Is Your Self-Talk Preventing You From Self-Care?
If you were to write all your thoughts down on an average day, would the majority of your self-talk be positive, neutral, or negative?
Negative self-talk is so common for so many that it isn't even considered problematic. Perhaps it is even recognized as an appropriate response to your actions.
What if I told you that pervasive negative self-talk is a detriment to your ability to accomplish tasks and experience sustained well-being. Would you believe me if I told you that compassionate self-talk is an accessible daily practice you can do to reduce pervasive negative self-talk? Imagine what your life would look like if the majority of your thoughts become compassionate, kind, and motivating.
Now, try to imagine what our world would look like if the majority of people experienced thoughts that were compassionate, kind, and motivating.
Is it a world worth creating?
Dr. David Burns created a list of 10 common cognitive distortions, which he named Twisted Thinking. These twisted thoughts lead us to believe that our negative experiences are true.¹ When you begin to recognize these thoughts as twisted you can start to do the work of untwisting them so that you can give yourself appropriate self-care.
THE PROCESS LOOKS LIKE THIS:
Decide you want to have more thoughts that are compassionate, kind, and motivating
Acknowledge when your thoughts are twisted
Invite self-compassion because of the majority of us have been conditioned to have these cognitive distortions
Explore alternative thoughts that acknowledge your inherent worth and value
Take action from a of place compassion, kindness, and motivation
Use the guide below to begin to incorporate more compassionate, kind, and motivating thoughts and self-care practices into your daily life. You deserve it!
Definitions, Examples, and Alternatives
All or Nothing Thinking is looking at situations in absolutes. You put things in black-and-white categories.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I never accomplish my goals. I am always going to fail! I might as well give up, and binge watch tv for the rest of the week.”
Try to replace it with this, “That was not the success I was hoping for, but I did do ______ pretty well. I am going to rest, watch my favorite show, and then reevaluate a new plan to achieve my goals.”
Over-generalization is viewing a negative situation/event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “My body is always sore. I am terrified that I have a muscle or neurological defect!”
Try to replace it with this, “My body is sore, I am going to enjoy a warm shower, take a break from high-intensity workouts for the rest of the week, and then see it how it feels after.”
Mental Filter is when you ignore all the positives and only focus on the negatives.
When your first thought sounds something likes this, “I am so gross, ugly, and undeserving of love.”
Try to replace it with this, “All humans are inherently worthy, and that includes me. What are a few things I feel grateful for today?”
Discounting the Positives is a similar distortion where you insist that your accomplishments or positive attributes do not matter/count.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I was just lucky that I passed that class and graduated from college.”
Try to replace it with this, “A few things I learned that helped me finish assignments and study for tests include…”
Jumping to conclusions is when you conclude that everything is bad without having any evidence. This includes assuming that people are reacting negatively towards you (mind-reading) and predicting that things are going to turn out badly (fortune-telling)
When your first thought sounds something like this, “Everyone is looking at my funny, they must think I am so stupid.”
Try to replace it with this, “I am going to ask a friend or teacher for feedback after my presentation to see where I can improve.”
Magnification or Minimization is when you blow things out of proportion or make them seem less important.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “It’s okay that I didn’t eat dinner the past few nights, it’s just a meal.”
Try to replace it with this, “I am going to spend 15 minutes meal planning for the next week because I don’t want to make a habit of skipping meals.”
Emotional Reasoning is when you over-identify with your feelings at the moment.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I feel so hopeless, I must not be worthy of joy.”
Try to replace it with this, “Even though I am struggling with feeling hopeless right now, I acknowledge that this feeling will not last forever. Just like there was a time I didn’t feel hopeless, there will be a time in my future when I no longer feel hopeless.”
Should Statements is when you criticize yourself or others with “shoulds,” “shouldn'ts,” and “musts.”
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I should do all the things on my to-do list and if I don’t I am not healthy.”
Try to replace it with this, “I could do the things on my list today, but instead, I am going to take it easy today and pick one thing from the list that is most approachable/enjoyable.”
Labeling is when you define yourself by a behavior.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I ate all those Oreos today — I am disgusting.”
Try to replace it with this, “I am feeling gross because I decided to eat all those Oreos. I am going to call a friend to release some stress and eat a balanced dinner because my body is always deserving of a meal.”
Blame is when you take responsibility for something that you were not entirely responsible for.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I have no self-control and am incapable of reaching my goals.”
Try to replace it with this, “What are some external factors that are making it hard to reach my goals?”
The hope is that with the increased awareness of Twisted Thinking and the practice of compassionate self-talk, you will begin to see a positive transformation in your self-care practices. When you take proper care of yourself, you may also begin to see improved clarity of purpose, passions, and relationships.
So go! Be gentle and kind to yourself on your journey. Set the intention to unconditionally love and accept yourself even as you struggle, fumble, and fail. You are deserving of quality self-care, everyday, regardless of how you look or feel.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Ashley Cipponeri is a Master of Social Work Candidate at the University of Hawaii Manoa. She compliments her education by working as a massage therapist and wellness coach. Ashley is passionate about creating art and content that supports individuals' ability to prioritize stress-relief, self-compassion, and self-awareness. Ashley sources her inspiration from nature walks, free diving in the big blue, journaling, reading, and yoga. If you took a peek into her dreamscape, you would see Ashley homesteading with a growing family while pursuing her Ph.D. to contribute to the body of research supporting somatic (body-based) therapies. She loves to connect and help others on their unique wellness journeys! Follow the links below to learn more about her message and work.