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Unhooking from Self-Doubt and Criticism and Developing More Confidence

We all have an inner dialogue that underpins the relationship we have with ourselves, others and even the work we do. The inner voice can be both a powerful motivator or an obstacle to reaching your goals; your self-talk can rob you of inner peace and confidence or help you leap forward in life authentically.

The way we think affects our whole life and humans have an in-built negative bias that seeks to constantly protect you from taking risks or growing beyond the familiar. For example you might think "I will never get that promotion" and it may actually cause you enough distress to not actually apply for the interview in the first place. Or if you do go for the interview you may still project self-doubt in your body language, by not being relaxed and confident and as a result indirectly sabotage your success.

There's a few common thinking patterns researched in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) that could be described as self-critical and unhelpful. Particularly when trying to new learn things and grow. They can also be triggered when other people impose their thinking patterns on you which so often happen when you are young and your personality is being shaped by both internal and external dynamics.

The key to change is to start to become aware of your patterns by developing your self-awareness and mindfulness is a great practice to help you do that. All of these thinking styles act of defences for things we don't like about ourselves so one way to work with them is to reduce the resistance or identification with them.

Do any of these thinking patters sound familiar to you?

All or Nothing- Seeing things as black or white as opposed to shades of grey. Overgeneralising- This involves making rapid generalisations without evidence or experience.

Filtering-We all tend to filter out information that doesn’t confirm to already held beliefs. Often this means focussing on the negative elements of a situation and discounting the positive.

Exaggerating the negative and discounting the positive- contributes to anxiety and depressed moods. You may say something positive but follow it with a ‘but’ which leads to a negative statement.

Magnification and Minimisation- Here you give more weight to a perceived failure, weakness or threat and less weight to a success, strength or opportunity.

Emotional Reasoning- You presume that any negative feelings about something actually expose the true nature of things or think something based solely on a feeling.

Mind Reading- This is the habit of convincing yourself that you know what others are thinking without actual evidence.

Catastrophising- Through catastrophe we amplify anxiety, expect disaster and imagine the worst outcome.

• Blaming- This involves relating in an attacking or critical manner when we or others make mistakes.

The shoulds- This can lead to guilt or anger, and involves having a list of unbreakable rules for yourself or others.

Labelling- This attributes someone’s actions to their character instead of some accidental attribute. Instead of just thinking you made a mistake you think, ‘I’m a loser.’Personalisation- Here you take personal responsibility, including praise or blame for events for which you have no control over.

How can we change these internalised patterns and underlying beliefs?

Don't worry if you recognise one or a few of these thinking patterns- they are universal. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you but it gives you a great leverage point for doing some inner work. The great thing about increasing your self-awareness and being able to catch the voice of self-criticism is you can then become skilful at what we call unhooking from them. You can discover new ways to no longer feel trapped or stuck in a repetitive cycle and begin to explore other options or choices.

CBT coaching and counselling strategies can be helpful in helping you unhook from self-criticism

Looking at the evidence - based on the idea thoughts are not facts.

Shift out of rumination - going over and over something is not helpful. Change up and do something else to shift your focus.

Check-in to your thinking mind every now and don't let it run wildly on self criticism. A healthy dose of self-compassion can be a great anti-dote.

Keep your mind open by using the breath and open body posture to move attention away from thinking and into sensory awareness and the body.

Flip things around from negative to positive and look for the lessons.

Understand emotions from connecting them to your core values and align your actions by moving closer to what you value.

Take responsibility for crafting your life in the direction you chose.

Let go of judgements, labels, concepts and see if you can cultivate beginners mind.

What strategy can you put into practice this week?

Discipling your own mind takes commitment, care and practice. Mental health and wellbeing like physical fitness requires proactive exercises and attention. You can strengthen your resilience against self-criticism in the CBT strategies listed above. With some time and energy you can develop an inner voice that truly reflects your highest potential and authentic self.

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