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Breaking the negative self-talk cycle fuelling self-limiting beliefs

Aug 16, 2021

Please indulge me by taking part in this little exercise… I’d like you to write down the answer to this: ‘I’m the kind of person who…’

Perhaps think of four answers and then read and reflect on what you’ve written…

What do these statements say about you? Are they positive or negative descriptions? Where do these thoughts about you stem from?

These answers are a reflection of your self-image and it’s interesting to ponder on where the basis for these self-beliefs lie…

Me, myself and I

We’re not born with any preconceived ideas of the type of person we are, or what we are or not capable of achieving. This forms over time- we’re influenced by parents, carers, family, friends, teachers, media and social media. We listen to opinions and statements made about us such as: ‘You’ve no common sense,’ or ‘You worry so much about tests’ or ‘The eldest child is always so sensitive’ and ‘You’re the troublemaker in the family’; we also compare ourselves to images and social media posts we see.

We then make sweeping generalisations about ourselves based on a one-off comment or experience and this becomes our version of us.

Sadly, many young people live in an environment where they lack encouragement, or don’t have a role-model to push them forward so their self-image might be: ‘I’m the kind of person who’ll never do well at school, never get a job, never amount to much.’

As a child, we don’t necessarily know and understand that we can choose whether or not to accept and value someone’s opinion– we can acknowledge them but also discard this opinion and not let them affect the way we feel about ourselves.

A few years ago, I worked with a group of students who were fast approaching their A level exams. I’d been asked to work with them as they’d been identified by their teachers as having ‘vulnerable mindsets’. The students were riddled with anxiety and there was evidence of self-harm. It was challenging because the Winning Edge isn’t pink and fluffy– it can be pokey stuff but what was key, was to help these young people to understand that it all starts with the nature of their thinking and their self-image– how they view themselves and what they believe is and isn’t possible.

Major components of our self-image are our self-competence i.e. what we think we are capable of achieving, and our self-worth– what we believe we are worthy of achieving in life. We can have all the skills and knowledge, and be competent, but unless we give ourselves permission – unless we believe we deserve success and achievement, we won’t go for it – we will hold ourselves back.

Believing is seeing

Whilst working with the A level students, I asked them to note down four answers to ‘I’m the kind of person who…’ and unsurprisingly, the negative comments about themselves far outweighed the positive. For example: ‘I’m the kind of person who fails exams every time,’ ‘I’m the kind of person who freaks out about revision and exams,’ ‘…the kind of person who doesn’t care what I achieve’.

It saddened me because where had all these thoughts come from? When in their life had they decided these statements were true?

I focused heavily on self-image with the group; I asked them to get curious with their thoughts and to challenge the stories they were telling themselves about the type of person they believed they are. Not doing this means we perpetuate the loop of self-belief we have about ourselves.

We are not our thoughts and it’s so important we realise this. We have the ability to run our brain, rather than let it run us. There are conditions such as clinical depression where medical intervention and medication are required but for the most part, we are able to choose the nature of our thoughts. Crucially, we need to believe we’re capable of achieving our dreams and that we’re worthy of it. It’s about breaking the current thought cycle, which is possible.

We can change the type of person we believe we are, whether this belief stems from opinions by others, or whether over time we feed this perception, but it takes daily thought work – managing your mindset with intention and self-discipline.

Here are key tools to reset your mindset:

  1. To increase a more deserving self-image, it’s important to place more value in yourself than what others think of you. There’s a great quote, attributed to many different people and it says: ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.’ I get the sentiment, and I wish it was that easy but somehow, sometimes, we allow those buttons to be pressed and we find ourselves listening a little too much to others’ opinions about us. My advice though is: don’t. As long as you are living true to your values, consciously and with intention, that’s what’s important.
  2. Be consciously aware of the nature of your thoughts and challenge them when you feel you are allowing them to take you down a rabbit hole. We can only think one thought at a time, so replace the unhelpful thought with one that empowers you. Turn down the volume on the negative thoughts and amplify the sound of the positive ones. Remember - you run your brain, it doesn’t run you.
  3. Self-talk can either propel you forward, or chip away at your self-belief. Rather than end the sentence “I’m the kind of person who…” with words such as ‘worries’ or ‘frequently feels overwhelmed’, instead use words such as ‘feels empowered to make decisions’ and ‘is feeling more confident every single day.’ Ensure your self-talk is positive and uplifting.
  4. Eyeball yourself in the mirror and tell yourself – like you mean it – that you are awesome! Every. Single. Day. Fake it til you make it if needs be. Repeat assumptive affirmations daily as they will rewire your brain to promote your self-belief and your self-worth. You can do this and are worthy of success!
  5. Use the power of visualisation to envisage yourself as calm, confident and in control. Or perhaps visualise yourself working towards and achieving a particular goal. Visualisation is another tool in your mindset toolkit which helps to create the neural pathways to believing in you. This stuff really works. You don’t need to take just my word for it, Olympians use visualisation in their training.

Buddha once said: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

Change your thinking, change your life. Believe you can do it, believe you are worth it.

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Would you like help getting your mindset in check to be the best version of you?

Do you live life consciously, understanding the true impact of the nature of your thoughts? Want to banish those self-limiting beliefs to get the results you want and truly deserve?

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the future you want. Find out more here.

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