We all have a little voice in our head, that one which whispers away in a constant running commentary, like a particularly chatty friend. “Did I buy the milk?”, “Is the building I want on the left or right?”, “These shoes hurt”, “What shall I do next?” – you know the kind of thing.
Most of the time, the voice isn’t a problem and can blend into the background. However, sometimes, this little voice can become the enemy. Perhaps you know what I mean – those moments when you are about to make a presentation and voice jumps in: “why should anyone listen to me? What do I know about this subject? They will all laugh at me.” Or when someone asks you how much your work is: “how can I charge that much? What makes me think my work is worth that?”
These are just a few examples and most of us have our own particular occasions when the negative voice turns up. But this little voice, which we can believe as telling us the truth, is just a perception, often based on nothing. The important thing to remember is, as D H Lawrence once said, “The mind can assert anything and pretend it has proved it.”
There is a neat phrase which is used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, “Catch It, Check It, Change It” and it is a useful little tool to help you in those moments when the negative voice is about to sabotage you.
Catch yourself when you are having the negative thought. You will probably spot your emotional cues, such as feeling a bit anxious or nervous.
Stop and listen to the negative thought you are having. Is it really true? Is it how someone else would see the situation / see you? What evidence have you got to prove what you say? Does the negative thought support you? Be as objective as possible. (This isn’t always easy, as we always think our thoughts are true, but practise will help.)
Now change your negative thought for a positive one. Make it realistic and look for evidence to support it. Then notice how it feels – does this make you feel happier, calmer, more positive? Keep that positive thought in your mind and your mind will begin to believe it.
In the short term, it may take you a few minutes to go through this process. However as you practise it, it could become second nature whenever you find that naughty negative voice pipe up. You can use this tool to get you through a one off situation, but even then, the thought will have lodged as a truth in your mind, ready for the next time you find yourself in the same situation. In the longer term, the more positive conversations you have with yourself, the more confident you will feel as a matter of course.
If this has struck a chord with you and you want to find out if coaching will support you, check out how we could work together and get in touch.