Last week I struggled through teaching one of my yoga classes. My cueing felt clunky and I couldn’t verbalize any of the inspirational things that I had wanted to share. In that short hour I began to feel stuck and sad because I quickly slipped into negative self talk. By the time we had namastaye’d and everyone was rolling up their mats, I was in a full blown internal crisis about how sucky class was.
It was ridiculous. My mind was reeling with inadequacy which made me feel terrible. I was saying mean things to myself that I would never say to a friend. It was really an internal overreaction to what had just transpired, but there it was, unfurling itself in my mind and I was berating myself. This was unnecessary and absolutely not helpful.
So class is over and I am putting away my yoga props, feeling like crap when a new client comes up to me totally unsolicited and says, “That was one of the best yoga classes I have ever taken, thank you.” Insert surprised face here. I of course respond with a “thank you,” then think to myself, wait, what? That was an incredibly generous compliment from a complete stranger. Is it possible that I am overreacting and that class wasn’t nearly as terrible as I had imagined?
Then, as if it were planned, a second client walks by and nonchalantly says that she really enjoyed class.
Okay. Why am I saying disparaging things to myself and beating myself up? Why in the short span of 60 minutes have I turned against myself emotionally and made myself feel terrible? In a split second I had decided that I hadn’t done a good enough job teaching class. Sharing yoga in a valuable way is incredibly important to me so telling myself that I hadn’t done a good job quickly lead me into a downward spiral of negativity and self doubt. Yuck, what a waste of valuable energy and a nightmarish cycle to be in.
Why do we hurt our own feelings for no reason at all? Berating ourselves is not an effective agent of change yet we continue to do it. Being mean to ourselves is a waste of time and precious energy but it is an easy pattern to fall into. Something triggers a tiny sense of self doubt and then all of a sudden you are telling yourself that you are the worst mom, co-worker, spouse, yoga teacher, fill in the blank. Anything you take pride in can fall victim to your inner critic.
I believe we do this because it is what we have always done and is therefore familiar. We have a tendency to gravitate to the familiar first, even when it garners uncomfortable results because the familiar feels safe. It is what we have always done. Well here’s the thing, I don’t want to criticize myself anymore and I don’t want you to either. The toxic effects of negative self talk are seriously damaging and we can do better.
Here are a few of the seriously crappy things we are putting ourselves through by not recognizing and slaying our inner critics.
~The muscles in your body actually become weaker (ohmygod what?)
~Your stress levels go up.
~You experience changes in your biochemistry and hormone levels, and you may even suffer from gastrointestinal or digestive problems among other physical symptoms.
~Limited thinking. You tell yourself you can’t do something, and the more you hear it, the more you believe it.
~Feelings of depression. Research has shown that negative self-talk can lead to an exacerbation of feelings of depression. If left unchecked, this could be quite damaging.
Your inner bully can only reside in a home that you maintain for it. It’s time to slay that menacing monster. You will do that by replacing what helps it thrive (unfounded, mean and negative self talk) with positive, encouraging inner dialogue.
Think of it like this: there is a monster living in your spare room that can only thrive on chocolate chip cookies. Every single week you buy the soul crushing monster that’s taking up space in your house, all the cookies she needs to survive. You do this not because you want to, but because it is what you have always done. It’s familiar and easier than going through all the trouble and emotional carnage you believe it will require to evict her. Until one day, someone tells you that if you just stop feeding this joy stealing monster her cookies, she will simply leave and allow you to live out the rest of your days in internal harmony. Could it be that easy?
Stop feeding your monster! Stop giving her the crap that she needs to survive and thrive.
Same goes for you my friend. Stop feeding your inner critic with negative self talk. When you hear your bullying inner dialogue punch its way through your consciousness, instantly replace it with two positive thoughts.
If it feels too difficult in that moment to say something genuinely positive about yourself then start slow. Try thinking something relatively palatable like, I am a good friend, I have okay posture or I am awesome at bingeing Netflix. I assure you, every supportive sentence will make a difference. Your positive thoughts and encouragements about yourself will build upon themselves and grow. This may seem hokey or lame at first but I assure you, there is nothing more lame than beating yourself up, so give this a try.
Your efforts will be rewarded and when you least expect it, you will notice that you are thinking gentle and encouraging things about yourself. This kind of loving support of yourself will allow you to do amazing and brave things with your life. The more you practice hearing your inner dialogue and adjusting it, the easier this will become. This will also mean that when you accidentally slip back into old patterns of negative self talk (because we all do. me too,) you will remain there for a lot less time because you will be able to recognize it, change it and release it.
Listen, notice and then make a change because you are worth it. You deserve to move through your days with all of their successes and challenges feeling supported and encouraged by your inner dialogue.
You can do this and I support you in every way.