The most valuable lesson I have learned is that the most meaningful journey is the inner journey.

The Power of Inner Kindness

How gentle self-dialogue leads to greater joy and satisfaction

Jean Edelman: Great to be with you this week. This week in continuing to talk about our self-care and our health, I want to talk more and dive a little deeper into our self-talk. It’s super hard when others are critical and judgmental of us and they don’t understand the pain of their words and how it affects us.

But you know who the worst critic is? Us. We can walk away from others. But how do we calm that inner critic? There’s some interesting research coming out of Middle Tennessee State University, and they are studying self-talk and they’ve actually given us a couple categories of what we are doing when we have our self-talk.

So let me share with you the four. It’s very interesting. The first is self-management. This is the voice that helps us get things done. So I guess if we have a project or we’ve got something pending, this one, I guess, helps us check it off the list and keeps us on track.
The next one is the social assessment, rehearsing what we’re going to say and rehashing our conversation. This is an important one, too. How many of us know we’re going into a situation, but it’s not that the evening or the event. It’s the steering wheel speech on the way home. We should have said this or we could have done this, that social assessment. Oh, that’s a killer too. We’ll need to change that.
Then there’s the self-reinforcement, affirming ourselves and our choices. So that’s like, oh, we did a great job. Proud of ourselves. This is a good one to keep in a positive mode.

But then the fourth one is the self-criticism, judging ourselves and our choices. And I have a feeling we have a tendency to sit here with this critic versus the management, the assessment, and the reinforcement, because this critic just doesn’t let up.

And the nice thing about this study is there is validation that our body is listening. So if we go back and we think of our ancestors, what they needed to survive, their life hundreds of years ago was fight or flight. And this is how our brains evolved to get us to safety. Well, our human evolution and these loops of negative thoughts are affecting us because we don’t need to protect ourselves from the lions and the bears. We are just trying to get through our day.

So, our self-talk, it can raise our cortisol levels, which is a natural hormone that just hums along throughout the day. But when we have chronic elevation triggered by our distressing thoughts, this traps us in this fight or flight mode.

So this self-talk, this self-critic, this is affecting our digestive system. It’s giving us headaches. It’s giving us high blood pressure. It’s tightening our joints. It’s disrupting our sleep. So we’ve got to have some awareness of this. We’ve got to try to put it in perspective that our ancestors needed this, but we don’t.

We need to flip the coin. And we need more positive self-talk because that regulation of the cortisol, gives us many physical and mental advantages. If we can stay out of that fight and flight mode, we will get deeper sleep. We will be better focused, we will have better memory, and we will be able to regulate our stress better. But since childhood, how we were raised, how we were born, how we have evolved, negativity is the default and the journey is to break that tendency.

So here’s about six tips to help us have a gentler and kinder habit when it comes to our self-talk. Now that we know that there are four – self-management, self-assessment, self-reinforcement, that self-critic – now that we know there’s four, maybe our first tip is having an awareness. When the critic steps up, notice, look at the words that that critic is sending through our mind, know that there’s probably no reality to it, have no judgment at the moment, and take a moment to rephrase what this inner critic is saying. If they’re badgering us and saying, oh, you, you don’t know how to do that. We’ll say, I just learned something new and I’m really good at it. Just change the words, just rephrase it. So having an awareness that the critic is stepping in, say, uh, uh. These are the new words I’m going to use.
The second tip is we need to remember to take care of our body because when that self-talk begins, we can change what we’re doing. We can take a walk outside. We can go start a load of laundry. We can go get into the garden. We can go sit and have a cup of tea and go read a book. Let’s go back to basics, when we want to take care of our body, get good sleep, stay hydrated, have friends, family. Lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, because as I talked about, those nutrients for that brain, that’s affecting our mood. And so taking care of our body will give us more strength when that self-critic shows up.

How about we have a success list because when that critic shows up, well we know exactly what our list of successes are, where our compassion is, where our kindness is and all that we’ve helped in our life. So they can just go away because it’s not real.
The fourth thing is we really, want to acknowledge our emotions. But we want realistic expectations. For example, I’m nervous about X. I’ve never been here before. I’ve never done that before, but I’m excited about learning something new, meeting somebody new, and it’s going to be a wonderful experience. Just change the words to something positive. As I’ve talked before, everything takes practice. Everything is baby steps. We’re not going to change our self-talk overnight. But if we can have awareness, take the baby steps, have our success list, acknowledge and change the verbiage, we’ll be in a much better place.

And then I always go back to my Wabi Sabi, because negative self-talk, it’s hardwired in our brains. It’s a survival system. But if we can remember nothing’s perfect, permanent or complete, the change is going to take time. But if we can be 80% positive and only maybe 20% of that negative critic floats in, I don’t think it’s going to affect us so much, but we can help ourselves.

So our action item for the week is keep a notepad close by. Note our negative self-talk. What is it? Why is it? When does it show up? And then create a positive statement to counter it.

And so my word of the week is Talk.

The T is for Tender, delicate, and kindhearted. This is what we need to be with ourselves. If something is hardwired in our brain and we’re just becoming aware of it, well, we get to take small baby steps to change that inner voice. We’re not our ancestors. And we need to change that inner chatter. And we can do it.

The A is for Acclaim, recognition. Of how wonderful we are. We have a wonderful family and friends. We’re great cooks. We’re great this, we’re great that. We have talents. We’re, we’re artists. We’re whatever our list is. We always have our list of talents and accomplishments handy so that we can cancel out that negative talk.

The L is for Lessons, something to be learned. Every day we are in this classroom of life. The lessons are there for us to grow, but we can make it easier for ourself by making better self-positive talk.

And the K is for Kudo, praise for achievement. We can do this. We can make our inner chatter more positive one word at a time.
Have a wonderful week everyone and change that self-talk.

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