If You Do It, You’re Not Alone
Everyone has an inner critic that brings out their worst insecurities. It’s that little voice inside your head telling you things like:
- Don’t apply for that job. You’ll never get called for an interview.
- It’s pointless to go to the gym. You’ll lose the weight, then gain it back.
- Why bother going back to school? You were never a good student.
- If you go to the party, nobody will talk to you. You don’t deserve to have friends.
Negative thought patterns are characterized by:
- Polarizing. You view everything as either good or bad with no middle ground.
- Catastrophizing. When you encounter a small setback, you assume the worst.
- Filtering. You focus on all the negative aspects of a situation instead of seeing the positive things that have already happened.
- Personalizing. You blame yourself for things that have nothing to do with you.
Negative self-talk is a problem for many people, but it’s particularly problematic for those in recovery. When you’re already dealing with feelings of guilt and shame related to your past substance abuse, a negative inner monologue keeps you from developing the growth mindset you need to move forward in your life.
Listening to negative self-talk keeps you focused on your mistakes and setbacks, instead of celebrating the progress you’ve already made towards achieving your goals. In this post, we discuss some of the ways to silence negative self-talk so you can move forward with your recovery.
Give Yourself the Same Consideration You’d Give to Others
Would you tell your best friend that the dress she just bought makes her look fat? Would you tell your coworker he shouldn’t bother trying for a promotion because everyone in the office hates him? Would you tell your son or daughter that they were too stupid to make the honor roll at school or to sign up for a challenging advanced placement class? Of course not!
When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, ask yourself what you’d say if it was someone you cared about who was having the same problem. If you wouldn’t speak unkindly to a friend, colleague, or family member, you shouldn’t be talking that way to yourself.
Give Your Inner Critic a Name
Often, negative self-talk comes from outside influences you’ve subconsciously internalized over the years. This could be an overly critical parent, a mean-spirited sibling, a childhood bully, or a toxic ex—or some combination of negative influences from your past.
Naming your inner critic may sound silly, but the act of putting a name to the voice can help you create the emotional distance you need to see these unnecessarily harsh words in a more objective light. When you name the voice behind your inner monologue, it’s no longer part of your identity. Now that you’re in recovery, you deserve a chance to build a future free of the burdens from your past.
Focus on the Facts
When your negative self-talk is based on wild speculation, it’s time to take a closer look at the situation. For example, if your boss says she’d like for you to schedule a Friday meeting, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re in trouble or going to get fired. She could want to discuss a project you recently completed or be planning to ask you to help a new colleague master software that you use better than anyone else. Assuming the worst without any justification sets you up for unneeded anxiety.
Journaling can be a helpful tool for training your brain to think more objectively about a situation. The act of writing down your thoughts forces you to take a step back from your emotions. Over time, your journal entries will provide further insight into your behavior patterns and how your negative self-talk is affecting your recovery progress.
Practice Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations provide a concrete alternative to negative self-talk. Some affirmations that often resonate with people in recovery include:
- I am worthy of love and acceptance.
- I deserve great things.
- I’m becoming a better version of myself each day.
- Today is a new day.
- Strive for progress, not perfection.
- Live and let live.
- This too shall pass.
- I am strong, fierce, and brave.
- I am not afraid to make mistakes.
Consider posting positive affirmations around your home in places where you’ll see them regularly. If you’re feeling creative, make your favorite affirmations into personalized wall art that will provide a regular reminder of the importance of silencing your inner critic.
Surround Yourself with People Who Believe in You
Breaking the habit of negative self-talk takes time, but it’s easier to accomplish when you have people in your life who can provide support and encouragement. Lean on your sober support network and let them know when you’re struggling to maintain a positive attitude. Being in recovery is a challenge, but you’re not alone.
At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s Pennsylvania drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, we believe long-term recovery is possible for anyone who desires it. If you’re ready to make a lasting change, we’re committed to providing you with the tools you need to build a better life for yourself.