Six Ways to Stop the Negative Self Talk

We all do it, no matter how optimistic and positive we are in general. We let our internal dialogue wander into those thoughts we don’t like — worrying about making the wrong decision, justifying a craving to eat the junk food we were going to avoid, feeling guilty we haven’t talked to a friend in ages, stressing out over a project that is taking forever, feeling unattractive and sluggish in our own skin, and wishing we had more help but not sure how to ask for it.

I just read an appalling statistic in “The Miracle Morning” that 80 percent of women have self-deprecating thoughts about themselves throughout the day. Whether you admit it or not, those thoughts are hampering your parenting. Author Hal Elrod says your self-talk has a dramatic influence on your level of success in every aspect of your life — confidence, health, happiness, wealth, relationships. I know this is true because I went through a period of my life when I was full of negativity about myself, and I later realized I had taken it out on my family and was mired in my problems longer because of it. Knowing so many other women are experiencing this regularly is so disturbing to me that I am determined to do my best to change it!

So I’ve come up with an acronym to replace those thoughts with some actions to override them. The next time uncomfortable thoughts creep in, I want them to trigger your mind to recall this acronym to take you away from your dark mood by shifting your focus to going through each letter of this list until one pulls you into a brighter and better place.

When you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, lost, angry, tired, or in need of a boost, remember:

M – Maybe – your new mantra to avoid decision fatigue, so have it as a ready answer!

O – Oranges – and apples and carrots, too, to resist junk food, so stash them everywhere!

M – Momfriends – no one understands like another mom, so make the call to connect!

S – Stop – done is better than perfect, so reduce stress by dumping impossible standards!

U – Underneath – that’s what matters most, not how you compare to some filtered image!

B – Backup – we all need it, so ask for help from family, friends and other nearby moms!

It spells MOMSUB — because as moms, we all wish we could find a substitute for ourselves occasionally, like schools do for teachers. MOMSUB is also the name of a new childcare service to help you find other mothers in your community to drive or watch your kids for $1 per kid per hour — so you can focus on something else that you need to do: like work, romance, friendship, self-care, or even just grocery shopping in peace.

The whole point is to make it easy to remember the acronym — MOMSUB — and those six words — Maybe Orange Momfriends Stop Underneath Backup.

Aside from a silly phrase, each word actually has its own story. The acronym can have even more meaning and impact for you when you understand the true essence and research behind each word.

I start with M for Maybe because I learned from author Sheena Ivengar in “The Art of Choosing” that we can become mentally overloaded by having to make too many decisions in a day. Do you know some successful women wear the same basic outfit every day to avoid having to decide what to wear? In fact, some people eat the same breakfast or lunch every day, drive the same way to work each week, and go to the same place for date night every month. You don’t have to go to that extreme, but it’s time to stop feeling like every possible choice you face has to be researched and evaluated. Can your kid have that sugar-laden cereal he is begging for? Maybe. (We’ll see how you act the rest of the time in the store.) Can you bring snack to the playgroup Friday? Maybe. (If I’m not swamped at work; otherwise the kids can live without it.) Can you find a sitter, so you can attend your husband’s bowling banquet next month? Maybe. (If it’s too much effort, then you might have to miss that annoying gathering.) Get the point? Researchers like Jonathan Levav say it can impact our judgment if we suffer from decision fatigue. So don’t make a decision if it takes more than a few seconds to figure it out, or defer it until later when you’re not frustrated, overwhelmed, tired or busy. If you end up not deciding before the deadline passes, then you eliminated that thing from your life — and that can be liberating, according to author Greg McKeown, who describes the advantages of paring down mental clutter in “Essentialism.”

I include O for Oranges because so many times we are short-tempered when our body is hungry, but we don’t realize the cycle of negativity we’re feeding by grabbing a convenient, unhealthy snack. So many physical and emotional problems can be overcome by eating healthier, and we become better role models for our kids when we do. Did you know your will power to resist junk food is greatly reduced when you’re hungry and there is no healthy food in arm’s reach? You can keep oranges and apples and carrots in your car and purse for days without refrigeration, and they pack far more nutrition in far fewer calories (45 calories in an orange and 95 in an apple) than a small bag of chips or can of lemonade or pop (about 250 calories for chips and more than 150 for the drink). And oranges actually satisfy your thirst, too. If you get annoyed peeling them like I do, have your kids do it. They love stuff like that. Then they’ll want to eat it. So have them peel another one — one for you and one for them. Maybe they’ll even peel one for their little brother if they’re feeling especially nice.

I add M for Momfriends because we all feel isolated on a regular basis and need to relate to our friends with kids who are facing similar struggles. It’s critical to reach out to these friends with a call when you’re feeling down. If they don’t answer, send a text to make plans to meet, and call the next friend — or your mom or sister or someone who gets you. We all need that connection, even that friend who seems too busy to see you.  Guess what? Your call might be just what she needed. So if you find yourself waiting in the school pickup line mad at yourself because you feel like another day passed without getting much done, start going through your contacts and calling your friends or even acquaintances who can turn into new friends. It’s far better than scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, which is not true connection and likely to make you feel worse if you’re having a down day and seeing everyone else smiling and crushing it on your feed.

I have S for Stop because so many moms are mired in perfectionism and put far too much effort into things they should just let go. I suffer from this terribly, so I know it’s a constant battle. (I’ve spent all day on this blog post, which I thought I would finish in less an hour!) But I did take a big leap forward in realizing the detrimental impacts of trying to do everything to my impossibly high standards when I read that Sheryl Sandberg has a sign at Facebook that says “Done is better than perfect.” How many things have you started and never finished because you had grand plans and wanted it to be just right? (Scrapbooking? I just print a few pictures and throw them in a photo album.) How many things have taken you so long to complete they lost their meaning? (Scout patches? I just attached them with safety pins before they outgrew the uniform.) How many times have you read a message and decided to wait to respond and discovered the thoughtful reply got there too late? (Email? I just answer the question and hit send.) I applaud the millions of A-type moms out there who feel a need to always do their very best as a parent, professional and partner. But that leaves nothing for you. We can’t possibly meet the high standards we had for ourselves before we had kids because we still have the same 24 hours in a day, and we want to focus on our kids during many of those hours. So let those standards go. Accept mediocrity. Give 75 percent instead of 110 percent, so you still have time for sleep and self-care.

I continue with U for Underneath because we logically know that our self-worth should be based on the caring person we are inside, but we constantly stress about how we appear on the outside. It’s natural to want to look good, and that can help us feel good. But we should only compare how we look to ourselves, not to someone on the cover of a  magazine who is photoshopped and filtered and doesn’t even look that way in person! Our culture has skewed us to think everyone’s real life is like their highlight reel on social media. It’s not. If you look in the mirror and see a tired-looking, out-of-shape woman looking back at you, compare her to yourself yesterday — not 10 years ago or the fitness trainer at the gym. Is she happy inside that she’s got a wonderful family? Then smile! As your face lit up and your eyes sparkled, you just looked less tired. Can she chase down a running toddler before he gets to the street? Then grab those sneakers or stilettos! As you slip on your shoes, you know you’re strong enough to tackle another day. It’s all because of the incredible power you have inside; that’s where your value resides. As you accept it in your heart and not just your brain, you will begin to feel it and exude it through what you do and say each day, killing off the negative thoughts and multiplying the positive ones. When you stop letting the outside affect how you feel on the inside, your healthier inner talk actually gives you a glow on the outside.

I end with B for Backup because we all need help when life throws us a curve ball or we’re just having a bad day. Too often, we don’t ask for or accept help, even when others are offering it. We are afraid to let others know we need assistance because we don’t want to owe anyone else a favor, surrender control, or seem weak, needy or incompetent. In her book “MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need,” author M. Nora Klaver gives specific suggestions on how to ask for help, and in his book “Help: The Original Human Dilemma,” Garret Keizer says ignoring the fact that we need help is dangerous because it can turn a small problem into a crisis. (You think you can watch the kids and work from home at the same time, until you lose a client when you miss a deadline.) Many moms have a village of family and friends around them who want to help, but they resist reaching out. In “Daring Greatly,” author Brene Brown says it’s actually a strength to reveal our vulnerabilities, so be grateful you have that tribe of friends willing to step in, by letting them know when they can make life a little smoother for you. Other moms don’t have a network like that, so they can start to develop one by offering to help moms they meet at their kids’ school and in their neighborhood, with the knowledge that they are building friendships that will prop them up when they need another mom to lean on.

The letters spell MOMSUB — an acronym for moms to remember in times of crisis and an app for moms to use when they could benefit from super affordable childcare. Acronyms have been helping us for years. In school, HOMES helped us remember the Great Lakes. Years ago I saw an infomercial from Dr. Fuhrman about the six essential healthy foods, and thanks to his acronym, I always try to buy GOMBBS (Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Beans, Seeds) whenever I’m grocery shopping. And I’m finally sticking with a new morning routine because all I have to do is follow the SAVERS acronym — Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing.

The whole point is that MOMSUB is easy to remember when you’re stressed out. With MOMSUB — Maybe is your ready answer. Orange is your go-to snack. Momfriends are your first call. Stop is your default response. Underneath is your true value. Backup is your needed escape.

Or if you’re more of a visual type, you can think about a friend dressed in orange who is a plumber ready to clear your clogged shower — maybe orange momfriends stop underneath backup. Okay, that is a weird picture, but if that’s all you remember, I hope it can help in times of stress.

 

 

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