Contributed by Tanya Schiavone

One of the biggest obstacles to success is not believing in ourselves—a perception that is related to what we are told when we are little such as: “Don’t do that.” “What if the neighbors find out?” “That is stupid!” and so on!  These admonitions become the script that runs our lives.  As time goes by, these ideas become voices in our head that help us get through life.  But, as useful as they might appear, the negative tone of this voice tends to hold us back and prevent us from moving forward.

During the course of any given day, we say about 50,000 things to ourselves, 80% of which is negative feedback.  Can you imagine if your partner, boss or friend said negative things to you each day?  It is likely that we would try and do something about it. But it is more difficult to do anything about this voice within that we believe speaks the truth.

Recently I spent time with a friend who is going through a crisis of confidence and is always saying things that put herself down. In order to focus her attention on the project we were working on, I told her I wasn’t going to listen to her beating herself up. She stopped saying anything out loud but I am sure that her inner voice was as loud as ever. Later that evening, I thought about my friend and it occurred to me that, as much as I criticized her, I have my own limiting and negative self-talk which surfaces in certain areas of my life. For example, I have the belief that “I am terrible at networking” even though I approached strangers successfully as a salesperson for years and I have been told that I am fun to be around at parties and other social events.

So, why do I believe that I’m “no good” at networking?  Somewhere along the line, I developed this limiting belief when I declared this negative thought (“being no good”) as the truth.

In the book The Success Principles, there are several helpful exercises but this one stuck out to me because it provides a way to deal with negative self-talk. The exercise consists of four parts: Anger, Fear, Requests and Love.  Here is an example of how I have put it into play when it comes to my weight.

Instead of telling myself that I am gaining weight because I am lazy (a statement that usually has me sit down in front of the TV and eat a healthy serving of ice cream rather than feel inspired to exercise), I have modified my self-talk like this:

  • Anger.  Look at you just sitting there.  Why don’t you get up and exercise?  You are getting bigger and your clothes no longer fit you.  You spend all your money on a wardrobe that sits in the closet. You are just lazy.
  • Fear.  The reason why I am so angry is because I am afraid for your health. You are becoming weaker as time goes by. You used to be able to do 50 push ups and now you can barely make it to five without a struggle.  Not only that but walking up the subway stairs is becoming difficult for you.  What if your actions today lead to serious health problems in the future?
  • Requests. You don’t have to join a gym or work out for hours at a time, but you do have to do something.  Why don’t we create a small workout plan that you can do at home three days a week?  We can do lunges, squats, some arm strengthening and some stomach exercises.  It will be challenging but not overwhelming.
  • Love.  I love you and want you to be healthy and strong.  I know that feeling strong gives you confidence as well as physical health benefits.  I will support you when you are exercising and encourage you when you don’t want to start. You deserve to be healthy, strong and fit and you will be able to fit into your fabulous wardrobe in no time.

Since I have been doing this, I have found it easier to start and keep to my exercise program. I work out three times a week and find I miss it on my off days.  I feel stronger and I noticed a difference in my body after two weeks.  I am amazed at how much better I feel and how this change in my inner dialogue has turned inaction into action. Now I will put it to use with networking.

What negative thoughts do you have that keep recurring? How could you turn that around using the process described above?  We invite you to write your ideas in the box below.