By Bette Freedson, MSW, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
|Take the Lemon Test|
|You Choose How to Talk to Yourself|
|Avoid Thinking Traps to Keep Self-Talk Positive|
|All or Nothing Thinking|
|Crystal Ball Thinking|
|The Blame Game Thinking|
|“What If” and “If Only” Thinking|
Take the Lemon Test
Most psychologists agree—We are what we think. Have you ever tried talking to yourself about tasting a lemon? If so, you will notice something interesting happening in your salivary glands. Your mind believes what you tell it. If you say “lemon,” the appropriate responses begin. So then, what happens in your body when you tell your mind that you are a success? A failure? That you can’t trust your friend? That your husband is doing the best he can? Your body will believe negative self-talk or positive self-talk. And bio-chemicals will respond accordingly, sending you stress or peace of mind.
Everyone can benefit from learning how to think clearly and use positive self-talk. But for women making our way toward social, interpersonal and career empowerment, it is particularly important to choose positive self talk. Positive self-talk gives the best potential for effectiveness in career, parenting and interpersonal relationships
Negative thinking brings about negative self-talk that can affect all aspects of living, including self-esteem and even physical health. Unfortunately, we do not always know we are deep in the clutches of negative self-talk until we realize that we are depressed or generally feeling rotten. Conscious thinking, as devoid of negativity as possible, is the key to keeping self-talk positive and balanced. Healthy self-talk can head off certain emotional or physical ailments. Negative self-talk, on the other hand, raises the possibility of conflict in relationships, frustration in work settings, and emotional problems.
When a woman is talking nice to herself she will possess a good dose of confidence that will allow her to stand up for herself in conflict or difficult situations at work or in relationship.
Clear, balanced and realistic thinking leads a woman to right thinking and an empowered life. One way to clear your thinking of negative self-talk is to avoid thinking traps. Below is a sample of some of the most common traps and how they can tie a woman up in negativity.
Black and White/Good and Bad thinking is absolute and does not take into account the larger picture of the situation. All or nothing thinking can lead to generalized thinking that causes you to pin negative labels on your partner, your kids, or your boss. Rigid or negative views of others can distort your assessment of a situation in a way that can limit your ability to cope in an effective manner. If you have deemed your husband an @!##@ for example, you will be less likely to hear his perspective in an argument. Keeping your thinking clear of absolutes paves the way for more effective communication.
When you think as if you have a crystal ball, you are at risk to act as if you can read other people’s minds, and know what they will do. When you believe you know what someone else will do or feel, without their having told you, (even if you could be correct), you are at risk to behave from assumptions rather than reality.
For example, if you think you know what your best female rival at the job is thinking, you are a risk for “personalization,” —that is believing that everything she does or says is somehow related to, or a reaction to you. This can lead to comparing yourself unrealistically to that woman or others. When you personalize you are less able to know what is your responsibility and what is the other person’s. Some women are socialized to be people pleasers and apologizers. If you are of this mold, you might be at risk to look in the crystal ball and be unable to hold others accountable for their own choices.
The blame game is related to personalizing. It is thinking in terms of “poor me,” or “it’s all your fault.” Blame game thinking puts you at risk to behave as either a victim or a blamer. Blaming thinking is another trap that does not allow you to fully assess a situation in its various aspects and complexities. This thinking can lead to bad feelings about yourself; unresolved anger; and/or poor coping choices. This type of thinking can be particularly problematic in a career setting where you need to be judicious and think things over in a balanced manner. Blame game thinking can lead to over reacting and acting on impulse. Not a good idea with kids or co-workers.
Shoulding involves thinking that you and other people are supposed to think and/or behave in certain ways. (According to your ideas and values.) When you believe that there is only one set of behaviors that everyone must follow (whether you know you have such rules or not); you are apt to be more interested in proving that you are right rather than looking at a situation as realistically as possible. Shoulding may put you at risk to experience frustration and anger that are difficult to resolve. This type of reacting can cause problems in a work environment, or reduce the chances of solving parenting dilemmas. Shoulding can lead to the mistaken idea that others will change to suit you if you just find the right way to get them to do that. Think about how problematic that might be in your marriage! When you do not “Should” on yourself, you are more likely to grow emotionally. Should thinking is a thief that steals your peace of mind.
“What If” and “If Only “Thinking are forms of disaster thinking often referred to as “catastrophizing.” Thinking like this can lead down the path of victim thinking; and is likely to reinforce resentment, fears and anxiety. This type of thinking produces problems in relationships and can lead to depression. It is a peace of mind stealer that compromises your ability to assess a situation clearly and make the best choice of action in your work life or your relational life.
Women deserve equality in the workplace, respect in relationships and satisfaction in all areas of life. Negative Self-Talk will reduce the potential for these outcomes. Clear and healthy thinking, cleaned up of “thinking traps,” optimizes the chances for fulfilling relationships, successful careers and empowerment for living life wisely and well.