The Sound of Negative Self-Talk/Impostor Syndrome
Just as there are different types of positive self-talk, there are a variety of negative styles. Today, we’ll be covering those, along with other skills you can use to help you identify the vicious circle of self-criticism.
If I ask you to tell me what you’re thinking about right now, there probably won’t be much going on. After all, this course should be occupying your attention. For me, however, my mind is racing. In the back of my head, I can hear a little voice asking why I believe I’m qualified to write this course. It’s a perfectly natural reaction. It’s unfamiliar territory, and that’s going to cause me to second guess myself.
That feeling is true for most folks. We love to be in our comfort zone. Things that happen here tend to be within our control. We know what to expect and what to avoid. Stability is safe physically and emotionally.
When we challenge our understanding and push our abilities, we’re inviting difficulty into our lives. It’s situations like these where negative self-talk shines. The way our inner voice sounds depends on who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish.
It’s a common feeling; research estimates that nearly 70% of adults face similar doubts in their personal and professional lives.
This form of negative self-talk tricks your mind into viewing things as perfect or the end of the world. Individuals who tend toward this inner voice aren’t satisfied with a middle ground nor do they give themselves any leeway. For example, imagine that you’re trying to save money, but you get home late and end up ordering food. This moment of failure makes you feel as though you completely lack self-control.
In the midst of a difficult situation, you focus on the negative aspects and ignore the positive side. Magnifying is one of the more common behaviors we practice when upset or frustrated. It can cause us to sound like a chronic cynic. Think about the last time you worked toward a major goal. As is often the case, eventually, you faced a setback. For folks who magnify this, it means forgetting about all the hard work you put in and fixating on that one moment.
Personalizing is when life gets rough and you assume that you’re the root cause. It could be getting passed over for an assignment at work or plans falling through with your friends—your first thought is always focused on you. You may start to wonder what you did wrong or how you offended someone, without knowing any of the facts that led to that decision.
For folks who practice this style of negative self-talk, their mindset shifts toward the extremes. There’s no slow ramp or waiting for things to shape up. As soon as a situation turns sour, expectations plummet. I think of these folks as superstitious. If they get stuck in traffic on the way to work, they automatically assume that the rest of their day is going to be miserable.
This isn’t to say that your inner critic is always bad. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Internalizing self-talk is a tool that helps us shape our expectations and meet our goals. As I’ve mentioned before, it helps keep us safe. But that doesn’t mean you need to believe everything that crosses your mind. It’s enough to acknowledge it without making it a part of your identity.
In our next unit, we’re going to talk about the difference between positive self-talk and pity.
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