Think happy thoughts.
I can almost guarantee that you've held yourself back in some way. More likely than not, there is some aspect of yourself you've restricted or some part of your life that you've not been willing to fully embrace. I can say this because I've yet to come across someone for whom this is not true.
It's simply a part of life — for better or for worse.
There are many reasons why we might hold ourselves back. We may carry memories of negative early experiences. We may hold hurt feelings from more recent difficulty. Or we may have a lack of familiarity with other more positive potentials.
There are also many ways in which we hold ourselves back. We may ruminate on negative thoughts, experience emotional instability or come at our life with a lack of imagination.
A negative inner dialog is sometimes referred to as the “inner critic”. You may have not heard this term before. Yet, chances are you're familiar with that voice inside your head that says negative things, tells you that you're not good enough or criticizes your every action.
There are many things that help shape our inner dialog. Our self-talk is composed of internalized voices from our past, thought habits we've cultivated, environments we choose to be in, and the effect stress and strain.
If you find yourself perpetuating negative self-talk, there are ways to effectively treat the negativity and shift your inner world towards a more positive mindset.
Voices from the past
When voices from the past fill our mind, we often confuse them with our own thoughts. Yet, if we listen closely, these thoughts are not in our own voice. They're in the voices of those who impressed their view on us.
When we bring awareness to what we are hearing/thinking, we're able to name the person who is speaking to us through our thoughts. Awareness disempowers the thought — especially if it's a negative thought about ourselves.
This is because the negative thought is not actually our own. It's a thought that belongs to someone else. And so, we can choose to let it go and replace it with an authentic thought about ourselves.
Habits of thinking
Some habits die hard. One habit that is particularly difficult to give up is catastrophizing. This describes a way of thinking that imagines a negative outcome or assumes the worst.
When we engage in this type of thinking, we're less happy and closed off to unforeseen outcomes. If you find yourself catastrophizing, try re-framing the situation. Look for what's going right in a given situation. Or, examine your thoughts to see if they truly match reality.
For example, a simple re-frame would be to remove words like never and always from your thinking. This alone will create more room for a positive experiences.
The company we keep makes a huge difference on our self-talk. The way the people around us talk about themselves, talk about us, and act towards us has an effect on the way we think.
If you're trying to overcome negative inner dialog, you might want to take a look around you and see what the people around you are saying and doing. A choice to be happy might include the choice to surround yourself with happy and positive people.
Stress and Strain
Stress can wear us down over time. As we start to feel run down, our thinking tends to get more negative. Our bad habits begin to come to the surface. And sometimes, they can even take over.
So, it's important to take really good care of ourselves so that we have the strength to stay positive in the face of difficulty. If you start to catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, ask yourself: have I been taking care of myself in the best way possible?
If not, it might be time to make more space in your day for self-care.
If you're feeling held back in your life, or if you want more from each moment, check in with what's happening between your ears. If there is a lot of negative thinking, or even just a little, take some time to apply the suggestions above to shift into a more positive perspective.
These small changes will help free you up to more genuinely express your full self.