By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com
Everyone has one: An inner critic. Your thoughts. That little voice in your head that is very opinionated, telling you how to act, what to do and what not to do, judging your appearance, scolding your short-comings. That inner voice holds incredible power over us. Unfortunately, that voice is often extremely self-critical and demeaning. What thoughts run through your head? “I look terrible. I am so fat.” “I never do anything right.” “I’ll never find happiness. I will always be stuck in this situation.” Think about it: How many times have you criticized yourself or thought negatively about your life in the last 24 hours?
Women are prone to such self-criticism. This inner voice is the source of stress, negative self-esteem, unhappiness and worry in our lives. There’s an entire psychological discipline dedicated to helping people overcome negative thoughts. It’s called Cognitive Therapy and it aims to help people recognize patterns of negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.
Where do these negative thoughts come from? Mostly, they’re the collective, cruel voices of our past — parents, siblings, spouses, high school bullies – that we’ve internalized.
You might not even realize what you’re thinking or saying since your thoughts and perceptions come so naturally. To change it, you must become aware of what that voice is saying. It helps to write down your negative thoughts and your re-vamped, positive responses. If you take time to tally the comments you make to yourself, you’ll discover that the vast majority are negative. Keep a “thought log.” Three times a day, take a few minutes to write down what you’ve been thinking – all of it… your thoughts about what your spouse did or didn’t do that morning… what your mother said to you… how you felt about your child’s behavior. Don’t edit — write down the exact words. Keep your thought log for two weeks. This will also help you learn the true nature of your “thought chatter” and better understand your personality by uncovering the patterns.
Once you’ve identified your thought patterns, its time to start talking back to them. As you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought mid-stream by saying to yourself “Stop” then replace that thought with something more positive.