Do you ever notice yourself spiraling into a whirlpool of negative self-talk, and eventually, you find yourself so deep in self-criticism that saying anything kind to yourself feels painful? In this week’s post, I show you how to go from living in constant self-criticism to self-compassion by asking yourself one simple question.
Take a moment to notice the internal dialogue happening in your mind on any given day. You may find most of your thoughts to be critical, judgemental, or downright mean. And if this sounds like you, please know there’s nothing wrong with you, and every negative thought, belief, or feeling you’ve had about yourself is not true. Having a negative Nancy narrate your every move and mishap is a common occurrence, and sometimes we fall so deep into the trap of harping on ourselves that we lose sight of self-compassion.
This voice often sounds like:
“I can’t do that.”
“I should do __.”
“Why did I __?”
“Who am I to __?”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“No one understands me.”
Surprisingly, this voice isn’t necessarily trying to make you hate yourself or feel bad about who you are. The negative thought loops act as a protective mechanism from your ego to keep you “safe.”
And, it seems unfair, right? That in order to stay safe, we have to harbor a mean internal dialogue to steer the ship of our thoughts which then directs our actions or inactions. Often, how these internal dialogues became so harsh and unruly typically has to do with any early childhood experience where you were shamed, judged, ridiculed, criticized, misunderstood, made afraid, and/or made to feel crummy about how you expressed yourself.
These thoughts are linked to internalized beliefs that you aren’t worthy, safe, valued, loveable – especially if you mess up, don’t do something perfectly, or don’t look or act a certain way. Your little subconscious sponge of a brain internalized the experiences as a rule book to take into the world as an adult. These experiences set the stage for how you are “supposed” to exist, so you don’t “stray from the pack” or do something outside of some high standard we’ve normalized as a society.
For example, many of us were made to believe that if we go outside the bounds of doing something perfectly, like not having a tidy home, that was a problem; it meant something about our character, value, and even lovability.
And when we step back and think about how silly that is to be judged by the cleanliness of our home, a space we use daily, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. And it’s not necessary to harp on ourselves through spiraling thoughts.
To give you an example of what this might look like with not having an immaculate home, here’s what the negative thought loop might look like:
My home is a mess -> why did I let it get this way? -> why can’t I keep my home clean? -> what’s wrong with me? -> I’m lazy unreliable; no one will love me if I can’t keep my space tidy
In this example, what we see happening here is a lot of self-criticisms, shaming, and a declaration of being unworthy. When we get into this headspace, it’s easy to keep going. If we experienced overly critical caretakers or caretakers who had little influence in developing our confidence, negative thoughts feel more familiar than being nice to ourselves.
We can begin to create kinder thoughts and feelings by engaging in subconscious work to help unlearn patterns and beliefs that do not serve us. Also, we can consciously catch ourselves in the negative thought loop and slow down the wave of damaging self-talk by getting curious about where the belief came from and uncovering how it can be a placeholder for something more compassionate you can believe about yourself.
Below, I share with you a powerful method that helps us reprogram our subconscious mind, puts a kibosh on the thought loop, and taps into the powerful work of reparenting ourselves.
The framework resembles an approach you might consider offering a child or younger version of you if they’re spiraling into some behavior or state of being that is counterproductive.
It looks like this:
First, notice when you’re in the negative thought loop and pause to ask yourself this question:
Do I need a connection, or do I need direction?
Connection looks like this:
Specific examples of how to create a connection of safety:
Direction looks like this:
Specific examples of how to redirect yourself:
Let’s revisit the example I shared above about feeling crummy about not having a tidy home:
Person’s first thought: My home is a mess.
This person pauses to ask themselves the question before the spiral begins.
“Do I need a connection, or do I need direction?“
They identify that they need connection, so here are some options:
Or maybe they’ve identified that they need direction, so here are some options:
The combination in which you need direction, connection, or both to end the negative thought loop spiral is situation-dependent, so I invite you to play with one or both options. There’s no wrong way to use this process; instead, the underlying theme of this process is self-compassion.
The relief you seek in your negative self-talk loop begins with awareness and ends with compassion.
Next time you find yourself caught up in a tidal wave of negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself, invite yourself to pause and ask if you need connection or direction. And please let me know how this worked for you!
If you’re ready to rework your subconscious beliefs and patterns to facilitate kind and loving thoughts powerfully, then book a 20-minute consultation with me to learn how to get started.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, diagnosis, and/or therapy. Always check with your own therapist, physician, or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.