Did you realize it’s already Spring? We just celebrated the first day of spring on March 20th, and soon we will celebrate Easter. Now is the time for spring cleaning, fasting to renew our focus, and rebirth. Out with the old and in with the new!
I love the spring because it gives us a second chance to look at how we are starting out the year. When January 1st hits, you are ready and excited with New Year’s resolutions. These can be connected to weight loss, fitness, health, stopping something, starting something, reconciliation, and more. But more often than not, March 20th rolls around, and without knowing how or why, you’ve found yourself right back where you were back in October. What’s the deal?
Habits are hard. And one of the hardest habits to change is one many of us don’t even recognize we have: negative self-talk. We perpetually talk to ourselves and/or about ourselves all day long, without even realizing it; and how we talk quickly becomes our perspective on life. In our home, I don’t let anyone speak in negative absolutes about themselves. Why? Because it sets up a negative starting point and makes things harder to overcome.
“I can’t do it." turns into “I’m not able to do it yet.”
“I’ll never be any good.” turns into “I’m not as good as I want to be.”
“This is too hard.” turns into “I need help.”
If you are saying anything in the first column out loud, I guarantee you are saying it exponentially more to yourself. The first set of sayings keeps a person trapped and stuck where they are in life and creates a belief that there is no room for change. With the second set of sayings, growth is asked for and expected. Similarly, if you are saying these things out loud, it is because you are saying things to yourself like: “I will reach my goal,” “I can get better,” and “This will happen for me!” Doesn’t that sound better?!
It’s hard to catch these little things, but it’s so important to start realizing where we are allowing negative words to permeate our identity. People so often start in the wrong place - I need to lose this habit, I need to gain this habit… but if you fundamentally don’t believe you are capable of change (“I’ll never finish - I’ll always be like this - My mom had this problem too”) then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, if you start with creating positive self-talk you’ll be amazed at how your self-belief (and even your abilities) will follow in suit.
If you are unsure how to change your self-talk, I suggest two things. First, start saying positive affirmations about yourself. When I first learned about this I thought it was hooey. Fast forward a number of years, I’m in a training program for leaders, and guess what our first homework assignment was: come up with three possible affirmations we can repeat to ourselves. Sigh, okay fine, I'll do it. Initially, mine were:
I see opportunity for growth where others see insurmountable problems
I am great at remembering names and faces
God will put me in the right place at the right time to meet the right people to help push me forward.
When I first made this list, I believed none of them. But as I simply started the practice of saying them to myself aloud every day, I was shocked at how my network was growing because of the people I was remembering. It was someone else that eventually called attention to my ability to problem-solve instead of getting stuck. The last one was the hardest because I overthought everything too much, but eventually realized that not only was God putting people in my life to help push me forward, but he was putting me in their life to help them move forward as well! Sooner than later I had to come up with new affirmations because my self-talk was changing my self-belief!
The second thing I suggest in helping you change your self-talk is to compliment others. This stemmed from the symbiotic relationship I realized we all have when I was working with my third affirmation. I’m not telling you to offer meaningless lip service, nor am I encouraging you to fish for compliments by giving them to others. I’m suggesting you start changing your environment by being a positive force in other’s lives. This not only helps you have a positive outlook on those around you but helps them to have a positive experience as well. It can be overt like randomly complimenting someone’s appearance (“Your hair looks amazing today!”), or it can be purposeful like adding one to the end of a thank-you (“Thank you, you are so kind, I really enjoy working with you.”). Passively complimenting others can be surprising and fun too! I do this all the time with my friends and family. It sounds something like this:
Child: You know what is awesome?
Spouse: You want to hear something amazing?
Me: You mean you? Yes!
Friend: You know what would be really fun?
Me: Hanging out with you.
When I first started doing this, I would completely take the other person off guard. Now, it’s so commonplace, my kids will typically respond with: “Yes, and….” and tell me whatever they were going to say. My compliment is helping change their self-talk which is inadvertently positively affecting our relationship.
Did you know it takes, on average, 10 positive comments to mentally erase a negative one? So compliment people all the livelong day because who doesn’t need that? You will be retraining your brain to believe positive things about those around you and you will be uplifting someone else as well. Moreover, you will be creating a more positive space for everyone involved as everyone will get a chance to rewrite some negative self-talk.
So this Spring, as we are experiencing renewal, growth, and rebirth, do some spring cleaning on your mind! Make sure you are actively practicing ways to retrain your brain. 2021 is just getting started and God has a ton in store for you. Don’t miss out by being stuck in negative thought patterns and old ways of thinking. Say something positive about yourself every day - write it on your bathroom mirror and stick a posted note on your steering wheel! And don’t forget to pass the positivity onto someone else! You’ll find your goals and dreams and hopes for the future will look brighter than ever!
Happy Spring everyone!