No one would argue that words can be very powerful. Not only do they convey our feelings and beliefs, but they can also motivate or demotivate not only ourselves but also others around us.
But a strange phenomenon sometimes happens when we talk to ourselves.
While self-talk can be used as a way to empower and motivate ourselves to go after that which we want in life, it is an empowering way of talking to ourselves that (for some equally strange reason) must often be learned.
In sharp contrast is the negative self-talk that operates unconsciously deep in our psyches. This endless loop of guilt, condemnation, resentment, and anger is a powerful influence on the actions we take (or don’t take), as well as our feelings about the resulting outcomes (either positive or negative).
Ironically, the types of comments and opinions that would enrage us if said to us by someone else are often repeated in our private negative self-talk loops. Although frequently not acknowledged in our conscious minds, these comments continue unabated as absolute truths as to who we are, what we do, and what we want.
While we can learn to ignore unwarranted criticism from others, our unconscious negative self-talk is even more damaging to our psyches. Why? Because the reality that we experience is colored by our perceptions – if our self-talk is negative, then our perception of the world and our role within it will also be negative.
More powerful than the words spoken to us by others, negative self-talk internally motivates us to act in either proactive or reactive ways. As Earl Nightingale said, “We are what we think about.” But the behavioral impact of our words is often ignored, diminished, or accepted as undeniable truths that define who we are even if it is not who we want to be.
Consider these examples:
- We tell ourselves what we should do (even though it might not even be something that we are interested in doing) – then berate ourselves when we don’t do it.
- We second-guess our choices and decisions – then imagine a more perfect world if we had taken another course of action.
- We “make nice” by doing things that we really don’t want to do (or even have the time to do) – then feel guilty or angry because we have no time to do the things that we really want to do.
- We take on too many responsibilities as well as the problems of others – then wonder why we are so exhausted and burned out.
The more negative our self-talk, the more harshly we judge the difference that we perceive between where we are and where we want to be (or where we told ourselves we should have been). The damage to our psyches can be chronic, acute, and difficult to overcome.
Our negative self-talk is a powerful contributor to not only burning out, but also to staying burned out.
The One Syllable Mantra to Combat Burnout
The negative self-talk specifically associated with burnout focuses on four issues:
- The difference between our expectations and our perceptions of the current reality
- Anger, guilt, and self-doubt associated with the “should’s” of perfectionism
- Our attempts to change or blame others (often to overcome our feelings of being victimized)
- Ineffective attempts to deny our frustration, anger, and apathy associated with being burned out
Because these negative self-talk loops frequently exist on the subconscious level, we must actively attempt to bring them to the conscious level – their power over us grows in proportion to our attempts to ignore them.
But, once these statements are expressed, we are rightly shocked by the venom in the words that we have used to identify and define ourselves.
By acknowledging and verbalizing these negative subconscious judgments, we can consciously begin to exchange them for proactive alternatives: words expressing acceptance, kindness, and compassion toward ourselves.
But how do we start?
By saying one tiny little word every time our negative self-talk rears its ugly head: “NO.”
- Say “NO” to condemning ourselves if our current situation is not what we had expected. Instead, replace it by accepting that what we previously wanted has changed OR that our mistakes have simply shown us what didn’t work (thus giving us a new launching point for future action).
- Say “NO” to the unrelenting “should’s” of perfectionism. Instead, replace it by acknowledging that we are doing the best that we can with the resources that we have OR that our goals may have been unrealistic given the circumstances (thus helping us to better learn how to set realistic yet inspirational stretch goals).
- Say “NO” to misguided attempts at trying to change others. Instead, replace it by remembering that we only have the responsibility to change ourselves OR by being grateful for the positive qualities of those who we are trying to change (no matter how badly they treated us, every human being has something about them that is positive).
- Say “NO” to our barely controlled feelings of burnout-related frustration, anger, and apathy. Instead, replace it by finding safe ways to express, vent, and release these feelings AND develop new phrases that are proactive and nurturing.
Saying “NO” to our negative self-talk is both an acknowledgement and a choice. Saying “NO” helps us to reclaim our power. Saying “NO” can truly be a positive expression of our own self-worth.
“NO” is one of the tiniest words in the English language – yet our ability to say “NO” to negative self-talk can transform our lives. Saying “NO” enables us to say “YES” to being kind to ourselves. Isn’t it time that we start treating ourselves the way that we would want others to treat us?
P.S.: To learn more about the self-talk of burnout, please watch my mini-webinar by clicking here.
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.