“It’s impossible. You don’t have the gumption to stick to it. Look at the majority of your relatives. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle.”
“Not being able to go out and eat whenever will have a negative impact on your relationship.”
“You can never eat anything good again.”
“You’re a terrible runner, why try?”
“Be realistic. No you can’t.”
Throughout this process I have been working on catching and correcting some of the negative self-talk that I use. Self-talk is the inner monologue that runs inside your head. It is the way you speak to yourself and explain things to yourself.
Self-talk is an interesting thing, we start developing it in our childhood. It helps use navigate through problems and how we learn and make connections to things in our heads. We often base some of our self-talk on the things our parents say to us and how they help learn to problem solve or the explanations they give us when we ask questions. (More information on self-talk development here.)
The curious thing about self-talk is it starts out as private speech. Talking to yourself. Can you imagine if you had to say absolutely everything you were thinking to yourself out loud? How would you feel? I had the pleasure of taking a course in university that worked closely with self-talk. One of the assignments was to monitor our self-talk for a week and mark down if it was positive or negative at various times of the day. During that assignment I noticed that I had extremely negative self-talk around fitness, health and well-being.
I’d start off strong with a good burst of motivation and then slowly break myself down over time, nit-picking about everything, supplying sarcastic quips to myself and shutting myself down. I recognized I wouldn’t be successful as long as I continued to participate in this harmful internal monologue. How do you change something as ingrained as your self-talk?
- Recognize it. The first step to changing your negative self-talk is to be aware when you are doing it. When you realize you are speaking poorly to yourself take a deep breath and write down what you were saying to yourself. This serves two purposes, first sometimes seeing it in writing makes you feel totally ridiculous for thinking it. Second, it allows you to recognize themes and prepare appropriate counter arguments to it. Remember this voice is not “you”. You are independent of your self-talk and fabulous. You have the power to shut your self-talk down.
- Prepare a response. “No, that isn’t true. I have been working hard towards obtaining my goals and I will continue to do that.”
If you want to add reasons why you will be more successful this time than previous times or a plan or strategy you are going to follow this is the place to do it.
- Use it as an opportunity to re-commit to the plan. “I’m sorry you feel that way. Today, I am going to go to the gym and eat the food I have logged. I am going to prove you wrong.”
- Replace it with positive self-talk. This is ridiculously nerdy, but I have voice memos on my phone of me talking about the goals I want to reach and what makes me want to reach them, how amazing I feel post-workout, how energetic and alive I feel eating well and fueling my body properly, and ones that tell me it is okay to have a bad day and struggle but I can rise above it and recommit to the plan. I’ve saved some quotes and pictures to my phone as well. After I have dismissed my self-talk, I try and adopt the more positive and goal-oriented mantras.
The longer I have worked to build this habit the more second nature it becomes. I’m catching myself thinking negative things much less and I have noticed that my positive self-talk has seeped into other areas in my life. Self-talk like anything else is a habit. We have to practice doing it right if we want to continue to have good thoughts.