I don’t know about you but I have been my worst critic throughout my life and fallen into patterns of negative self-talk about how I look, what I’m doing and who I am.
Throughout my teenage years especially I was horrible to myself. I’m not perfect and I’m sure I was horrible to other people too, but I have never in my life been as vile or derogatory to anyone else, as I have been in the past to myself.
When I was in counselling and CBT I began to challenge (or I was encouraged to challenge) these negative thoughts that I wasn’t good enough, that I was too big, ugly, unloveable. A lot of this was routed in falling in comparing myself to others, and I’ve spoken about how to get out of that before here.
In my spirals of negative self-talk I would say things to myself that I would never even dream of saying to someone else.
But, the more I began to challenge these negative thoughts, the more I began to objectively view what I was doing.
Effectively, I spent years putting myself down and limiting myself from getting what I actually want. I could have spent time working towards whatever I thought I wasn’t good enough to do, I spent ripping my self confidence to shreds.
In Bryony Gordon’s Eat, Drink, Run she externalises her depression and her negative self-talk into something that sits on her chest and weighs her down. In some ways it becomes easier to disagree with something slightly distanced from yourself.
A lot of people message me and ask how they can build up their self-confidence or get rid of their negative thoughts about their body. I find it difficult to give one answer as it’s a life long process. I’m not over it, I’m not cured.
I’ve accepted who I am, who I’ve been before and who I want to become, but it doesn’t mean I’m always positive or confident.
But there are things that have helped me and that I think you can apply to most areas of your life too.
How do you overcome negative self-talk to become confident?
Realise your doing it
You need to realise that you’re the one putting yourself down. If one of the reasons you feel bad about yourself is the stuff you say to yourself, then you need to accept that without judging yourself.
We all do it, don’t beat yourself up even more for having done it. Just think, I could make my life easier if I broke this habit.
Challenge it with the facts
When you do fall into a spiral of negative self-talk (and you will) challenge what you’re saying with facts or talk it out with another person.
A regular negative spiral for me includes ‘I’m not doing enough. I’m wasting time and I could be doing and achieving more.’ I can solve this for myself most of the time as I reflect on what I’m doing now, compared to a few months ago or this time last year.
For instance, I try to write 3 blogs a week, but for the past two months I’ve slipped to 1-2 posts a week as I now have the podcast too. Whereas last year I would write a post once a month or so… if I remembered.
I wrote 25k words on my blog last year, so far (not including this post) I’ve written 95k words on my blog this year. Therefore, I’m definitely doing more than I was, putting my negative thought that I’m not doing enough into perspective.
Build up your self-confidence
So you’ve accepted that you are sometimes too harsh on yourself, you’ve corrected your thoughts, and now it’s time to build up your confidence.
Confidence is an action so the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it and the more you’ll feel it. That should give you hope as if you don’t have it now, you can learn it.
For me confidence is knowing that I am capable, I am worthy of everything good in life and I can do anything if I work for it. I usually say if you’re not feeling confident about yourself, then do the thing you’re scared of.
I was scared about wearing bikinis in public after I gained weight, but instead of worrying about it or avoiding it, I put on that bikini and took photos of myself.
The more I did that, the more comfortable and confident I felt about wearing a bikini. As a result I began to disprove everything I felt or believed about my body in a bikini and remove the fear to feel more confident too.
Read about people who have done it
If you’re not a big reader, then maybe move onto the next stage and focus on following people’s journeys through social media.
I love reading books about people that have changed how they think about themselves, their mindset and their whole life as a result.
I’d recommend Bryony Gordon’s ‘Glorious Rock Bottom‘ (Bryony was an alcoholic, she is now sober, has run two marathons and one in her underwear – she’s a legend), Shahroo Izadi’s ‘The Kindness Method’, Chessie King’s ‘Be your own Best Friend’, Sarah Knight’s ‘You do You‘, Chidera Eggerue ‘How to get over a boy’ (which is about self-love).
Follow accounts online that make you feel good.
It really is that simple. Following people that make you feel good, will minimise the comparison, negative spiralling and hopefully encourage you to feel more confident in yourself by watching others be unapologetically themselves.
Stop caring what people think and care more about what you think.
This is a gamechanger. Spending time worrying about what people think about you is pointless as people aren’t thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves and potentially even worrying what people think of them.
We’re all so caught up in our world that no one has time to worry about what anyone else is doing. Spend that energy and mental space on yourself, what do you want to do? What do you think about you’re doing? What would you like to be doing instead if you aren’t happy?
Again, this isn’t a time for judgement but self-reflection. It’s healthy to think about what’s going on in your life, it’s not healthy to obsess over other’s lives or what they think about you.
Focus on what you think about yourself and the world around you and that will really shift your mindset to things that matter to you.
Write down a list of your achievements
Shahroo Izadi calls this a ‘personal achievements CV’, she said we have a CV with our professional achievements, why shouldn’t we have one for our personal ones too?
I’m a huge believer in this, as the more you do something the less impressive it becomes to you. I forget half of the things I’ve done that at the time I thought (or other people told me) was amazing, because I’m working towards the next thing.
Write down on a post-it note or an old notebook things you’re proud of. Maybe it was an exam result, or maybe it was going to an event you didn’t really feel like going too, but had the best time. Jot it down.
I use leftover revision cards as I’m never going back to education, so may as well put them to good use. I’ve interviewed people on my blog and for work that I’ve admired for years and I’ve been amazed that they’ve come onto my podcast or blog, but the feeling fades very quickly.
I was watching Bake Off the other night and realised I’d interviewed Prue Leith for a magazine before, how do I forget that? But the part of my brain that indulges in negative self-talk doesn’t think that I’m good enough to conduct interviews and doesn’t remind me of what I’ve already done.
I can’t wave my magic wand and solve this for you or for me, sorry my peach. It’s about consistently chipping away at that negative voice in your head and replacing it with the truth. It doesn’t need to be positive, it needs to be realistic.
And I can also tell you that you are good enough, you can do it and you have everything inside you that you’ll ever need to be whoever you want to become.
Have you overcome negative self-talk? What helped you become more confident?
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