I finally started reading a book that I purchased months ago. Honestly, I should have read it months ago, but the pros and cons of procrastination is for another time. The book centres around dealing with emotions. Understanding what those emotions are, and then how to cope with said emotions. The entire book is fantastic, and when I finish reading it I will share my thoughts on it as a whole. But first, I want to explore the idea of “negative self-talk”. We all do it from time to time. Some of us on a regular basis. We all say things about ourselves that really aren’t true. Have you ever left a job interview and thought to yourself, “That was the worst interview of my life. They are probably in there talking about me right now. I’m so stupid. Why would I even bring that up?” Only to get a call a few days later saying that you got the job? That, my friend, is negative self talk. We all have our insecurities and think we aren’t good enough. We all need to stop this.
Negative self talk is nothing more than being hard on ourselves. It’s taking a situation that we have either prepared ourselves for, or know we can handle, and talking ourselves out of it. The author of the book I’m reading (and so many others) often ask – would you say these things to your best friend, or your partner, or your mother, or your child? The answer is always no. You would never tell someone else something so completely negative and untrue. So why do we do it to ourselves? While listening to this audio book (confession time – I also downloaded the audio book as I didn’t have time to read the physical book), I was suddenly transformed back to high school math class. Why, you ask? If called upon to answer a math question, I would often second guess myself. Claiming that I didn’t know the answer, but I actually did. Second guessing myself was the icing on the cake. The fluffy cake itself was me telling myself that I didn’t know what the answer was because I wasn’t good in math. It’s funny that I thought that, when I walked away from each of those classes (except one) with an A average in the advanced levels of our schooling system. Does an A mean you’re not good in math? To me it did. I can’t even add numbers all that quickly to be honest. It’s just not my strength, but that doesn’t mean I was bad at it. I’m going to ask the question again, why do we do it?
My thoughts on this are predominantly around what we believe our abilities are. As I said, I was never good in math. But my brother was the math scholar of the family. He would attend math “competitions” with other equally intelligent math geeks and he was successful. But I wasn’t. There was no way I could even consider the possibility, because my abilities in math were limited to what we were taught in the classroom. I couldn’t go beyond that. Or at least I thought I couldn’t. Now, in my defense here, my brother didn’t excel in the History or English subjects in high school. Whereas I could hammer out a thesis paper in an afternoon, and sometimes even did it for him. I digress. My point is that we both had ideas about what our abilities were, or were not. We relied on these preconceived notions of ourselves and limited what we thought we could achieve. Maybe these were externally placed on us, or maybe internally. However they came about, at least in my case, I talked myself out of being “good” in math because it wasn’t my strength.
These are mild examples of negative self talk, but you can see how harmful even that can be. I have thought for years how “bad” I am at math, when the truth is, I wasn’t that bad after all. (Caveat, I sat next to a literal genius during Grade 10 math, who got perfect on all his tests. This didn’t help my situation at all!) Women likely do this more than men, as we are more in our heads about who we are and the image we want to portray. We often think things like: I’m not as a pretty as she is, or I’m not as skinny as she is, or my hair isn’t as shiny as hers. But what good does that do? Does it make us want to improve our looks, or our situation in life? Negative self talk doesn’t allow us to want to be better. It keeps us down and prevents us from moving forward and being successful. It makes us hate ourselves, and likely hate the person we are comparing ourselves to. As a adult woman, I can only imagine what young adults and teenage girls think about themselves these days. I hope that they are far more evolved than I am and negative self talk isn’t a part of their vocabulary.