Do thoughts like “I’m not talented” or “I don’t stand a chance” get in the way of your ability to create? What can you do to silence negative self-talk and other thoughts that don’t serve you? Here are some good ideas for banishing negative self-talk.
There are many useful tactics available from the cognitive-behavioral school of therapy that you can use to get a better grip on your mind and help yourself think more productively and positively. Here’s one powerful technique to try.
What typically happens is that you have a productive thought (like “I’m ready to paint!”) and then you immediately follow that productive thought up with an unproductive thought that stops you in your tracks.
This sounds like “I’d love to practice the piano” followed by “I’m much too old to learn complicated piano music.” Or “I want to get a good grade on the exam” followed by “There’s too much material to learn in the next few days.” Or “If other people can teach online classes, I can too” followed by “But they probably have tech help and know some secrets that I don’t know.”
This cognitive sabotage happens all the time. It is almost what we do best as a species. What I would like you to do is to notice how this dynamic works in your own life. Look at your own defensiveness, self-unfriendliness and self-sabotage when it comes to those things that you claim matter to you. Too often we say that X matters and then we follow that thought with any number of thoughts that do not help us accomplish X.
The discounting or self-sabotaging thought might be ‘I’m too tired to do X,’ ‘It’s too late in life for me to do X,’ ‘I’m too busy to do X,’ ‘I say that X matters to me but really it doesn’t,’ and so on.
Complete the following, filling in the X and Y with your own responses: “I say that X matters to me. But I often follow that thought up with Y thought, a thought that does not serve me. I no longer want to countenance that thought. And here’s what I’m going to do!” You may have more than one self-unfriendly Y thought—you may have lots of them! Include them all. The clearer you are on the things that you say to yourself that don’t serve you, the better your chances of extinguishing them.
Your exercise response might sound like the following: “I say that painting matters to me. But I often follow that thought up with ‘I have no talent,’ ‘The competition is too fierce out there,’ ‘I need to make money, not play at painting,’ and ‘I don’t have enough time to paint.’ I no longer want to countenance those thoughts. From now on the moment I hear one of those thoughts that don’t serve me I’m going to shout right back at it!”
Here’s how some folks completed this exercise:
“I say that art making and selling my art work matters to me. But I often follow that thought up with the thought that my artwork is not good enough to be considered attractive to buyers, a thought that does not serve me. I no longer want to entertain that thought. I will be open to opportunities to market my art and I will actively search out the support of art patrons.”
“I say that being organized matters to me. But I often follow that thought up with the thought that I will take time to organize my living space in the future, a thought that does not serve me. I no longer want to entertain that thought. I am going to take the time today to organize my living space so that it feels peaceful and spacious, with a good energy flow.”
“I say that working on my watercolors and collages are important to me. But I often follow up that thought with what does any of it really matter? In the last few years, I’ve come up against so many roadblocks. It doesn’t feel like I matter to anyone. My husband is sick and needs my attention. Maybe concentrating on more basic needs is the most important thing to do–cleaning, gardening, exercising, etc. But I realize that the only way I can fail at my art is if I stop. The thought about quitting doesn’t serve me because it prevents any success from ever happening. I no longer want to entertain the thought of stopping!”
“I say that fibercraft matters to me, but I often follow that thought up with the following thoughts, that I’m too tired to knit, that it’s too troublesome to gather up the materials, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I’m not making art, I’m just following instructions, that I don’t have the right tools, that I’m a poser and a pretender, and that I’ll do it wrong. These thoughts do not serve me and I no longer want to countenance those thoughts. I am going to knitting right now!”
I hope you can sense how this process of disputing thoughts that do not serve you can help you create more often and more deeply. Do the above exercise and then put the results into practice!