I was never someone who chastised themselves in front of others; I preferred to do that in the comfort of my own mind where I could use words like ‘stupid’, ‘silly’ and ‘ungrateful’ and no-one would tell me otherwise. But it’s a continuous process to change my (silent) self-talk from something negative into something positive; from something useless into something effective.
Training in non-violent communication has helped me see this even more – how language shapes our reality, and how by re-conceiving how we think of language we can start to see reality completely differently.
When it comes to your creativity and self-worth, one of the most effective changes you can make to your self-talk is avoiding (or eliminating) the language of moral judgements.
I’ve heard my clients say (and I’ve said it too):
“I’m bad at organising myself.”
“I’m no good at keeping on top of things.”
“I should be able to stay on track more.”
“I ought to make more effort to network.”
“I never seem to do social media in the right way.”
“I always introduce myself in the wrong way.”
These phrases are stuffed with moral judgements: good, bad, should, ought, right and wrong.
Moral judgements are a very easy way to teach children what to do (or not to do) and a very ineffective way to help ourselves develop and grow as people.
Good, bad, should, ought, right and wrong are, in my mind, part of this cluster of ‘fixed mindset attributes’ which I mentioned last week. If you are bad, that’s it. If you’re good, that’s it. There’s no dynamism there. Fairy stories replicate this fixed view of the world – rarely does the ‘baddie’ learn the error of the ways and even more rarely do you see a ‘goodie’ royally fucking it up.
But good, bad, should, ought, right and wrong are not fixed. What is morally reprehensible in one generation is acceptable the next. What you thought was ‘bad’ as a kid might now be something you do every weekend.
So for the purposes of growth, the question to ask is not, “What is wrong / right / good / bad about me?”.
The more effective, more useful, more powerful question to ask is, “What am I trying to achieve?”.
“I’m bad at organising myself.” >
“I want to be more organised with all my different projects so I meet deadlines and feel calm and collected.”
“I ought to make more effort to network.” >
“I want to go to more networking events where I can meet interesting people and maybe find new work.”
“I always introduce myself in the wrong way.” >
“I want to tell people about who I am and what I do in a way which is natural, fun and confident.”
Changing the question has three effects.
One, it moves you towards a growth mindset and away from a fixed mindset. Two, it turns it into a positive statement which helps you focus on the outcome more. Three, it gives you specific things to work on.
You can’t work on ‘bad’, ‘ought’ or ‘wrong’. But you can work on deadlines, calmness, finding interesting people, natural expression and confidence.
You can work on specifics. You can learn how to do those things. Truly, you can! You can grow and expand without limit.
But when you pin yourself down like a butterfly on a board with words like good, bad, should, ought, right and wrong, you can’t fly. And you were built to fly.
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