This destructive habit is often a self-fulfilling prophecy – we talk ourselves out of improving our performance or maintaining good new habits.
We talk ourselves into just giving up.
Failing Again and Again
Many of us have failed time and time again, especially with diets and healthy eating habits. And so when you once again make a resolution to eat healthier, you carry the guilt and frustration of those failures. You start off not really believing you will succeed. Any little slip up leads you to criticize yourself and reinforce that you will just fail again.
Monitor your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself when you have a setback? If you skip a workout do you tell yourself you are a lazy slug? If you give in to a big portion of your favorite treat, do you tell yourself that you will always be fat and will never stick to a healthy diet?
Analyze Why You Went Wrong
Instead of criticizing yourself when you slip up, sit down for reflection. How many times in the past few days have you done it right? What feelings did you have that led you to go off course this time? What could you have done differently to address those feelings? Were you feeling deprived of treats and so you gave into the big piece of cake? Could you have asked for a half-size piece of cake, or taken a bite and then passed the plate around to your friends? If you skipped a workout because you were pressed for time, was there a time when you could have gotten in five minutes of stretching or a quick walk or jog so you weren’t completely inactive?
Once you’ve analyzed the reasons and come up with a course of action that would have kept you more on course, now talk to yourself in a positive way. “That cake was delicious. Next time I’ll savor a couple of bites rather than taking a big piece.” “I needed some breathing space in my schedule and so I missed the workout. I’ll bring a resistance band to work so I can get in some exercises while on hold on the phone.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more you catch yourself in negative self-talk and stop to analyze why you are criticizing yourself, the more you can redirect yourself to positive action. Eventually, you may begin congratulating yourself on doing the right thing rather than criticizing yourself for doing the wrong thing. Negative feelings and negative talk won’t cease completely, but if you use them as opportunities to analyze why things went wrong and to focus on positive actions, you will turn them into tools for improvement.
Fake It To Make It
Beyond negative self-talk, I give myself positive self-talk even when it’s not quite true. I tell myself throughout a tough workout that I love it and it is good for me, even as I want to quit. At the end I tell myself it felt great, even as I drag myself back to the locker room. At the end of a long training walk, even with new blisters on my feet, I tell myself it felt great to have made it that far. Rather than thinking that I must be aging or will never get more fit, I am thinking that I am somebody who loves the training and will challenge myself till I achieve new levels of fitness.