The story is told of a man driving across the country on a deserted highway. He was essentially alone except for the occasional farm house he passed along the road. As luck would have it, he heard and felt a familiar thump, thump, thump. He had a flat tire. He stopped on the side of the road to inspect the damage and to replace the flat tire with the spare. Upon digging in his trunk, he discovered he had no lug wrench, so he could not remove the lug nuts. He decided to walk back to the nearest farm house and ask if he could borrow a lug wrench. While walking he began thinking about the farmer he had not yet met. Talking to himself, he imagined the farmer would probably be unfriendly and try to charge him money for using the wrench. He told himself what he would say when the farmer sneers and refuses to lend the wrench, etc. When he finally knocked on the door to the farm house, he had become so upset with this negative self-talk that before the farmer could say hello, the stranded motorist said, “I don’t care what you say, I wouldn’t borrow your wrench anyway,” and spun around and stalked off.
It has been said a negative mind will never give you a positive life. I believe that, to some degree, most people are guilty of occasional negative self-talk. But, many people wallow in it. If you are a negative self-talker, you may not even be aware of it because after years of doing it, it becomes second nature to you. You probably do not notice your negative view or slant on everything. But, it affects how you live life, how others react to you, how the spirit works with you and it keeps you from enjoying the best of life. I have called it, “Self Limiting Beliefs.” Those who do it see themselves as victims and powerless to be accountable for their actions. Griping, criticizing and complaining drives people away. Negative self-talk is usually directed either at yourself or at other people and situations.
Examples of negative self-talk about yourself are: I am not good enough. I suck at everything I do. I am not going to get better at this. I am an idiot. I have nothing interesting to say. I’m going to fail for sure. I didn’t play well. I’m hopeless, etc.
Negative self-talk about others and situations is equally debilitating such as: I could have done a better job than he is doing. That hypocrite always condemns me for doing to her what she is doing to me. It is too complicated. There is no way it will work out. No one bothers to communicate with me. God answered my prayers too late, the damage is all done, etc.
Negative self-talk is evidence of lack of faith. You pray for good things to happen to you. Then when your life is not always blissful or you hit a bump in the road, you immediately focus on the, often inaccurate and exaggerated, negatives of the situation. You do not choose to have the faith to look for the good, realize there is a blessing for you in this turn of events and cheerfully move on.
One big problem with negative self-talk is that your body and your subconscious mind do not know that your thoughts are not reality. Your mind gets carried away replaying shortcomings or negative ideas. Your body and mind may even react by feeling physically ill or emotionally depressed, angry, anxious or upset. What is more cynical, it is possible to live in negativity and never see the destructive results in your body, your mind and your life. Happy people learn to put their bad days behind them.
The affect my negative self-talk has on me is a sort scornful pleasure to have a sour attitude toward myself and others. I lose faith and trust in the Lord and fail to acknowledge his hand in my life. I become over critical with a steady diet of criticizing everything. I look for the negative first and point it out. I am not internalizing faith in Jesus Christ, hope, charity and love, virtue, patience or humility.
Consider these admonitions in the context of what God thinks about negative self-talk:
33 Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
34 …do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. (DC 6:33-34)
7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he… (Proverbs 23:7)
“Many voices in the world compete for your attention, and they can easily drown out spiritual impressions if you are not careful.” (PMG p. 96)
13 …I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; (DC 11:13)
9 Be patient in afflictions, revile not against those that revile. Govern your house in meekness, and be steadfast. (DC 31:9)
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (DC50:23)
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion… (DC64:34)
What to do? Take a day and monitor yourself. Do not say to yourself or to anyone else one criticism or limiting thing about anything or anybody. Simply look for the good with patience and humility. Compliment others. Missionaries should line up at the podium after every sacrament meeting or class to congratulate and thank every speaker or teacher. That alone would put a brighter spin on your day.
See the difference it makes in how you feel. Then go do it another day. It takes time and practice to think about things in a more realistic and productive way. After 3 weeks, you will have a new habit.