"You really are an idiot"
"Why should anyone listen to you?"
"You are only going to mess it up"
"You are too stupid/fat/ugly/old..."
If someone said any of these things to your face, you might at the very least think the person exceptionally rude. You might ask them who they thought they were talking to you like that. At the extreme, you might even deck them. They would certainly get unfriended on Facebook.
But there is one person who often talks to us like that. Someone we trust. Someone we believe is on our side. Someone we believe only tells us the truth.
We have a running commentary in our heads all the time and it can sometimes be brilliant. It can be our cheerleader, talk us through dodgy moments, help sort out problems and, when being constructively critical, can really support creativity.
And then it can send out those little Automatic Negative Thoughts which we believe as truth. That horrid little voice at its' most cynical and unhelpful can do you down and find fault. If you make a mistake, there it is gloating at your misfortune. It can leave you with a whole slew of unsettling feelings. It can also create a habit of negative thinking.
The great thing is that we can break this negative conversation. The thoughts can still come up - we are human after all - but we can control what we do with them. Are they constructive comments? Then work with them. If not, I know people who have a variety of responses. One fellow coach imagines the negative voice speaking like Mickey Mouse, on the basis that Mickey cannot be taken seriously. Another says, "thanks for your input, but I've got this covered". I use the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy process of Catch It, Check It, Change It.
The key is to recognise the ANTs, in itself a powerful step in letting the voice know it has been sussed and a great first step to shutting it up when it is being less than helpful. From there, you can find your most effective way to dispatch them, using one of the tips above. There are also some good tips in this article from Daniel G Amen. And who knows, in time, that little voice might become closer to the best friend you want.
If this has struck a chord with you and you want to find out if coaching will support you, book for a Light the Blue Touchpaper session.