Buddha said “We are what we think” and never was a truer word spoken than when this is applied to our view of ourselves. Inside all of us is a constant stream of emotional traffic and this is normal and we interpret these thoughts by labelling them. Sometimes, this labeling is innocent and factual but sometimes it turns toward us turning each event into a measure of our worth. Self-talk is easy to recognize but not so easy to stop because like mist on a dewy morning, it drifts in and out of our consciousness. However, it is a steady flow and over a period of time we will believe even the most negative comment. Over time, whatever it says, however ridiculous will always seem true because we mistake it for authentic. For example, “I am bad” means the same to us in self talk as “It’s hot”. One is true sensory perception, the other distorted reality but in self-talk, we believe both equally.
Your internal monologue often lies and people with damaged self-esteem believe it even more. The monologue compares you with other people, it will make you filter the reality to see only negative, it will fill you full of regret, shame and guilt (through critical voices) and it will convince you that others are judging you and it will blame you for everything. It uses the words and phrases that your parents used or labels from failed relationships or work or that teacher who shamed you on Day 1 of school. It is propaganda and it works because we know no different.
When you start to notice the monologue, it loses its power somewhat, it relies on stealth and surprise. So this exercise is just that. Becoming aware of your monologue and what it does to you. Then you will learn to question it and distance yourself from it. You will reach a point where you hear but not believe.
The exercises for Day 7
- Comparing: Write a recent experience when you were caught up comparing yourself to others. Describe the situation, what you were feeling and thinking. Ask yourself about why you compare yourself with this person and what are you proud of in yourself regardless of how much this other person shines. See it as just a thought on a leaf floating downstream and watch it drifting further away. Write how it feels to let go of this thought.
- Filtering: Write a recent experience when your monologue was making you feel bad. Describe the situation, what you were feeling and thinking. Now balance this by offering up strengths to the weaknesses found. Have you been successful or handled things in a similar situation? Now distance yourself from the thoughts by reminding yourself they are not reality because they leave out most of the information needed for balance.
- Regrets: Regrets are perfect 20/20 hindsight. We always know after the fact what we “should” have done. Explore a situation you regret. Look at it in terms of how you felt at the moment the event took place…what did you fear, what did you know or didn’t know. Did you have enough information? Now explore the fact that maybe you did what you could with what you had at the time.
- Exaggerating: A hurtful part of our monologue is use of the words “never”, “always”, ”everyone” “no-one”…these exaggerate an issue. Other words such as “horrible”, “bad”, awful”, “disgusting”, magnify our thoughts. Describe an event where you used these words to describe an event or yourself without exaggerating or magnifying. Rewrite the report without these words and balancing it with success and achievements.
- Assumption: A tool in the critical voice armoury is to mind read about how others see us, without the evidence to back it up. Write about an assumption you made. Examine the actual evidence for the assumption? Was there another reason for what you were thinking?
- Blame: Write about an experience where you blamed yourself for something. What occurred? What were you thinking? Now bring up some evidence. What was the behaviour or input from others around you? How did this affect the outcome? How much do you own and how much are you taking from others?
- Write what you have learned about your inner monologue by doing these exercises and what do you now believe to be true?