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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Negative Self-Talk

sad girl

"I'm stupid."

How many billions of times throughout my life have I said those two words to myself? This poor self-concept began in the first grade, when my teacher would say those very words, and then she would put my desk in the hall, where I would remain for the rest of the day. During a parent-teacher conference, she told my mother that I was retarded, and would need to be placed in a school for the mentally handicapped. What was it about me that made her think this, I'll never know. I do know that I heard that story repeated more times than I care to remember. My mother was outraged, and enrolled me in the Catholic school where we also attended church. Later, when I was really struggling with math, she took me to a children's hospital for extensive testing, and it was then that I was diagnosed with dyscalculia, and proprioceptive dysfunction. In my mind, this was the actual proof that I really was stupid, and I'm still trying to break myself of this negative self-talk. It is a bad habit, and something that is so detrimental to recovering from an eating disorder. Fat, ugly, disgusting, greedy...I could go on and on about the horrible things that I say to myself. It takes practice to replace a negative thought with a more positive one, but I'm trying. I would never hurt anyone else with these cutting words, so I'm trying to treat myself as kindly as I treat others.

Here are some other great ideas for coping with negative self-talk:

1.
Awareness
Catch yourself in the act! Be aware of any situation that might trigger anxious thoughts or irrational worrying. Be aware of anticipating catastrophe or imagining scenes that will never happen.

2. Interrupt the negative thought
Say “stop” to yourself. Interrupt that negative thought. Ask yourself: “What am I telling myself that makes me feel this way?” or “Do I really want to do this to myself?” or “Do I really have all the facts?” or “Is this really likely to happen?” or “Do I really want to stay upset?” If the answer to the last one is no then proceed to next step. If the answer to the last question is yes then give yourself the opportunity to acknowledge and express your feelings. If there is no suitable person available to discuss them with then write them down. When you are ready to relax and have calmed down continue with next steps. If you are still too upset or angry it may be that you haven’t allowed yourself to fully express these strong feelings or that you perceive a strong desire to “keep everything under control” (sometimes overestimating or imagining disaster keeps you tense and vigilant enough to give you a sense of control.)

3.
Relax
Disrupt your train of negative thoughts by using your favorite methods of relaxation (breathing, visualise, yoga, meditate, listen to music).

4. Write it down
Write down the negative self talk that led to you feeling anxious. First, you will have to separate the negative talk from feelings (feelings statements usually contain words expressing emotions whereas thought statements do not e.g. “I feel stupid” is a feeling; “I’m stupid” is the thought. Keep a daily record of dysfunctional thought so that you are aware of exactly the games your brain is playing!

5. Identify the type of negative talk
Is it the worrier, critic, victim, or perfectionist?

The Worrier: Promotes anxiety by imagining the “worst case scenario”; uses “what if” and “if only” phrases a lot.
The Critic: Promotes low self-esteem by constantly judging and evaluating their behaviour.
The Victim: Promotes depression by feeling helpless, hopeless and believes that nothing will ever change.
The Perfectionist: Promotes chronic stress burnout by pushing themselves internally that their self worth depends on externals such as acceptance by others.

6. Answer your negative self talk with positive rational statements
Challenge your negative self talk by writing an opposing positive statement. These statements should avoid negatives, be written in the present tense and in the first person. They should be believable and feel good to you.

Author:Karen Belshaw, BSc (hons) psychology, Certificate in teaching stress skills


4 Comments:

Lumina said...

Angel,
Wanna here something weirdly wonderful? At least I think so...

Yesterday, before you wrote/posted this, I posted What Love Wants You to Know #4. I subscribe to your blog...your words/writings touch me always, so no surprise that you were on my mind...THEN #4 "came through." I was never gonna tell you, didn't even really "believe" it was "for" you...and then you post this.

That being said, check out tomorrow's #5 that "came through" the DAY BEFORE, but I changed it from #4 to #5 "for some reason" wanting to post the #4 as soon as it came through.

You will understand why I post all the details tomorrow with #5 *smiling with all the code talk* I promise.

*cyber hug*

MrsMenopausal said...

The stupidity in all this lies with your teacher, not you.

Having disabilities /diagnoses/special needs does not make one stupid. Being in a position of influence and spewing such harmful, hateful words does. Stupid and cruel. I wouldn't be surprised to find that your teacher was dealing with issues of her own and you were collateral damage. It always amazes and sickens me when I hear of this kind of intentional spirit scarring activity against a child.

It's so hard to balance what we know as adults with what we felt as children. The memory of that hurt is stored in the voice of that child who didn't have the arsenal of reasoning and outrage at behavior like this that we achieve as we grow older.

I'm so happy to see that you mention positive ways to treat yourself, to talk to yourself. You're so right...empowering the little girl of your past, with your adult knowledge.

ellyodd said...

Having dyscalculia actually means that you are NOT stupid. You can't be dyscalculic and have a low IQ. That's not in the diagnosis. Must have a normal or above normal IQ. So there!

If you ever want to talk to other dyscalculics, go to http://dyscalculiaforum.com :)

Angel said...

Thank you for your words, and for the link! Awesome:)