Do you ever hurt your own feelings? For many, it’s a common occurrence. A curt reply to that thoughtful work email, zero responses to that happy hour invitation – little slights like these get my inner critic going. What a dumb thing to say! Of course they don’t like you. Who do you think you are?
This kind of negative self-talk can get in the way of creating strong relationships with ourselves and others. But there are ways to stop this spiral of thinking. In moments of hurt or confusion, pause to consider other possibilities. Assessing the situation from different angles can help you avoid the unproductive thought loop that can prevent our ability to move on.
Maybe that coworker gave a short response to your email because they were on deadline. Maybe your friend simply forgot to push “send” on her response.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not all about you – and that’s a freeing and wonderful thing. Zooming out and changing your viewpoint is a great way to change that destructive internal narrative.
Here are 5 tips on how to crush self-doubt and make nice with the voice in your head.
Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend
Be aware of the harmful things we might say to ourselves.
The next time you’re tempted to disparage your looks or criticize your decision-making, ask yourself: would I talk this way to my best friend? If not, practice using the same kind and gentle language that we use with the people we love on yourself. Because we’re also people who we hopefully love, right?
‘SIFT’ through what people say about you
The acronym SIFT (source, impact, frequency and trends), developed by research scientist Mike Caulfield, can help you figure out whether you should listen to feedback from others or just ignore it.
Say someone calls you out for poor email communication. Did that criticism come from someone you trust and value? Is it demanding a big change or a minor tweak to your behavior? Is this something you’ve heard from other people? And have you heard this from different communities in your life, or just at work? Consider these points before deciding to act.
Don’t forget that our brains have a tendency to focus on the negative
The mind is a tricky thing. It can lead us to fixate, for example, on one bad aspect of a year-end review from a manager instead of their positive feedback. This is called “negativity bias, and it illustrates our propensity to weigh negative events a lot more heavily than an equal amount of positive events. This thinking error is dangerous because it can lead us to make the wrong choices.
Don’t dwell on something that bothers you — talk about it
If someone you love is causing you distress, don’t be afraid to communicate with them about it. It may help clear up any assumptions you may have and offer new perspectives about the incident.
For example, instead of jumping to conclusions if your partner is always on their phone at dinnertime, you might say to them: “Because you’re always on your phone, I feel like you don’t think I’m worthy of your attention,” And they might say, ‘Oh, shoot, I didn’t mean to be on my phone. Or, you know, I’ve been kind of frustrated with you and I didn’t know how to bring it up. So I’ve been looking at my phone instead of making eye contact. Let’s talk.” Listen to the episode here.
Adapt a ‘growth mindset’
Instead of defining yourself by your failures or limitations, consider every loss as part of your learning process. This idea is called a “growth mindset,” and it can help bolster that internal dialogue when you’ve taken an L and can’t stop kicking yourself about it.
Let’s say you lose a round of pool. Those with a fixed mindset think that talent and intelligence are static: I give up, I’ll never get good at this! Growth-minded people believe that effort can lead to mastery: Hey! I’m getting a lot better at putting some power behind the ball! It’s all about finding the right perspective.