It is estimated that we have about sixty thousand thoughts a day and for the average person, two-thirds of them consist of negative self-talk. Some of those negative thoughts are realistic and help guard us against problems.
After all, we have no control over many of the events that occur around us. Many of those events can destroy what is important to us. Floods, fires, accidents cause stress and loss happen.
But then, we can have many negative thoughts that create unnecessary mental distress. That is unless we activate the power to reject those harmful thoughts and focus on boosting our self-esteem. Some might say using the power of positive thinking.
In my book, From Woe to WOW: How Resilient Women Succeed at Work, I refer to nine survey respondents who identified affirming self-talk as their resiliency strengthening strategy. One wrote, “I talk in my brain. ‘I can handle this. Stay calm.’”
The bottom line is, our self-esteem relies on affirming messages. It is up to us to not only receive but accept, internalize and focus on life affirming messages. It’s an inside job! Here’s where powerful metaphors can be used to tackle our negative self-talk.
Negative Self-Talk Metaphors
Tame Your Monkey Mind
The Buddhists refer to our negative self-talk as monkey mind. It is as if our minds become cluttered with nasty chitter chatter. Our head fills with a drunken and giddy monkey. That monkey mind beats our self-esteem black and blue. But we can take that metaphorical wild monkey and put a collar on it. We can contain it; contain our thoughts and soothe it to calm. See your monkey-self as lovable, capable and resilient.
Use Thoughts to Create Hell or Heaven
John Milton said, “The mind is its own place, and can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.” Notice if your thoughts are filled with hellish words such as suffering, torment, wretchedness, torment, or anguish. Or are your thoughts filled with heavenly words such as grateful, blessings, bliss, joy, happiness, or harmony?
Catch Your Thought Gremlins
Rick Carson, the author of Taming Your Gremlin, describes negative self-talk as originating from a Gremlin. These internal, nasty, little, creatures natter away beating up our psyche. Carson gives direction on how to develop positive self-talk.
Freshen Your Stinking Thinking
Our negative thoughts can start to pile up and smell like a manure pile. It ferments without fertilizing anything. Unless we stick a pitchfork into our stinky pile and pitch the poop for a fresh perspective, the stinking thinking will build. Start digging!
Weed Your Thought Garden
Consider, thoughts are like seeds that get planted in our mind. Once planted, we can decide to water those thoughts or not. If our thoughts are like weeds they take up precious space and push out our positive thoughts. It was our eldest daughter, Kelly, who said something like, “We are not responsible for our initial thoughts. But we are responsible for how long we entertain them or whether we act on them.” Pay attention to what thoughts you are fertilizing and helping grow. Weed out the stifling thoughts.
Feed the Right Wolf
The power of focusing thoughts is poignantly described in the North America aboriginal legend, Two Wolves.
An old Cherokee Grandfather was approached by his grandson. The young boy felt angry with a friend who had done him an injustice.
The grandfather began, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.”
He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?” The grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
Choose one of the metaphors above to become aware of the negative self-talk you want to minimize. Then develop a self-empowering repertoire of positive self-talk.