I want you to stop for a moment and think about all the compliments you’ve received over the years.
Your mum telling you your hair looked nice, or your partner complimenting your figure in a certain dress, or a stranger on the street commenting on your smile or your eyes. Remember those moments. Those compliments. Close your eyes and relive them. Feels good, right?
And no, I don’t believe that our confidence or self-worth should be based on other people’s opinions—that’s not the point I’m making here.
Now I want you to take a moment (and this one will be less enjoyable) to remember the horrible things people have said about you, or to you, over the years. Maybe your ex-boyfriend commented on your weight. Maybe someone started a rumour about you in high school or gave you a nasty nickname. Nasty words, snide remarks, whispers made within earshot of you. Just stop for a minute and immerse yourself in the memories of those nasty, hurtful comments you’ve been subjected to.
Take a deep breath and sigh it out. Shake off those yucky memories. That felt pretty intense going back into those, but don’t let that feeling stay with you today.
The reason I asked you to do both of those exercises is simple. I’ve noticed, time and time again, that the gorgeous women I know find it so easy to focus on and remember hurtful comments. And all the compliments they’ve received over the years? They’re like a fuzzy, hazy memory that are about as clear as frosted-glass windows. Negative comments are remembered word for word, and the memory is as real as the moment it happened.
And I wanted to pose this question to you: why don’t we remember the compliments as easily as we remember the negative stuff? Why is it so much easier to take ourselves back into hurtful memories than it is to return to happy ones?
There are a few steps you can take to help shift this negative focus into a positive one. And trust me when I say you’re not alone in this—even I sometimes slip back into old habits of gripping onto the nasty comments and almost dismissing the compliments. It’s something we need to constantly work on to re-frame our mindset, and it’s such an important step forward for our health and happiness.
Step 1: Become aware of how you talk to yourself.
Okay, so we all do it. We all have an inner voice, whether it’s talking to yourself or there’s some other voice there. (Unless you have like 10 voices in there, I’m pretty sure it’s normal.) What you need to do first is become aware of the thoughts that are going on in your head. That internal dialogue you have: what is it saying?
You can even think of specific situations. For example, when you stand in front of the mirror, does your inner voice say, “Looking good!” or does it say, “Look at that muffin top”? When you’re in a social situation, does your inner dialogue say something along the lines of, “You’ve got this,” or “Go home, no one wants you here”? There are lots of ways our inner voice talks to us, and it can be encouraging and positive, or it can be judgmental and critical.
What do you think your inner voice is the majority of the time? Is it a critic, or is it a cheerleader?
Step 2: Grab hold of the volume controls.
We all have a mean inner voice (called our inner critic) and a nice inner voice (let’s call it our inner cheerleader). And if you’re currently in a position where your inner critic is the loudest voice you hear, you are definitely not alone. As the old saying goes, we really are our own worst critic.
The good news is that you have control of the volume dials. At the moment, your inner cheerleader might not be talking much because you’ve got the volume up so high on your inner critic voice. So what can you do? Turn down the volume on that inner critic, and sure enough, your inner cheerleader will come out to play.
The key here is being aware of how you speak to yourself, so we’re going back to step one. Once you have tuned in to how you speak to yourself and what your inner critic is saying, then you are ready to start playing with the volume controls. It might take a little while to become aware of what your inner critic is saying, so don’t try to rush this process. But once you’re ready, and you’re listening to your inner critic, then you can start to turn down the volume on your inner critic.
The important thing here is that you’re not yelling at your inner critic, or telling it to “shut up,” or trying to force it to go away. You need to acknowledge the inner critic (for now, because he’s so loud) and then use the technique in the third step to gently let your inner critic know that his comments are no longer ruling your head.
Step 3: Allow space for your inner cheerleader to come through.
You’re out to lunch with your bestie, and you go to the bathroom. You look in the mirror, and you see you’ve got a bit of spinach stuck in your teeth. Your inner critic says, “Oh my god, you are so embarrassing. Why can’t you just be normal for once?” You hear that comment from your inner critic, and you stop. Take a breath in, and breathe out. Look back in the mirror, and smile at yourself. Your inner cheerleader might step in and say, “You’re only human, who cares!?” You go back out to your friend and laugh with her about how long it has been stuck in your teeth.
So the basic framework here is:
>> Listen to what your inner critic says.
>> Pause, take a breath in and out, and let that comment fall away like water off a duck’s back.
>> Give your inner cheerleader space to pipe up and say something constructive or positive.
>> Smile, and go on your way.
Sounds easy enough, right? It might take a little while for your inner cheerleader to find her voice, so in the beginning, you might just be acknowledging the inner critic, using your breath to pause, and smiling. And slowly but surely, your inner cheerleader will start to realise that her volume dial has been turned up, and she’ll be screaming cheers and encouragement at you as loudly as you’ll let her.
And little by little, that inner critic of yours will retreat further and further into the shadows. So the next time someone tells you that you look nice, your inner cheerleader will scream, “Hell yeah, I do!” and your inner critic will be sulking in the corner, like a child who isn’t getting enough attention.
Bonus: The Simple Buddhist Trick to Being Happy.
Author: Danni Archer
Editor: Travis May
Copy & Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina