This crappy negative self-talk is running in the background of everything that you do. It’s creating doubt, fear, self-sabotage, resistance and procrastination. This is what's keeping you stuck and playing small.
Lesson repeats as needed - if something keeps showing up for you - there is a lesson there.
My mum passed away when I was eight years old. My dad remarried not long after. The woman that became my step-mother was carrying a huge amount of pain herself, and this manifested as abusive, controlling and manipulative behaviour. I was regularly told that I wasn't good enough, that I was ugly and stupid, that I was the cause of everyone's problems. I faithfully absorbed my step-mother's cruel, negative statements about me as the truth.
Perhaps you've had a similar experience: a physically or emotionally abusive parent or relative; a manipulative and controlling partner; an employer who bullied you; a toxic friend who tried to manipulate you; a teacher who constantly talked down to you... Perhaps you haven't. Regardless, you have picked up negative programming about yourself from the world around you, from parents, teachers, society in general. You've been absorbing the messages since birth. The media telling you you're inadequate. Advertising preaching that you're not enough as you are.
As children we're so receptive to the world around us - after all, our developing brains are wired to take in information and learn from those we interact with. Think about how careful some parents are to avoid swearing around their child - the child may only need to hear the word 'fuck' once to pick it up and commit it to memory. If you were raised with a strong, critical voice from someone in your life (your mother, father, grandparents), those words become your thoughts.
And it runs even deeper. There is research that shows that we carry the memories of our ancestors in our DNA. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense: passing on basic learnings about experiences that are dangerous would assist the species to continue to survive. So you're not only carrying the negative programming you've picked up throughout your life, you're subconsciously carrying the programming of your parents and grandparents too.
"Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn."
- Discover Magazine, 2013
Negative thoughts, repeated in our minds, very quickly become beliefs. We internalise the negative statements as truth, and they form part of our belief system. Those beliefs influence our behaviour. And our behaviours generate results, which is way our lives look the way they currently do.
As an adult, my negative subconscious programming played out in many ways:
- Inability to accept compliments, feeling embarrassed or ashamed if someone did say something positive to me
- Not being able to acknowledge my achievements or feel proud of myself, always critiquing myself and expecting more
- Beating myself up about mistakes, replaying situations and conversations repeatedly, feeling ashamed
- Overworking, pushing my body to work seven days and double-shifts across multiple jobs
- Financial struggle, constantly in 'feast or famine' mode with money. A belief that we aren't worthy of abundance can mean we sabotage ourselves by spending every dollar that comes to us!
- Fear of success and visibility, meaning I would keep quiet, play small and downplay my abilities in areas of my life, rather than living to my full potential
- Struggling to say 'no', people-pleasing tendencies, doing things out of obligation
- Settling for poor treatment in romantic relationships and friendships
Maybe some of this sounds like you?
- Inability to make decisions
- Overeating and disordered eating
- Not being able to attract and keep a loving, supportive partner or friends
The Inner Critic is the our internal voice that scolds us for not doing well enough, for not living up to other people’s standards, for not conforming to the rules and so forth. It's so important that we work through our own shit and deal with this voice now, to prevent ourselves passing that voice on to others, such as to our own children...
CORE EXERCISE: OBSERVING THE INNER CRITIC
In this exercise, you're going to observe and record any thoughts/self-talk you notice whizzing around in your mind - the words of your inner critic, ego, mean girl or saboteur. The Inner Critic is the internal voice that beats us up for not doing well enough, for not living up to other people’s standards, for not conforming to the rules, for generally not being good enough.
Notice your thoughts as you go about your day, and write all negative, limiting thoughts down on a scrap piece (or pieces) of paper...
Yes, this will mean carrying paper and a pen with you throughout the day, but trust me: it will be worth it. This exercise is so eye-opening and truly transformational.
Your thoughts are unique to you, but as examples, you may notice things like:
You make a small mistake at work and your inner voice pipes up with, “You idiot. So dumb! You always get things wrong!”
You remember you forgot to reply to a friend’s email/call/text the other day, and your inner voice berates and shames you: “You’re a shitty friend. Why can’t you get it together? When will you grow up, and get your crap together like an adult?”
You’re trying to choose what to wear and notice you hear, I can't wear that because it shows how fat my stomach is. People can see my dimply legs when I wear that. Those make my arse look huge."
This exercise can be a bit confronting and saddening, as it highlights just how mean we're actually being to ourselves.
If you do notice that your inner voice/critic/judge/ego is quite active, just know that this is a part of you that is (ironically) trying to protect you. Even though it may be misguided, that inner voice is usually vulnerable and scared. It's trying to keep you exactly where you are, because that feels 'safer' than what change does. Try to observe your thoughts and beliefs without judging them or yourself.
When we’re conscious of our thoughts, it’s easier to interrupt them with our awareness and choose differently. This is all juicy, valuable fodder that you're going to use to transform your life from the inside out... So scrawl down all of those thoughts.
EXERCISE 2: ASSOCIATED MEMORIES
When you've got a list of thoughts and beliefs you've noticed, take some time to sit with them. Read over each thought and see if a memory about where that belief originates pops up - especially any memories that have an emotional charge of shame, embarrassment, resentment or anger. Just trust whatever comes up for you, even if the link isn't immediately obvious or logical.
Begin to make a list of memories you have, that are related to the limiting and critical thoughts you noticed.
If you need some prompts, think about:
- something that changed you significantly
- a childhood memory that stands out
- a memory from adolescence
- the lowest point in your life
- any particular 'defining' events from your past
For example, here are some of my limiting thoughts/beliefs and associated origin memories:
Belief: It's embarrassing being seen as intelligent, and being smart is something to be ashamed of
Related memory: A girl in primary school calling me names because I won academic awards
Belief: I need to put on makeup before I go out, to cover my natural skin
Related memory: In sixth grade, the boy sitting next to me telling me my moles were ugly
Belief: I don't know anything about the world of finance or how to manage my money
Related memory: In my 20s, my boyfriend jeering at me for being proud of the interest I had earned on my savings
This exercise might be triggering, and you might find you cry, feel angry, experience physical discomfort... All of this is okay. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up, don't try to suppress it. Know that you're safe, here in the present, and you're doing valuable work to heal yourself.
Our incredible brains are capable of infinite memory. The majority of what we experience day to day is dumped as we sleep, clearing out our memory bank to make space for new experiences. So think about it: if you can recall a memory, it's because that event is significant to you in some way. Each of the memories on your list have shaped your feelings about yourself and your worth in some way... and in the next module, you're going to learn how to clear them the fuck OUT, so that they stop negatively affecting your life.
EXERCISE 3: JEWELS OF JEALOUSY
Pay attention to the thoughts you have about other people. Think about anyone you feel envious or jealous of, or anyone you judge. The conversations you have with yourself about others on a regular basis is usually an indicator of what you’re telling yourself on a subconscious level...
Do you judge someone that drives an expensive car? Could that be because you have an underlying belief that rich people are showoffs, snobs, evil or greedy? If so, how can you ever expect to become abundant and wealthy yourself? Your subconscious belief is that you'll also become a showoff or greedy!
Are you critical of your work colleague's performance? Could that be because you are also hyper-critical of yourself, setting impossibly high standards and demanding perfection?
Awareness of our thoughts about others is valuable in highlighting our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. You might like to note your thoughts down, or just set the intention to be aware of the thoughts as they pop up. Probe a little. Ask yourself: 'what does this thought about that other person reflect about me?'
(In Module 4 - Release you'll learn a 'cord cutting' technique that you can use to release any individuals you are energetically tied to through the emotions of envy and jealousy, thanking them for the lessons and shifting from judgement to gratitude.)