What language you choose to use and which questions you choose to ask matter intensely in life, especially when you are talking to yourself. We are all our own worst critic; me included. However, over the years, I have learned an incredibly important, helpful, and life-changing lesson which I would have thought was a bunch of crap when I was younger and so much more closed-minded. The words we use when thinking/talking to ourselves, and the tone and level of intensity of the way we say something actually play a gigantic role in determining the quality of the outcomes we reach in life, and the quality of our thoughts in general. Now, mind you, I say this from a place of TONS of personal experience on this topic…
When I was younger, 60+ pounds heavier, and took barely any control over my choices, you might have thought I was an insane person the way I talked to myself. The mean, unproductive things I said to myself and the questions I would ask only helped to keep me down in the depressed state I was in. And worse, those words only helped me to generate more negative thoughts and feelings about myself. It seemed that the more I focused on negativity, the more negativity I found in my life. Then in my 20s, I had a life-changing experience.
Did you ever have an experience, or learn something so profound, yet so simple that after you started implementing it into your life, you couldn’t believe you didn’t do it before? I went away to a seminar that lasted four days, where I learned an incredible amount about myself. I was forced to take a long, hard look at who I was and where I was at in my life. One of the main and most profound lessons was about how to manage my thoughts, my focus, and my state—something most people want but aren’t really sure how to go about getting.
The reason all of this resonated so much with me is because I’m a huge fan of this thing we call logic, or common-sense, and everything I learned was just so incredibly logical. Just think about it for a second: if you go around consistently saying things to yourself about how fat/disgusting/lazy/stupid or any other negative thing you view yourself as, those thoughts produce very specific feelings of self-loathing/depression/anger/anxiety/desperation/etc. It’s not like you think/say these things to yourself and then jump up feeling strong and take action towards achieving a goal, because these words/thoughts are not productive. The same goes for questions. If you regularly ask yourself questions like “Why do bad things always happen to me?” or “What did I do to have such bad luck?” you are letting your brain know that these are true things that you believe. Again, this creates a lot of negative feelings and inaction.
On the flip side, if you consciously decide to start choosing and directing your thoughts/words and questions to serve you, I guarantee you will experience at least some level of difference in how you feel; and big changes start with little differences. For me, it began with sitting down and writing out a list of all the things I liked about myself at the time. I was able to come up with a few things, like my honesty, loyalty, generosity, and strength, and I even pushed to list some physical attributes, like my lips, teeth, and butt! Just the simple act of sitting down and writing these things out began to change my focus. I then had a list of things to pull from when I found myself feeling down or negative towards myself. This led to a lot of talking out loud to myself, but I didn’t care because I knew that my old thoughts and questions were keeping me on the path to poor health.
Now, as soon as unproductive thoughts about myself come into my head, I just pick one or two of the things that I know are great about me, and then think about good experiences that those attributes have allowed me to have. And every time I start to ask myself a negative question like “Why do these things always happen to me?” I flip a switch and say out loud, “What can I do right now that will start to make this (whatever “this” may be) better?” or “What action can I take this second that will move me closer to that goal?” Asking these questions stimulates the brain and presupposes that there are things you can do, actions you can take right now to make forward-moving progress. The bottom line is that your brain will come up with answers to suit the specifics of the type of question asked. Whatever you think/say, your brain will come up with thoughts/ideas to support those statements and beliefs, whether they are productive or will hold you back from moving forward and growing as a person.
So now that you are aware that you can choose your thoughts/words and questions, only YOU can step up and take some action towards improving the way you have been using your incredibly powerful brain. Challenge yourself to sit down right now and list five or more things that you absolutely love about yourself—more would be better, but some of us have a very hard time giving ourselves the credit we deserve. I notice with myself and with many of my clients that we seem to be extra hard on ourselves because of the real need for all of the continuous monitoring required to dominate diabetes, and the inability to keep up with it sometimes, because it is truly constant. We are all human and will always have the occasional slip-ups, and those of us living with diabetes have an extra-large workload. But thankfully, I’ve learned that the sooner we recognize it, learn from it, and dismiss it with the intention of moving forward, the less time we spend beating ourselves up over something that has already happened and cannot be changed. Choosing not to spend time, energy, and thoughts on things we can’t change is a truly wonderful and freeing experience that is out there waiting for anyone who wants it badly enough.
What are some new, empowering questions you can apply to your life right now? Share in the comments below, and steal others’ questions for yourself! The more productive questions you have, the better!