Inside everyone’s mind is that negative voice telling us about our deficiencies and inadequacies. It tends to downplay abilities while magnifying weaknesses as well as all the reasons why we are not competent enough to make progress outside of the comfort zone. For me, I call it the “gremlin” that hops on my shoulder uninvited especially when I have a daunting task ahead of me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t come up with the “gremlin” name myself. I have my psychologist to thank for that. I saw her for a couple of months after the loss of my big sister last year. I thought I had kicked the pesky gremlin out only for it to come back with a vengeance in the early days of my grieving process. I was plagued with thoughts of inadequacies getting in the way of my writing.
To better understand my relationship with negative self-talk, it was important for me to go back to its roots in my childhood. I was raised by a narcissistic sociopath father who rammed the idea of not being good enough down my throat; the ensuing feelings of unworthiness left its mark way into my mid-20s. To say that it was tough to revisit the darkness of my childhood is an understatement. I had managed to convince myself that with the appearance of success, I could live with a few self-limiting beliefs. After all, I was getting by just fine or so I thought.
Even though I have always worked hard and I’m intelligent: there was always that annoying voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough; no-one wants to read what I wrote as there are better writers out there; that I shouldn’t bother creating content to help others. The list goes on but you get the picture.
At the time, I had already signed a publishing contract and had finished the first draft of my manuscript so the thoughts of not being a good writer were ludicrous. I then had a choice to make: either keep dwelling on what the gremlin was saying or kick it out.
Here are a few steps that I took and will help you to evict the gremlin of negative self-talk.
1. I took a frank and honest appraisal of where I was
I used to be one of those people who will keep doing things, pack my life with lots of activity so that I don’t have to think. That doesn’t leave room for self-appraisal and awareness. This was the perfect opportunity for the gremlin to make its presence known leaving me doubting my capabilities in business and personal life. That got too exhausting and with the help of a truth-teller in my life, I realised that I needed to slow down.
By so doing, I knew I needed a place to offload the negativity, pain and confusion swirling in my head. If you are plagued by self-doubt and belittling yourself at every turn, then you know it is time for you to do a self-awareness check. This is not something that can be rushed in the midst of a hectic or chaotic schedule. You have to be intentional about carving out times of quiet to write down your thoughts and weed out negativity.
2. I went after the support I required
Once I realised that I needed help, I didn’t allow the gremlin to stop me from taking action. Make no mistake, negative self-talk will seek to paralyse you from taking action if you let it. Deep down, nobody likes thinking of themselves as inadequate and worthless no matter how long they have lived that way. Even the most successful people in the world are plagued by self-doubt from time to time. As the one who gives wise counsel to others, going for therapy wasn’t an easy decision to make. However, I knew I needed an objective and professional ear in order to align my thoughts aright. Making the phone call to book my first appointment was my first step in calling time out on the self-limiting beliefs that were getting in the way of my progress.
3. I was bold about taking imperfect action
Boldness I find does not happen in the absence of fear but rather is a determination to push through in spite of it. One of the pressure points of negative self-talk is the notion that without perfection, your contribution is useless. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my own case, having succeeded in doing the hard work of completing the first draft, I realised that following through with sending the book to a beta reader and then editor was the next step forward.
This was the scariest part of the process for me. If you speak to any author and they tell you how attached you get to that book – it’s your baby, so you will be unsettled somewhat about the editing process. This was the area in which my psychologist helped me considerably. By reminding me of things that I had previously accomplished, I came to the place of acceptance of my own gifts.
In whatever way you have belittled yourself or downplayed your gifts, it is high time you serve the gremlin an eviction notice. With the help of loved ones or a professional (if that’s what it takes), get reacquainted with the skills, talents and abilities. Celebrate past achievements and use that as impetus to move forward to new things.
When I got the first proof of my book a month before publication last year, the gremlin knew its time of long residence on my shoulder was up. I will be lying if I said it still doesn’t make the occasional appearance. However, I have learnt that by celebrating and acknowledging my accomplishments, negative self-talk is kicked to the kerb as I take imperfect action towards new goals.