"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." This childhood chant was intended to help bolster courage against verbal attacks. They are only words afterall, how we respond to them
is what matters. The truth is however, words can hurt, especially if you are a sensitive person. But possibly nothing is more painful that the ongoing, pervasive barrage of critical self-talk going through the heads of many
In the classes I teach, I often ask if anyone can relate to "being their own bestfriend." Every now and then a person will raise their hand, but nearly everyone in the room raises their hand when asked if they can relate
to "being their own worst critic."
Studies show that everyday we have between 5K to 50K thoughts going through our heads. That's a whole lotta of ouch if your inner self-talk is negative and self-critical. How did we get this way? Well, there are a few things to
blame it on...
First of all, the default thinking of most human beings is biased to negative. This is simply for survival reasons. To survive as a species, we had to be prepared and aware of anything that could go wrong. Therefore, we had to be
looking and watching and assessing what was ok and what was not ok and potentially dangerous in our environment including ourselves and others.
Secondly, and perhaps more relevant is our inner voice(s) are simply repeating the pattern of parenting we experienced as children growing up. If you had nurturing parents then your self-talk is likely to be more supportive and
compassionate. If you were on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, then your self-talk is likely to be more critical. The truth is: the voices of our parents are alive and well and living in our heads!
In addition, your parents didn't even have to use words for you to develop negative self-talk. As children, we often see ourselves as responsible for what is happening around us, especially if no one is helping us to be objective in
our conclusions. We pick up a lot from the non-verbal language people use, how we're treated and the feelings of others. The end result is we tend to be unforgiving and sometimes relentless in beating ourselves up for not being
Finally, just observing how our parents interpreted events and what type of self-talk they demonstrated influences the pattern we develop for ourselves.
Interestingly, all of these influences on our self-talk are environmental and experiential. We aren't born with negative self-talk, we develop it in response to our life circumstances.