Are you your own worst enemy? Do you struggle with anxiety? Have you been living in a world of regret for a while now? In each of these cases, the common link is what I refer to as negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk works just like it sounds: a person’s inner thoughts loiter to become a private monologue, a talking to one’s self, with an inclination to the negative side of an interpretation. The negative talk could be fear-based thoughts, judgmental thoughts, depressed thoughts, resentful thoughts. Negative self-talk breeds all kinds of emotional distress, relational dysfunctions, and even physical debilities. Such burdens are self-inflicted when we fail to take charge of our own thinking.
My observation is not to deny there are real hardships and challenging relationships in life. I’m after a full-on, heads-up, robust honesty that admits life in a fallen world is really, really difficult, while also acknowledging that God has even greater truths He wants us to repeatedly access and apply to our difficulties through our thinking.
To show you how pervasive negative self-talk can be, here are five categories, with just a couple illustrations under each division, over which we should become more self-aware and with increasing self-mastery:
Thoughts About Yourself:
* An unwillingness to accept some aspect of your personality or physical appearance; self-judging
* Second-guessing yourself (perfectionism)
Thoughts About Your Life:
* Self-pity, licking wounds
* “I didn’t ask for/deserve this” (victimhood)
Thoughts About Others:
* Critical/judgmental assessments and/or attitudes
* Resentful; jealous; unforgiving; irreconcilable
Thoughts About Your Past:
* “If only” thoughts (regret)
* Guilt-laden thoughts
Thoughts About Your Future:
* “We’ll never be able to _______________.”
* “What if _______________ happens?”
Here are some important principles to remember: 1) We choose what we think about. 2) The more we rehearse a thought, the more that thought influences a person in an ever-increasing way (creating patterns and strongholds). 3) We have the ability to choose to think differently at any point we wish. 4) Jesus gives us the best possible reasons for reversing the direction of our negative thoughts.
Next month, I’ll detail possible sources of negative self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves doesn’t come out of a vacuum; being able to identify where the antagonism springs from is invaluable in being able to overcome what is tearing you down.