By Lisa LaMaitre
Health Writer, Wellness Presenter, Lifestyle Adviser, Business Owner
How to be more positive
Who do you spend most of your time with? Your partner? Work colleagues? Family? Friends? What if I reminded you that the person you spend the most time with is actually yourself!
In company or alone, there is always a lot of ‘chatter’ going on in our head. How often do we stop to focus on the words, attitude and tone that we choose to speak to ourselves with?
I don’t know about you, but at times I find that I scold myself like my parents did when I was little. I hear their words, feel their admonishing tone, and my body automatically kicks over to guilt, shame or fear. The problem is that, like most of us, I’m not at my best when I’m feeling guilty, shamed or scared.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we humans need to have our base needs met before we can start to function at a higher level. There are five ‘needs’ levels according to Maslow. From bottom to top they are: Physiological, Safety, Love/belonging, Esteem and Self-actualisation.
When we are young children our parents may speak to us harshly as a means to keep us safe: “DON’T touch the STOVE!”; or to enforce their values: “I’m disappointed in you”. However, there comes a point in our development when we are old enough to assess for ourselves whether something in our environment is a danger to us.
The problem for our grown-up selves is that we have been conditioned to enforce consequences with harsh words such as we were taught growing up.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last four years retraining the way I speak to myself, which means the voice in my head as well as any words spoken out loud.
The first step for me was to start to take note of the words I was using. Was I speaking kindly or harshly to myself? Would I use those words to speak to a loved one or a friend? Were the words derogatory, offensive, rude, negative?
Then I started to observe my tone.
Did I sound cranky? Short tempered? Frustrated? Tired? Lonely? Afraid?
From there I started to retrain myself. Instead of criticising I started to encourage myself: “It’s okay, Lise, you can do this. You’ve done something similar before and it’s okay.” This would become the dialogue I’d practise and run through in my head.
The main issue I had at this stage was when I’d slip up. I would automatically think or say something negative about myself and would hear myself verbally announce, “Lisa Elizabeth!!!”, in the same tone Mum used when I was a child whenever she was frustrated with me. That of course would then make me cranky with myself, and more colourful words would escape! Which would make me angry and frustrated for reverting to old habits.
And that’s what we are working with here – habits: an activity that is entrenched, a regular practice, something that by its very definition is difficult to give up.
We are allowed to stumble and try again. It’s okay to relapse into a habit we are working on shifting, as long as we don’t stay back there.
So, who’s ready to let go of the ‘baby’ talk and start to speak to them self with the praise, grace and encouragement of adulthood?