Monday, April 11, 2011

Back to the Beginning — What is Negative Self-Talk?

My blog has been alive and kicking for more than a year now; introduced early in March of 2010 with the first actual post on March 29th. I started the blog as I started working on a book proposal for Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit, my not yet published 5th book. I've written about many different topics on this blog, but mostly about negative self-talk, which I just realized with surprise as I re-read past posts. Helping women to get rid of the NST habit is my mission — so that's my excuse. But I do plan to  write more about women's psychology, communication,  and health this second blog year, in addition to women's intelligent thinking!

As I start year 2, I'd love to hear from some of the long-time and new readers, and from women from Europe and Asia as well as the U.S.
Suggestions? Needs? Compliments? Criticism? Topics of interest that I haven't touched on? Let me know!

As I'm reviewing, renewing, and reorganizing I'll write some new introductory material and republish some previous posts that fit. This week I'm starting with a quick description of what I mean when I use the term negative self-talk. The "regulars" probably know, but new readers may not be sure. I've always called "it" negative self-talk, influenced by Albert Ellis's classic book, A Guide To Rational Living. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Ph.D., author of Women Who Think Too Much, calls "it" overthinking. We're both psychologists and mean the same thing, although she talks about the thinking pattern as a neurosis and I talk about it as a habit.

Most women have the negative thinking habit or have had it then dumped it or have heard self-criticism often enough from female friends and family members that they know what it is. Although men also engage in negative self-talk, it generally doesn't reach habit proportions.  Women's self-doubting, self-critical inner voice focuses primarily on relationships and appearance — but can also include talents, skills, job, intelligence or even ability to grow house plants. On a recent plane trip, I heard a young woman say to her other seat-mate, a stranger also, "I know I'm not a very bright bulb, but I don't care. It's true." Here are other examples of common female negative self-talk: "What's wrong with me?" "I'm a lousy parent." "What a stupid thing to say." This report is crappy. I can't even write a simple couple of pages." "I look like a tug boat today." There's also a lot of comparison with other women. "I feel like a blimp when I'm around Kim. She's so thin."  "I'm a real bore compared to Joan. She's always doing something interesting or exciting." When you have the negative self-talk habit, one critical inner comment often reaches out and grabs another and pretty soon you're immersed in a giant whirlpool of negative ruminations about a variety of topics. You're also stressed out, preoccupied and your coping mechanisms don't work well. You lose energy, clear thinking, and end up stuck and miserable.

If you don't recognize this kind of thinking in yourself, pat yourself on the back and appreciate your good luck in avoiding the NST habit — or your skill in getting rid of it early in life. If you do have the NST habit, I hope you'll decide to work on quitting it now! Moving forward in life without the drag and drain of the NST habit is so much easier and more fun. Breaking the habit is an adventure that's difficult, lengthy and even tedious at times — and immensely rewarding.
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