Are you saying negative, self-sabotaging words to yourself without even realizing it? It’s difficult to thrive in life — let alone during the cancer journey — if you allow your inner critic to run the show.
“Self-sabotage is the will of the ‘inner critic’ we all have inside us,” says Lauren Garvey, MS, CRC, NCC, a counselor and facilitator at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “Our inner critic is a voice that points out our flaws and doesn’t want us to be happy or love ourselves. We can’t trust it in terms of what it’s telling us to do.”
The voice of our inner critic has developed over time, often because of negative messages we’ve internalized from parental figures, teachers or life experiences.
“We may realize that our self-talk is full of deeply ingrained judgments about the way we perceive ourselves,” she says.
Nix negative self-talk
“Negative self-talk doesn’t represent a positive sense of self and it can prevent us from truly appreciating how wonderful we are,” explains Garvey.
She suggests the following tactics to identify and reduce negative self-talk:
Avoid comparing yourself to others. “We may think, for example, ‘The woman in my support group has continued to work during cancer treatment, but I haven’t and feel like a failure,’” says Garvey. “But this isn’t useful because how your body responds to treatment may be completely different from how hers reacts. Comparison is not helpful. You are the only person who knows what is right for you.”
Be cautious about the labels you give yourself. “Our bodies follow our thoughts,” she says. “You’re not doing yourself any favors by labeling yourself as rude, mean or stupid. It doesn’t help you or others in any way.”
Depersonalize the negative self-talk. Remember that a challenging circumstance or relationship is not who you are, but rather something you are experiencing.
Practice mindfulness. “When we practice mindfulness, we can identify negative self-talk and tell ourselves to stop,” says Garvey.
Reframe your thoughts. Instead of, “I’m lazy,” try, “I’ve been through cancer treatment and my energy levels haven’t quite gotten back to where they were or where I want to be.”
Seek support. “To change the way we treat ourselves, we must let go of the self-sabotaging behaviors that we have held onto for so long,” says Garvey. Consider seeking support from a counselor as you work to change these habits.
Set realistic expectations for yourself. “Having realistic expectations for yourself sets you up for success, whatever that means for you,” she says. “If you have a lot going on and need to rest, skipping an activity to take care of yourself is a tremendous act of self-love.”
In addition to recognizing and reducing negative self-talk, it’s important to practice self-love. Learn how self-love can improve your cancer journey.