Having focused on knowing ourselves during recent Wellness Wednesdays, we have identified unhealthy messages that are sent to us by others. It’s also important to become aware of toxic messages we send to ourselves.

Emma Seppala, director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, has identified five toxic phrases people who are highly self-critical say to themselves that damage their happiness and limit their potential.

  1. “I’m not good enough.” Our negativity bias can focus on one piece of criticism and neglect ten compliments. This toxic phrase can leave us feeling anxious and depressed. Instead, we can say, “What’s good for me right now?” Maybe we need to take a break, go for a walk, or visit with a supportive friend. This can help us come back stronger and in better spirits.
  2. “I’ll never be able to get this. Why bother?” The truth is that our brains are malleable. We can change careers at 50 and learn a new language or how to play the piano at 80. Instead, we can say, “I need more practice.”
  3. “I’m such a failure.” This is a soul-sucking and destructive belief. We take something we failed at and twist it into being a failure. We equate a momentary experience into who we are.

Instead, we can see failure as an opportunity to grow. We can say, “I’ve learned a lot,” and be aware that life experiences have made me wiser.

  1. “I can’t believe I did that. I am so stupid.” This draining and demeaning toxic statement can make us stop trying. The truth is that the only way we learn is by allowing ourselves to try and to make mistakes. Instead, we can say, “I’m not perfect, but just like a toddler falling down when learning to walk, I’m not going to judge myself harshly; rather, I will move forward.”
  2. “I’m not as good as them.” When we compare ourselves to other, we feel like we don’t measure up. And, because everyone is different, we don’t. Instead, we can focus on the attributes we do have. We may not tell the funniest jokes or speak three languages, but our Excel spreadsheet skills are unparalleled.

Reflection: Notice a toxic message you sometimes send to yourself. Identify what you can say instead so that toxic message doesn’t become a destructive belief.

From our Top 20 team, Willow, Tom, and Kevin, destroyers of toxic messages.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training