or growing your business?
- How do these internal conversations impact you? In other words, do you feel inspired by them or discouraged?
Spend some time letting your mind wander to see what pops up. It can be helpful to take out your phone or a notepad and jot down the specific words.
2. Reduce negative self-talk by focusing on the facts
Just because you think something doesn’t mean that it is true. It may sound funny, but just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to believe it. A new study shows that you have over 6,000 thoughts a day – many of these can be negative predictions or downright falsehoods.
Start questioning the truth of your thoughts. There is an enormous opportunity here to go past your limiting beliefs and give yourself the courage to try something new.
Byron Katie, best selling author of Loving What Is, developed a school of thought called The Work that helps promote self-inquiry.
After struggling with deep depression for over a decade, Katie woke up one morning in a state of joy. A long story short: she realized that when she believed her stressful thoughts, she suffered immensely. However, Katie greatly reduced suffering and experienced much more happiness and freedom when she examined those thoughts’ validity.
The Work – and other methods like it – enable you to limit the power that your thoughts have on you. Sometimes, it’s as simple as noticing a thought and asking yourself, “Is this true?”
For example, when you consider starting a business, you may have the thought, “You never follow through on your plans.” The Work would have you query this response. Is it true that you never follow through? If so, this would mean that you have never achieved anything at all, which is unlikely.
Once you develop a habit of examining the truth of your thoughts, you gain the luxury of choosing whether or not to believe them. Is it a damaging thought that is holding you back? Choose not to believe it. Is it a thought that will help get you back on track? Accept it and keep going.
3. Be kind to yourself
If you’re nervous, frustrated, or anxious, it’s easy to start attacking yourself. However, is this ever productive?
Complimenting yourself is a great way to build your confidence. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, telling yourself that you look good, are intelligent, or that you’re proud of yourself is great for your mental health.
Speak to yourself with the same kindness you would give to a good friend or family member. If you notice that you start attacking yourself, take a step back. Try rephrasing what you said to yourself as if you were talking to someone you care deeply about. It makes a difference.
An excellent way to start being kinder to yourself is by celebrating your small wins. Did you just send your first invoice? Register your business? Reorganize your home office? Nothing is too small. Each little celebration also builds your courage to take larger risks and have even bigger wins.
4. Use affirmations
While affirmations are not a magic bullet to change your thinking overnight, they work for most people. These positive statements that you repeat to yourself can encourage your brain to take them as fact. When you believe you can do something, your actions often follow.
There is evidence that affirmations can help you combat stress, as well as boost your overall health. Set your affirmations in the present and avoid canned phrases – you need to pick words specific to your situation. You can close your eyes and meditate on these phrases for a few minutes each day. Alternatively, you can regularly say them out loud or write them down.
Here are a few examples to give you ideas:
- I’m capable of being my own boss.
- I can create the life I want
- I’m hardworking and determined.
- I deserve to be happy.
Daily use of affirmations will give you the best results. Remember, it takes time to change your thought patterns. Still, patience and consistency can help you rewire your inner world and help move you towards the life you want.
5. Embrace your mistakes
When you take on something as complex as building a successful business, you will make mistakes as you learn and grow.
When this happens, remember that you have control over your reaction. You could get angry, say negative things to yourself, or throw in the towel – or you could analyze what happened and use that as an opportunity to learn. Which will benefit you more?
Your skills and business will continually evolve. Accept it when things don’t go quite as planned – and focus on the present moment instead of dwelling in the past. You can’t change the past, but you do have control in the present moment. Focus on growing your skills and experience.
Remember: Get help from mentors, colleagues, and your community. You have your strengths – and others can help you in areas where you may not be as strong. If possible, consider asking for help or outsourcing so that you can stay focused on what you do best.
Bonus: stop comparing yourself to others
Social media can help you market your business and be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. However, it can also negatively impact your mental health – especially if you find yourself comparing your success and lifestyle with those you see online.
Remember: what you see on social media isn’t the full picture – people tend to grandstand and share only their brightest moments. You have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. The woman who grew her business within three months could be facing enormous financial trouble. Your former colleague who recently got a huge promotion may be struggling with their family life.
The point is that comparing yourself to others is often pointless and can rob you of your motivation. Measure your success on your own terms and celebrate your achievements big and small. Not only will you have less negative self-talk and feel happier, but you’ll also get a lot more done.
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