Everyone has their own inner critic. Even the most successful people have negative thoughts about themselves! This is a habit, and like any habit it can be nurtured and ingrained by repetition. In grade school, did you learn how to manage your inner dialogue, or did you get more training in algebra? So let’s address this skill, which most of us are missing.
Understand that your inner dialogue is something you can choose. It may be a tough change to make, but it will increase peace of mind and improve your relationships. It’s difficult to be patient, trusting, grateful, or optimistic towards others if you can not be kind to yourself. So identify how you sabotage your own happiness, and create a plan for better mental hygiene. Here’s how:
- Create your map: Write down the 10 most important traits of a good person, as you define them. This is your destination.
- Get your bearings: Rate yourself from 1-10 on each trait, with 10 being the best. Now you are being honest about your habits.
- Plan your route: Write down goals and strategies for improving each trait. What can you do, say, or think when you notice negative inner dialogue arise?
- Go slow and steady: Work on improving one trait per month. Focus on progress, not perfection.
- Celebrate! Congratulate yourself for your successes, small and large. Keep track by writing down your daily wins.
Let’s take patience as an example. Say you’re prone to road rage, and you rank yourself 3 out of 10 in patience. When someone cuts you off, your new strategy could be to picture your child making a joke and focus on their happy face. Suddenly, it’s harder to get angry at the other driver. Keep doing this for a month, and you will wonder why you ever bothered getting mad in the first place!
The reason changing your behavior is so difficult is you are trying to stop doing something. But humans are creatures of action! We need to have a positive action lined up and ready to go. The only path to long-lasting change is to add positive behaviors to take the place of negative behaviors. Acknowledge your choice, and celebrate if you made the best choice. When you make a poor choice, focus on your past successes (you’ve written them down, right?) and plan for future success.