If you ever hear a well-intentioned but flat sentence like “Chin up!” Have heard. or “Be happy!” Just know that this is not the case. Now it is important to know that positivity and encouraging language can have a physiological effect. Positive thoughts have myriad benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic, including longer lifespan, reduced rates of depression and suffering, greater resistance to colds, and better cardiovascular health. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Of course, positivity isn’t as easy as throwing a few half-full sentences out of the glass and seeing if they stick. For many, positive self-talk is a level 14 skill, and we’re still at level 2 trying to deal with that evil inner voice that seems to believe we can’t do anything right. That’s the voice that whispers, you are a scam after getting a big promotion. It’s screaming I knew you can’t do this if you get stuck on a big project. It laughs when those anxious feelings creep in because you’ve stopped your exercise and meditation routine.
That voice is one of our greatest obstacles. To be our biggest fan, our own cheerleader, we must first deal with the angry fan who must be politely led out of the stadium. The most important thing is that we don’t try to silence the critic or get rid of them permanently. This is totally impossible and the only way to get frustrated is to try. The goal is to lose the energy, microphone, and real estate in your head. Here are some research backed strategies to get you on the right track.
1. Notice and name this salty inner voice.
Have you ever stopped and thought, I am really angry now and just that simple thought made you less angry? The same concept applies here. Only by noticing when we give a stage to our inner critic do we reduce his power. Now give it a name. It can be anything: Karen, Brian, Rudy, whatever you want. The goal is to get in the habit of noticing your inner critic and pointing your finger at it as soon as it flares up. The name allows us to separate the thoughts from ourselves. I don’t think so; Rudy does.
2. Get an overview of the conversation.
There are four types of negative self-talk, and if we pinpoint it, we can gain perspective and anchor ourselves in reality. Only by identifying and categorizing them can we let go of that thought and give others, more positive power.
- Filter: At that moment something good happens, but Rudy filters out every positive aspect of the situation until we have a mutated view of the situation.
- Catastrophic: You live in a worst case country. For example: you forgot to go to the store last night and you run out of breakfast. You have to skip or take time to stop what is making you late for work. Rudy decides that this one act will ruin the rest of your day. And when you give power to Rudy, that catastrophic thought becomes prophetic.
- Personalization: Something bad happens and you immediately assume it’s up to you. Maybe a project was canceled due to lack of funding, but Rudy decides you couldn’t make it. This is an ego response.
- Polarize: You let Rudy color your vision in the black and white extremes. Something is either good or bad, no in between. Maybe your friend canceled dinner because she was dealing with her own Rudy and needed some time to care for herself. This is not about you and it is not really good or bad how it affects you. It is just what is.
3. Follow the conversations.
Record it after you’ve gained perspective and context for your negative self-talk. You can do this by meditating, recording, or saying aloud. The goal is not to write or meditate on all of the evil things Rudy said to you today. Rather, it is a log to keep track of your winnings. You now have a record of every time you noticed Rudy, gained perspective, and added strength to another thought.
4. Form an alliance.
It’s hard to celebrate ourselves. It’s hard to acknowledge our victories without letting Rudy sneak in and cast shadows. One tactic is to name your inner fan like you did to your inner critic. Give him or her a name. Imagine what your inner fan looks and sounds like. Sometimes it is easier to receive a compliment from a friend than it is to compliment yourself. This is where – we’ll call him Barry – come in.
Every time Rudy starts lifting his head, invite Barry to filter positive thoughts. For example, you just got a big promotion. Use steps one through three to break up with Rudy, and then let Barry identify three positive aspects to focus on.
You will feel uncomfortable trying this strategy and it may not be right for you. However, it’s important that you make positive self-talk a priority and work through various strategies until you find one that works for you. Here are some more we learned from three entrepreneurs struggling with negative self-talk.
Founder and CEO of Planet Protein, Inc.
West Palm Beach, Florida
Working for negative words can manifest a negative outcome, so I work on speaking more forgivingly to myself. No entrepreneur is perfect because no person is perfect. As long as we learn our lessons, good things will follow.
Journaling had an incredible impact on my positive self-talk. By keeping a daily journal, I was able to express myself in the roughest and purest form. My thoughts, expressions, and emotions flow into this diary for me to reflect on later. With these positive words, which you will read again in the future, you can see how far you have come. You will even see how your business reflects your personal growth.
I prefer to celebrate victories with the people who helped make them happen. From employees to mentors to friends and even customers, the people who support the dream of an entrepreneur should always be part of the successes and celebrations. It’s important to me to show them gratitude, give something back and keep them informed about our business.
Obviously, having big goals in mind is important, and I encourage entrepreneurs to write them down. However, it’s just as important to take care of yourself. Don’t kick yourself if your goals aren’t being met. Removing expectations during this trip is the best advice I can give to fellow entrepreneurs. Learn to have fun with it and grow every day.
Founder and CEO of della terra shoes
I’ve spent 16 years I work for shoe companies and have come to terms with the fact that I could never start a shoe line. I had a number of well-rehearsed sound bits that I would go through when the subject came up. I would detail why the business was too risky for someone like me to enter. I was in my apartment recovering from COVID-19 when I realized that there is a need in the fashion footwear world that is not being met by any of these more “skilled” people or companies. I decided there was no better time than the present to begin. When I started the pieces fell apart.
I firmly believe in balance. It’s extremely important to start on a positive note as this sets the tone for what’s to come – the rest of the meeting, day, week, month, season, year. Even when things are difficult I try to hit the reset button on the mood. I have moments of self-doubt and cheat syndrome and use these as an opportunity to exercise a power mindset. I realized I had to give this imposter a moment. I judge whether my fears and doubts are valid. Then I formulate a plan.
Start first … the rest is easy. Next go ahead. Summarize and remember what you achieved today, this week, this month, this year. If it wasn’t a little scary, it wouldn’t be worth it.
Founder and CEO of Snapshyft
After allThere is no logical reason to expose yourself to the pain and torture of #startuplife. Sacrificing friendships, family relationships, hobbies, financial security (that is, risking everything to make a difference and perhaps create a legacy). I had big problems in the first few years and always compared myself and our company with others. This builds up a reserve of toxic self-talk.
I focus on staying as even as possible in order to better filter my positive and negative internal dialogue while creating the conditions to encourage the positive in appropriate moments (in fits of self-doubt). I’ve worked hard for the past four years to reduce positive and negative self-talk. I like it when it’s 80 percent neutral, 15 percent positive, and 5 percent negative. Being my own champion invites others to participate with me. Other founders can feed on what could help them do the same.
We are all looking for subtle clues as to whether we are on the right track. It helped me admit how hard it really is to start a business and that I’m not impervious – adversity is a given, so deal with it. Yes, this is a lifetime of sacrifice, but there are rewards along the way – my goal has become to enjoy and indulge in the journey. I try to concentrate on keeping my head down and only taking small bites. I work to get 1 percent better every day, and I spend all day breathing everything in, smiling, and appreciating how happy I am doing what I am doing. I do.
This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by kalebeastphotography / Twenty20.com
Cecilia Meis is the integrated content editor for SUCCESS magazine and SUCCESS.com. She recently earned a bachelor’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. Cecilia is from Kansas City and enjoys sand volleyball, new stationery, and a heaped plate with burnt ends.