This week my teenager has been jittering with nerves and excitement because he is participating in a Tae Kwon Do sparring competition. He has been so concerned with his snacks, his playlist, and his electrolyte drinks. At first, I found it cute– until I heard some of the words he used to describe himself.
His negative self-talk is a bully. This made me stop and think. Where did these thoughts come from? Why do we as humans have these types of thoughts that turn into destructive self-talk?
We walk through life bombarded with suggestions. We see advertisements, we hear our parents, our peers, our society. The brain can only filter so much, and after a lot of repetition, we tend to automatically gravitate toward the negative.
Think about the weight loss program that is being sold to you every single time you open your computer. How often is the result (product) sold to someone? The odds are that the majority are just being “sold” the thought that they are fat and need to do something about it. This is how our subconscious minds are programmed by what we see, what we hear, and what we are exposed to. Whether you buy it or not, the seed is planted that you’re not good enough as is, or you need to change.
I think about my son, this year we made the decision to leave brick and mortar school, and the main reason was that he could not handle the environment. The way the kids were talking and making choices that made Keenan feel anxious. What he saw and heard, whether directly or indirectly, made an imprint (or trauma) on his psyche.
The negativity from our earliest childhood exposure (age 5 and younger) make the strongest impact on our young minds and can be the toughest to unwire. Although everything else we pick up along the way cumulates, one thought on top of the other.
We can receive suggestions in 2 ways. The suggestions of others. These are other people’s thoughts and suggestions that stay with us. We think it and feel it as our own, even if it isn’t rooted in our own experience. And we have thoughts that are truly ours and ours alone.
A personal goal of mine is to make conscious choices about what I think and do. I know I have been on autopilot many times or adopted other’s values as my own so that I gained a superficial sense of acceptance.
Because I grew up in a traumatic environment, I have researched and tried many therapeutic methods to help release negative thoughts (traumas). I have also found that the deeper the scar and earlier the imprint the harder (more work, more effort, more time) it takes to unwind the “damage”.
One of the most powerful ways I have found to retrain thoughts is by using an affirmation. This technique is simple and just requires consistency to be effective.
Only use one affirmation at a time, and stick with it until you see success. As I said before the deeper the scar, the longer you may need to use the affirmation. When writing an affirmation, write in the progressive tense. Meaning I am — ING. I am becoming. Not I am already, or I will, you have to write/say as if you are moving toward improvement.
A good starting point I have shared many times is the affirmation “Every day in every way my mind/body is becoming healthier and healthier.” Write it down on a post-it note and put it in every space you visit frequently. Your bathroom mirror, your computer, in your car, etc.
This has proven to be powerful for me and has improved my self-confidence and awareness when negative thoughts or reactions start running through my mind. I gave my son this tool and hope that has he uses it, to master his inner bully of self-talk and move toward adulthood with confidence and strength.