3 Simple Steps to Challenging Negative, Self-deprecating Self-talk

I love animations – they’re so inventive, clever and entertaining. My love of animations started, I think with Toy Story, a film I came to adore but there are lots of others I’ve come to enjoy too, Finding Nemo, Cars, Wall-E, Madagascar, The Lion King to name but a few. One of my absolute favourites is Despicable Me.

It’s a great film but I can’t help wondering about the title of the film – Despicable Me. The title of the film reminds me of all the self-deprecating descriptions I used to give myself when I lacked social confidence; ‘Stupid ME,’ ‘Awkward ME,’ ‘Loser ME,’ ‘Idiot ME,’ – I would tell myself I was rubbish, hopeless, inadequate, not good enough – the only insult I can’t remember calling myself was despicable!

Self-deprecating self-talk is a common characteristic in those lacking in social confidence. We ‘talk ourselves down’, we criticise ourselves, we judge ourselves harshly and to make matters worse we assume that the negative view we have of ourselves is shared by others. And we worry, all the time about what others think of us, that they will disapprove of us and consider us inadequate in some way – which in turn will result, we believe in them rejecting us.

We know also that being rejected really, really hurts, and so we try our very best to avoid the pain of rejection and the easiest way to do that is too shy away from the possibility of this happening and we can easily do this simply by avoiding people as much as we possibly can.

Avoiding and seeking safety may lead to a momentary sense of relieve but it’s not a useful strategy in the long run – it does nothing to help us overcome our lack of social confidence. On the contrary, avoidance actually makes matters worse – not only do we tell ourselves we are hopeless, helpless and inadequate but we berate ourselves for being weak and pathetic – for not being stronger, braver and more ‘manly’.

There are however, a number of strategies we can all use to help eradicate the destructive nature of negative, self-deprecating self-talk.

Firstly, we need to remember that any anxiety we feel about talking to people and being rejected is largely the product of our imagination. We imagine bad things happening and to make matters worse we have a tendency to brood and ruminate upon our imagined thoughts and as a result we take a pesky little nuisance thought that in reality is of little consequence and we blow it up out of all proportion – our thinking, in other words becomes catastrophic.

A much better strategy would be to imagine our interactions with others being helpful and beneficial – mentally rehearsing successful interactions can really help in this respect.

Secondly; we need to test the proposition that people really do think us ‘inadequate’ and ‘not good enough’? Where, for example is the evidence to prove the proposition that people think we’re inadequate’ and ‘not good enough’? I think you’ll find, as I have on many occasions that there is none (and even if people do think badly of us, so what? that’s for them to deal with!) You need to take this on board. It’s also worth bearing in mind that people, generally speaking, are actually very nice, kind and friendly! We may worry that people will reject us because we think they’re cruel and unkind but in my experience, this just isn’t the case. You can test this for yourself – get into the habit of smiling at people, I think you’ll find most people will smile back, wish someone a ‘good morning,’ engage in small acts of kindness – I think you’ll find your efforts will be rewarded handsomely – people will be nice back to you.
Thirdly; try and shift the emphasis away for your own concerns and focus your attention instead on the other person, be responsive to them, show them your genuinely interested in them. You can do this by asking yourself certain questions such as; ‘What can I do to enable this person feels relaxed and comfortable in my presence?’ ‘How can I make this person feel special, unique and attractive?’ ‘What does this person want, what do they need?’ and so on.

We all have certain needs and those needs must be met. One of the most powerful needs we have is the need to belong – to feel connected to others. A person who feels genuinely connected to you is unlikely to think your boring or inadequate in some way, on the contrary, your ability to make them feel good about themselves will make you a very attractive proposition indeed. Think of it like this – is a person who feels good in your presence going to reject you? Of course not, on the contrary, they’re going to want more of you!

Putting the other person first is also a great way of shifting the attention away for yourself and towards the other person – rather than worrying about what others might think of us we can start to get some evidence on what people actually think of us, that we are, for example kind, caring and considerate, and who won’t want to hang out with someone like that?
So, my advice to you is this; be bold, take positive constructive action and learn to believe, not only in yourself but in the common goodness that exists in others.

James Woodworth APTC

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