Negative self-talk used to plague me as a child and an adult well into my 20s. It prevented me from being honest in my relationships, and it kept me at bay – away from my dreams, goals, and potential. I had grown up as a shy kid, and I assumed my lack of positivity stemmed from low self-esteem. So, I simply accepted myself in this way and continued to lead a life in which I complained about every setback and missed opportunity.

It wasn’t until I changed my lifestyle, started teaching yoga and meditation, and began therapy that I realized just how in control I had always been with my life choices, and never knew it.

I started journaling every time I felt triggered

Writing my thoughts down – especially the heavy ones – enabled me to see them in a more objective light. Once they were down on paper, I felt a bit more detached from them, and I could then analyze them and pick them apart to get deeper into what I was feeling. This wasn’t a surefire way of stopping negativity in its tracks, but it was such a therapeutic first step and a release. It enabled me to separate my thoughts from my feelings, long enough to structure a reason why I was feeling in such a way, or a simple confession that I was feeling low or depressed.

I later realized that starting this step of consistently writing helped me uncover my inner voice, the one that was deeper and kinder than the negative “roommate” that had berated me for years. This voice was gentler and softer, and guided me deeper into parts of my psyche I felt I couldn’t navigate on my own. With writing came a newfound confidence to begin to speak my truth.

I began to dive deeper into what my negative self-talk was trying to truly teach me

I knew there was a bigger picture behind the talk, and I was determined to find out what it was. Through therapy, self-help books, and some intense self-development exercises, I realized that even poor self-talk is a powerful force for good; we just have to stick with it long enough to dive underneath the superficial, and see the lesson that lies therein. 

With the help of meditation and mindfulness exercises, I began to pause each time I would hear that familiar voice speak up. I truly started to listen. Beneath each heavy blow was fear – fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of being seen as vulnerable, weak, or exposed. The more I listened and became aware, the more triggers, memories, and suppressed feelings came up for me, until I was buried in a pile of emotional debris, years in the making. With it all, I would return to writing and seeking out close friends or therapists with whom to share this information.

Before long, I realized I had created a ritual in which I could let go of any thoughts that no longer served me. My negative self-talk, while draining, was simply leading me to this realization and action. And the best part? I could create new habit patterns, such as this one, any time, because I knew that it would take just as much energy to give into negativity as it would to embrace positivity.

I found courage to open up to friends and family, in times of both celebration and confrontation

Before, my negativity would never have allowed me to share my feelings with the ones closest to me. I felt a certain degree of embarrassment to not be able to stand vulnerably with my problems at the hands of welcoming friends and relatives; and so I continued to remain silent. However, it wasn’t until I started journaling and receiving lessons behind the talk that I found coherence to be able to express myself verbally. This step alone was one of the biggest shifts I had felt, and it opened the floodgates of communication and connection. I no longer felt afraid to be in the mix of my thoughts and feelings, and better yet, I found footing on which to speak to this experience with others. Not only has it been therapeutic for me, but it has connected me with other people who are going through their own struggle. I felt a calling to hold space for them, just as my friends and family held space for me; I truly believe that this kind of mental and emotional hand-holding is what can change how we see mental health in general.

This mindful practice is work. Every day, I tap back into my potential to heal myself and be gratefully comfortable in my own skin; but some days are harder than others. I’ve embraced that healing is not linear, and I welcome each day as a lesson and a blessing to continue to live in my highest Self and help others do the same.