How many of you have caught yourself engaging in negative self-talk? I’d bet money that most of us have. I think some people want to pretend that they have incredibly high self-esteem because having low self-esteem is stigmatized. It’s seen as a weakness or flaw of sorts. Well, I’m here to tell you that recognizing your negative self-talk is actually a STRENGTH that many people don’t have the humility and self-awareness to recognize.
Medical school has in many ways worsened my self-bashing. Once you get in you are surrounded by some of the most intelligent people in the world and inevitably, it is very difficult to not compare yourself to your peers. By this point, we all know comparison is not going to help you, but, nevertheless, we still do it. Early on in my medical school journey, I recognized how destructive these thoughts were because I didn’t know how to work through them. I realized how easy it was to fall into this behavior and really self-destruct. Recognizing this made me want to change the way I thought.
So, how do you banish these negative thoughts? Truth is, it is incredibly difficult to rid yourself of them completely. BUT, you can work through them and come out on the other side a more self-aware, self-loving being.
#1 Consider the 50,000 ft view. We often see things our way because we are deep into whatever it is that we are thinking about. When you are stuck in one train of thought, for example, that you aren’t smart enough to do X, we don’t often take that 50,000 ft view into account. Challenge yourself to take a step back and look at the larger picture. How would someone else see this situation if they were looking at it from the outside in?
#2 Ask yourself, “How is this growing me?” Most times negative self-talk is destructive, but sometimes rooted somewhere deep in that talk there is a glimmer of possible positivity. For example, let’s say you are questioning your exercise habits and saying I wish I was like my classmate who trains for marathons. Ask yourself, how can I turn this negative self-talk into something more useful? The mere fact that your thinking about your exercise habits is positive! Turn that talk into action! Take a step towards your goals. If the goal is a marathon, decide to go on a short run or maybe even a walk.
#3 Call your mother. If you can’t manage to get yourself to do #1, I guarantee your mom can do it for you. Mom’s pretty much only see the good in their children, let’s be real. My mother is my biggest cheerleader and always steers me back to reality.
#4 Put yourself in the hot tub time machine. This is my attempt at humor. Fast-forward your life 10 years. Will this matter in 10 years? When I’m feeling really badly about myself, I ask myself this question. For example, I’ve beaten myself up mentally about getting questions wrong in front of attendings and looking “stupid.” In this situation, asking yourself if this will bother you in 10 years will lead you to a quick and clear answer: NO! Put things into perspective! Let things roll over your back occasionally, because in the long-run maybe these things aren’t as terrible as your current state of mind makes them out to be.
#5 Choose to accept your true flaws and not the lies you make up. How many times has your self-talk been straight up FALSE? Lots. I’ve told myself some of the meanest things that really aren’t true!! I’ve caught myself saying that I’m dumb, unhappy with my appearance and unsuccessful. In reality I’M SMART, BEAUTIFUL AND SUCCESSFUL. That’s the truth. Do I have “flaws?” Absolutely. I’ve failed exams, struggled to lose weight, forgotten about certain relationships and gotten frustrated that I’m not better at blog photography. That is also the truth. But, I’ve gotten to a place where I can accept these things about myself. We all have flaws and that is what makes us human!
#6 Practice… because self-awareness and self-love is not easy and will take time to master.
Turning my photography frustration into practice!