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Beating the Negative Self-Talk

Last week, I explored a little around maintaining motivation. The response I had was so positive that I felt it was worth continuing this week a little further.

Why do we lack motivation?

There are often a few reasons why we might find a lack of motivation creeping in.

As human beings, we have a tendency to avoid discomfort. This might not come as a surprise to anyone however discomfort covers not only physical sensations but also uncomfortable feelings too such as boredom or frustration. If you’re required to do something that is tedious and boring, you’re more likely to just not want to do it.

Self-doubt is another factor when it comes to a lack of motivation. If you’ve been given a task to do and you don’t believe you’re capable of doing it (either due to lack of skills or to negative self-talk despite actually having the skills) then you are absolutely more than likely to procrastinate and delay doing what is required.

In some cases, you might be feeling overwhelmed and this can cause feelings of exhaustion, worry, anxiety, stress, decision fatigue, and a whole range of other personal experiences. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, your ability to have focus and clarity is going to be compromised and may result in feeling ‘meh’ towards doing the work.

On a similar level, being required to do something that feels like it lacks purpose and that you have a lack of commitment towards is going to leave you unmotivated. I think we’ve all been required to create reports in our professional career in the past that felt pointless and counterproductive and these are often the hardest part of our day to achieve.

Lastly, it is also important to note that a lack of motivation can often be a symptom of mental health issues around depression and anxiety. It’s important to be able to normalise a lack of motivation as we are all likely to experience it at some point for any of the reasons we’ve discussed although if you find that it becomes persistent for you and begins to hinder your standard of living, you may want to consider talking to your GP or mental health professional about what you’re experiencing.

Negative Self-Talk

One common feature of a lack of motivation is the negative self-talk that we experience. Only this week, I was speaking with someone who shared with me that she often held herself back because she had a belief that she wasn’t good enough. When we explored this a little further, it was clearly obvious that she did have skills and that it was more this limiting belief that she kept repeating to herself that was keeping her ‘small’ and preventing her from taking the steps outside her comfort zone to achieve the step-up she wanted.

I shared a few things with her that I would like to share with you now.

Firstly, we all have the habit of trash-talking ourselves. That’s human nature and it is often there to keep us safe. There is almost this paradox that we would rather keep ourselves small and underachieving over the risk of trying and feeling the pain of failure. Over the course of our lives, we started to collect these negative beliefs about ourselves, repeating like our favourite records to the point where they begin to become a part of our paradigm of reality.

This is our mind making meaning out of something that has no meaning and because we are making it about ourselves, we completely believe it.

After all, who are you going to trust more in this world than yourself? And if you’re telling yourself that you’re not good enough, well it must be right… right?

The truth is that our thoughts are not facts. Our thoughts are just thoughts. Yet we believe them as if they’re facts and we give them power. We get hooked into those thoughts and we fuse with them in a way that we don’t question if they’re true or not. Like some schoolyard bully constantly hurling insults, they begin to hurt and we feel it in our bodies.

What we need to do is to learn how to detach ourselves from these thoughts. We need to be able to become the observer of our own thoughts – to be able to just look at them and recognise that they’re just words and not give them any power.

Here are a few simple exercises you can do to help to ‘defuse’ from those thoughts so that they have far less of a sting and so that you can bring that focus and energy in the direction you need it to go.

Different voice

If you’re experiencing the self-talk in your voice, change the voice. Try telling yourself ‘I’m not good enough’ in the voice of Donald Duck or Peter Griffin. It becomes so much harder to accept it as truth when it makes you want to laugh.

Sing it instead

Try talking that negative self talk and singing it to a tune of a happy song, such as “Happy Birthday”.

Change the font

Close your eyes and imagine that you’ve typed the statement up on a computer screen. Make the font size bigger. Now change it to Comic Sans. How much power does it have now?

Change the qualities of the image

If you’re seeing a picture or a video, try changing the qualities of the image. Close your eyes and get the image or video clear in your mind’s eye. Now drain the colour from it. If it is ‘up close’, push it back into the distance so that it is far away. Make it blurry. Make it look like it’s on an old VHS tape from the 80s. Now add some circus music behind it. Notice how it all changes.

Distance yourself from the thought

Notice the thought you’re having, such as ‘I’m not smart enough.’

Take a step back from it by becoming an observer to the thought; “I’m having the thought that ‘I’m not good enough’.”

What do you notice? If necessary, take a further step back by saying, “I notice I’m having the thought that ‘I’m not good enough’.”

You might be reading these and thinking ‘that sounds too easy’. Let me challenge you on that. If you’re feeling the impact of that negative self-talk, that’s just something that your mind is creating for you. All that sound and visuals are just in your mind, nowhere else. So if you’re going to use your mind to tell yourself horrible things and bring you down, you may as well use that same mental power to do the opposite. If you give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

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