#MindStrong: Silencing Negative Nancy
Years of being a fitness and health professional and educator have taught me this – there is no clear, one-size-fits all explanation as to why some individuals engage in healthy behaviors while others do not. In other words, there is a significant amount we don’t yet know about the human psyche and what makes it ‘tick’. What we do know is often it is our own negative inner voice, perceptions and beliefs about ourselves, and the individual and collective stressors in our lives that interfere with our ability to achieve a goal – whether it is health-related, career-related, or in some other realm entirely.
I’m just as guilty as everyone else of having negative thoughts. “I’m not tall enough or pretty enough or smart enough or whatever enough to do X.” After having Olyvia, an internal alarm sounded and I realized – I cannot and will not do this to myself. I don’t want my daughter to grow up having her own negative inner voice. I want her to be confident in her abilities, to love herself the way she deserves, and to believe that she is enough of everything to do anything. And – that starts with me helping her build those qualities and modeling that very behavior.
So – how is this done? Conscious reframing of our own inner thoughts and beliefs about ourselves by recognizing our strengths and opportunities (not weaknesses, but opportunities for growth and self-discovery).
Step 1: Describe your talents and skills. Start by making a list of your talents – perhaps you have great culinary skills or you are known for being a skillful strategic planner. Whatever the skill set you have, write it or type it out and post it in a high profile location. The fridge, your office, etc. Review it each day to keep your talents and skills at the forefront of your attention. Next, ask your family and friends to provide you with some feedback. We almost never see ourselves the way our friends and family members do. We are far more critical than anyone else.
Step 2: Identify Opportunities Write out a list of opportunities. These are not weaknesses – they are strengths waiting to be developed. Frame this list as – “I would like to be able to…X” or “X is a challenge for me because…”. Select one at a time and make a plan of action to work on developing strength in that area. A personal example: I would like to be able to gain strength in the area of self-promotion and marketing. My plan: start by researching and asking for feedback from successful entrepreneurs. Flashback to a few weeks ago and I was telling myself “You have a doctorate in adult and post-secondary education and a background in movement science – what in the world do you know about marketing and business management? You can’t do this. You will fail.” I scolded myself for being so negative. Right now, I don’t know much about it, but I am clearly capable of learning and learn I shall! As will you…
Step 3: Start the day positively. Before jumping in to a likely hectic and frantic day, pause and start with a positive thought and a small goal that is easily achievable.
Step 4: Silence Negative Nancy. Mistakes and less than optimal choices will be made. We are human and that is part of the process of life. We are often our own worst enemies and do the most damage when we make a mistake and then say “I’m an idiot” or “That was stupid” or use whatever other habitual phrase we have in our arsenal of punishment-oriented thoughts. Recognize the mistake, but see it as an opportunity to think about how to handle a similar situation next time. Write it down and reflect on it and, if necessary, apologize.
Step 5: Daily Reflection. Develop a habit of reflecting on the day and practice gratitude. A gratitude journal is a great tool to keep by your bedside or you can integrate the reflective practices into mealtime with your family and friends.
As with any new habit or change in behavior, it will take time and probably involve a bit of a cha-cha, but that is just fine. The point is to keep going even after stepping backwards. Be patient. Be persistent. Be conscious. You never know who is watching you or who you are influencing – make sure it’s a positive image you are sharing and encouraging. Start with yourself.
Until next time…Meet you at the Well.