My little niece was being bullied at school. It was horrible to hear what the other kids were saying to her face and how they were ridiculing her. At one stage I caught myself thinking "you'd never say something like that to yourself never mind someone else".
But that thought immediately stopped me in my tracks.
Because, you know what? Many of us, especially women, are just as cruel (if not more so) to ourselves every single day. It's like we've let the playground bullies into our heads and they're running riot; they're ruling our mind.
Think about it. How many times have you made a mistake and the mean girl in your head yells "well.. that was just stupid!"?
How many times have you looked in the mirror and all you can hear in your head is "look at all those wrinkles!"?
How many times have you walked past a shop window and caught a reflection of yourself and thought "wow! you could do with losing (quite) a few kilos!" or you've looked at someone else and thought "I could never be as attractive as her"?
Every day in every way we put ourselves down. Every day in every way we allow the mean girls in our head to rule the roost and knock us down at every possible opportunity.
How, do you think, can we ever keep stepping forward on our quest for self-love when our self-talk is full of everything but love?
Psychologist and RTT founder Marisa Peer, motivational self-help author Louise Hay, motivational speaker and self-help author Wayne Dyer, author and positive thinking advocate Normal Vincent Peale, to name but a few, have all studied the effects of self-talk and how you can turn your life around by controlling the mean girls in your head and over-writing negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
It's not that we want to completely turn off the voice in our head (it does have a purpose), nor can we. What we want is to stop it running amok and train it so that it changes from being a voice of negativity and nastiness into one of positivity and support.
But how on earth do we do that?
All too often I hear people tell me that the brain is simply far too complex an organ. After all scientists have proven that, on average, we only use 3% of our brain's actual capacity. So surely there's no way you can waken up one day after years of fear, negativity, and damaging self-talk to suddenly turn things around and change that little voice, which so many of us are blissfully unaware of consciously, into one of support, positivity, and encouraging self-talk.
All too often I hear people tell me that after years and years of living beliefs (and proving their truth) that they acquired as a child from their parents, teachers, and even the media, that it's simply impossible to erase all those beliefs and quieten the mean girls in their mind.
But I believe you can. Granted it's not an overnight miracle but I, like Marisa Peer and many others, believe you can change the way you think and change the way the little voice in your head talks to you. Because, as Marisa Peer, says it's really not that complicated: what you tell your mind, your mind believes.
When you were young and learning you may have made a mistake and someone turned to you, not necessarily out of meaness, and told you (or implied) that what you did was stupid. And you associated 'stupid' with yourself. So now, and for years since, every time you made a mistake you called yourself 'stupid' until that little voice in your head put it on auto-pilot to repeat everytime you make a mistake.
When you were younger and reading fashion magazines, those fashion magazines would show you a (airbrushed) picture of a woman that implied that only thin, elegant women with perfect skin were beautiful. So before long you associated thin women who had perfect skin as being the norm and because you didn't see perceive yourself as 'thin enough' or fitting into what you believed was the norm and because you had a pimple here and there or a wrinkle, you started to think you were overweight and ugly. So now, and for years since, every time you look in the mirror you chastise your body shape, you beat yourself up for the imperfect shape and skin you see standing in front of you. Every time you've trained that little voice in your head to degrade you for not being the perfect woman you were taught about in the fashion magazines all those years ago. And that little voice diligently learned its lesson and is now running on auto-pilot, picking up on every perceived imperfection and honing in on it like a hungry missile.
After years of such programming is it really possible to change our dialogue? I believe it is. As I mentioned before: what you tell your mind, your mind believes. So to turn the mean and nasty girls in your head, who in fairness are only trying to keep you safe (in a rather bizare fashion, you'd think), into loving and supportive voices, you simply need to tell your mind what you want to believe differently and put that on repeat until your mind accepts it and believes it to be the new truth.
Some advocates, of positive thinking and training your mind to be supportive and loving, believe in acting reactively. To do this you need to tune into that little voice in your head that's running on auto-pilot and correct it. So everytime you hear it call you stupid, you correct it by saying "I am smart". But, here's the thing, we have up to 80,000 thoughts a day. That's up to 3,300 thoughts per hour. I don't know about you but I would stuggle to tune into and correct every single thought that's running on auto-pilot.
So I prefer a more proactive approach. One where you train your mind by feeding it nutritious positive thoughts on a daily basis on repeat.
So every morning when you get up and every evening before you go to bed, you can re-programme your brain by repeating "I am" phrases. Phrases such as "I am smart", "I am beautiful" (you can see a whole bunch of examples in my blogpost here), repeating them while you stand in front of a mirror making eye contact with the amazing person looking back at you (ie you).
And creating very personal affirmations which light you up, which make you feel excited, which positively affirm how you plan your life to be (you can read my tips on creating the perfect affirmations for you here). Affirmations that you can learn off pat so you can repeat them to yourself anytime you feel your mean girls taking control.
But here's the thing.
Here's the secret.
You've just spent years proving to yourself that the beliefs you learned and picked up as a child, or a younger version of you, are true by allowing them to, unconsciously, run on repeat in your head. Even beliefs you know no longer serve you or, in your conscious mind, believe are not true. That's not something you can reverse by standing in front of the mirror one morning and repeating your "I am" statements. Nor is it something you can reverse by writing out a few affirmations that you say out loud one time only.
It's like a muscle that you need to keep flexing every single day in order for it to grow stronger, in order for your old beliefs to be overwritten.
But here's the good news.
If you consciously flex this new muscle and focus on it becoming strong, it won't take years to over-write the years of negative beliefs that have kept you small. It won't take you years to change the voice in your head from one of a mean girl to one of a cheerleader. If you consciously flex your muscle and diligently repeat your "I am" statements and your affirmations, daily, you'll soon discover that what you tell your mind, is what your mind truly believes.
Some people will tell you it takes 21 days to create a new habit. But science will tell you it takes, on average, 66 days for a new habit, new behaviour or new thought to become automatic. That's just over 2 months.
What's the price you'd pay for happiness? What's the price you'd pay to fall back in love with yourself? What's the price you'd pay to have a mind that is kind and supportive?
The price is only in terms of time. And that's, on average, only 66 days of your life.