Before I was an anxious man, I was an anxious boy. I worried constantly. And I especially worried inside of my head. Some people fidget nervously when they are anxious. My worry mode of choice has always been overthinking and rumination.
As a child, I worried about my friends. I worried about my parents. I worried if I did the wrong thing, the right thing, or a combination of the two. And one particular way that my worry manifested was in the form of negative self-talk.
The worry and the negative self-talk were connected.
Here’s an example of my self-talk when I was younger:
“I can’t believe I did that. I always do that. Why do I always do that?? It’s such a stupid thing to do.”
Now, there are several issues with this line of thinking. It doesn’t even matter what I did or didn’t do. That’s not the point. So often, what actually occurred becomes so far removed from the train of thought it produces that it becomes nonsensical.
One of the issues with the above thinking is the extreme statements. No one ALWAYS does or doesn’t do something. That is called all-or-nothing thinking, and no person is ever all one thing or another. People are complex human beings, but the brain craves certainty and wants to trick us into thinking that we are only one thing or another.
Another issue with my worried thinking that turned into negative self-talk is the cascading nature of it. I don’t know about you, but when I feel anxious, I start to pile one problem onto another. It starts with a simple worry about not calling a friend back like I said I would and then all of a sudden I am the world’s worst friend. Not only that, my brain tries to tell me that I never call ANYONE back. Yeesh.
Self-talk cascades. But that means if negative self-talk builds upon itself, then the same should be true for positive self-talk.
I’ve found that it is.