Four tips to help turn around your nagging negativity.
A little self-criticism can be good for you--it encourages you toward improvement and sparks motivation. But when your inner critic turns nasty, whiney and persistent, it can sap your confidence and magnify the tiniest error. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, author Valerie Young suggests that even the most successful women suffer from the feeling that they're imposters who somehow managed to succeed without deserving to. She also points out research indicating that while men generally regard themselves as knowledgeable, secure or capable, women are more susceptible to self-limiting feelings. Here are a few ways to silence that cruel inner critic:
Acknowledge it: Recognizing that you are experiencing a thought rather than suffering a catastrophe is the first step in dealing with self-criticism. Note that just because you feel stupid doesn't mean you are stupid, or that an awkward moment is anything more than that: a moment.
Name it: Many experts suggest treating a critical notion as though it were a person intruding into your thoughts. Some suggest imagining it's a work rival or other person dedicated to making your life miserable, while others propose envisioning a deluded old friend. Giving this sorry character a name, preferably a silly one, can further distance you from it.
Refute it: Marshaling the (usually obvious) evidence against the feeling that you're a failure or imposter is a good way to quiet that inner voice. This is not the same as repeating a positive mantra--something your internal skeptic may reject--but re-stating the situation in factual terms so that "I made an idiot of myself at that meeting" becomes "I need to research the issues surrounding the discussion."
Minimize it: Imagine what your best friend would say if you voiced these negative thoughts. Probably something like, "Oh, get over it. You're exaggerating." Similarly, how would you respond if your best friend moaned she was a total failure because a report was late?
You may not be able to make these nagging thoughts go away entirely, but with a little practice, you can turn that whine into a whisper.
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