Amelia is 12 months old.
She’s in the living room surrounded by her family. She’s been crawling and pulling herself up on furniture for a few months now but today she’s letting go for the first time.
She manages a couple of stumbles towards Grandma and then she’s down.
The room erupts….
‘I’d give up if I were you, Amelia, you obviously can’t walk.’
‘She’s rubbish at walking.’
‘Stick with crawling Amelia, you’re no good at this’.
‘Some people are just not born to walk’
This is a ridiculous scenario but it’s one we play out with ourselves every day. We tell ourselves we ‘can’t’ do something when actually we just haven’t learnt and practised.
Amelia doesn’t have to become an Olympic speed walker or a long-distance champion. As long as she can get about to do what she wants to do, she’ll be fine.
The same is true for most of the skills we need to learn. We don’t have to be great at them all, just learn enough to get by.
As a toddler, Amelia is not deterred by falling and doesn’t interpret it as a sign she is ‘rubbish’ at walking. However we often interpret our ‘tumbles’ as a sign we are failing.
When Amelia is falling over, she’s learning, not failing.
And we all recognise that and love it when she pulls herself back up and tries again.
The statements on the left may feel true but they’re not as helpful as the ones on the right, as they suggest a fixed state rather than a point on a journey.
|WHAT YOUR INNER VOICE SAYS|
‘I’m not good at delegating’
‘I can’t do public speaking’
‘I’m rubbish at interviews’
‘I’m not good at this creative stuff’
‘I’m bad at networking’
|MORE HELPFUL SELF-TALK|
‘I’m find delegating difficult’
‘I haven’t learnt public speaking’
‘I need some more interview practice’
‘Creative stuff makes me nervous’
‘I need to work on networking’
This is a stage in your development, not a statement of identity.
We don’t have to tell ourselves we’re good at something when we’re clearly not, or confident about something when the opposite is true. It’s about reframing as a place on a journey rather than as an identity.
During a journey we can work on skills, we can evolve. Where we are today is not where we’ll be tomorrow. When we phrase it like an identity we close the door to progress, we are resigning our power to change and grow.
There was a time for all of us when we couldn’t walk (and as we age, that may return), but we all became competent walkers.
SELF-TALK DETERMINES OUTCOMES
It wouldn’t be so bad if self-talk was not so self-limiting. However, when we allow negative self-talk to go un-challenged we resign ourselves to reduced outcomes.
Very often clients tell me that they want to progress but are bad at networking – it’s just not them. They associate networking with schmoozing and generally sleazy, self-promoting behaviour.
Not only do they have the wrong idea about networking but they are misguided to think they can’t do it, enjoy it and benefit from it. But their self-identity as a ‘non-networker’/’hater of networking’/’too much integrity for networking’ has caused them to sell themselves short and it will surely limit their future.
If they instead told themselves ‘I need to practice a way of networking that allows me to stay true to my values’, they’d be far better off than shutting the door on it.
3 TOP TIPS FOR CHALLENGING SELF-TALK AND IMPROVING OUTCOMES
1) Listen to your inner voice – it might even be an outer voice. It’s the one that says ‘I’m no good at….’, or ‘I’ve never been able to …’ , or ‘I’m not the sort of person who …’
Catch it every time. Challenge it every time.
2) Challenge your negative self-talk. Is what you’ve just said true? And is it useful? If it’s not both of these, then rephrase it. Try making it a part of a learning or experience journey eg ‘I’ve not yet got enough experience of ….’ or ‘I haven’t paid attention to …’ Ensure these are statements of behaviour or of a situation, not of identity.
3) Celebrate being a Work In Progress (like Amelia). Skills and even interests change. What we spend time on grows. If you really needed to know how to strip an engine, you’d study it and master it. The fact that you’re not good with car mechanics is a reflection of that, not of who you are, and it can change whenever you ever need or want it to.
Let me know how you get on!