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7 strategies to keep self-talk sabotage at bay

Updated: Jan 13

The stories you tell yourself and the language that you use can impact your attitude and performance. Here's how to keep self-talk positive.

As published in Inman News on July 21, 2023

I’ve been discussing becoming an entrepreneur since 2004, when I played with the idea of opening a yoga studio, but I never believed I would succeed.

Over the years, self-sabotaging thoughts held me back from showing up in my most authentic way. For a long time, I believed I had to show up as someone other than me to compete, be accepted, or achieve my goals.

I read a book years ago by Shirzad Chamine called Positive Intelligence. The premise is that we all have a judge within us, and our judge has nine accomplice saboteurs designed to support the judge by keeping us safe and protecting us from pain, rejection and failure.

They show up in our heads as negative self-talk. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’m not qualified enough.”

  • “I’m such an idiot.”

  • “I just don’t have what it takes.”

  • “I suck at this.”

  • “Others are better than me.”

  • “I won’t be happy until…”

These self-limiting beliefs prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities, taking chances, believing in yourself and reaching your full potential.

Ultimately these saboteurs lead to negative feelings like fear, disappointment, guilt, shame, resentment, and anger.

Positive Intelligence helped me get on the path of being aware when I was having self-sabotaging thoughts, and I learned to apply strategies to redirect them.

Here are seven strategies that help me keep negative self-talk at bay:

  1. Bring awareness to the negative dialogue. Awareness is half the battle. Once you become aware that your saboteurs are influencing you, you have choices and the power to shift your thinking.

  2. Notice and name them. When you begin to notice your saboteur’s powers, use visualization. Imagine if they are human, animal, or even supernatural. Imagine all the details about their appearance, like their height, hair color, eye color, what they’re wearing, etc. Next, give your saboteur a name. The mere act of creating a being outside of yourself weakens their power over you.

  3. Breathe and come back into your body. When you feel the emotion of your saboteur arise, bring breath into your awareness. Take long, slow inhales and exhales, and notice your chest expand and contract as you do so. Then wiggle your fingers and toes and notice what it feels like as the calmness takes over.

  4. Count back. Mel Robbins wrote an entire book around this. Counting back slows your mind and can be enough distraction to change your thinking. Try counting 5-4-3-2-1 and say, “Right now, this is enough.”

  5. Get curious about what’s happening. When you become uncomfortable, step outside the situation and ask yourself, “What is it about this situation that I need to understand?” or “What is the other person perceiving that I am not?”

  6. Employ empathy. If they feel good, you feel good. Will fighting for and winning that parking space make you feel better, or is it possible that you’ll feel better “giving it” to the other person?

  7. Flash forward. Have you ever heard this statement: Nobody on their deathbed said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office“? Can you fast forward to the end of a difficult situation and ask yourself, “How do I want this other person (my client, teammate, or friend) to feel at the end of this?” Then ask yourself, “What actions do I need to take to make that happen?”

None of these things are easy. Some of them probably feel weird and uncomfortable, but with practice and commitment, you can shift the negative self-talk to empowering self-talk that makes you feel confident, strong, and in control.

The key is to take the first step and don’t give up. Try. Then fall, and try again. It takes 21 days to form a habit, and even then, you’ll do great for a while before you fall again. However, each time you get back up, it will get a little easier.

How will you shift your negative self-talk so you can reach your full potential?

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