We all have that nagging negative voice that echoes through our minds from time to time. It's just a part of how humans operate. But what if that voice never stops nagging and starts holding you back from achieving your goals?
The first step to building better habits is by practicing self-compassion. When you're not feeling so great about your progress, it's easy to get down on yourself and start listening to that negative inner dialogue -- also known as negative self-talk. Having a negative inner dialogue may limit your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities. Focusing on negative thoughts may lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression.
Negative self-talk is NOT a proper way to hold yourself accountable, it’s actually counterproductive. It avoids getting to the root of your problem, which ultimately will hinder you from making any long-term changes or progress towards the goals you set for yourself. Instead of always getting down on yourself when you fall short of your goals, try these proactive, positive practices to hold yourself accountable instead:
If you're behind on your goals, remind yourself it's never too late to try again.
It's easy to get frustrated with yourself when you don't meet your goals. We all want to be better than we are, but sometimes it can be hard to get out of our own way and actually do something about it. When you feel like giving up on a goal, remember that failure is just another stepping stone towards success. It's better to keep trying than to have never tried at all. Trying is the first step towards succeeding.
Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings -- and stop comparing yourself with others
Take note of what triggers certain thoughts and emotions in you so that you can learn how to manage them better over time and don't compare yourself with others. Everyone has different backgrounds, personalities and experiences that shape who they are today and where they're going tomorrow. What works for one person might not work for another person. The only person you should be competing with is yourself, so act as your own coach. A good coach isn’t berating their players, they’re motivating them to become better versions of themselves.
Surround yourself with positive people: Find a support system and talk about what you want to accomplish
Whether you're trying to stick to a consistent fitness routine or follow a healthier diet, hold yourself accountable by surrounding yourself with positive people. Find a good support system of like-minded individuals whether its friends, family, or local community members, and talk about what it is you want to accomplish.
The old saying is true, misery loves company. Make sure that those around you are supportive and encouraging. You don't want to surround yourself with people who will bring you down. You can even join an online group if you're feeling shy or don't feel like sharing your goals with others in-person (which is totally normal). But when you share your goals with others who are going through the same thing as you are – it’ll help motivate you and give you that extra push!
Celebrate the small wins, use setbacks as an opportunity for reflection and learning, not shame.
Instead of focusing on your slip-ups or constantly looking at the long-term goals you've set for yourself; celebrate the small wins and use any mistakes as an opportunity for reflection and learning, not for shame. You can celebrate small wins by keeping a running list of your small victories to look back on, treating yourself to a relaxing self-care day, or by sharing your small wins with close friends or a support group.
Remind yourself why this goal is important and what led you to make this change in the first place, whether it's something big like quitting smoking or something smaller like getting enough sleep every night. Focus on what's going right in your life instead of what's wrong. When you notice that you're starting to feel down about things that didn't go as planned today (or even yesterday), take a few minutes to reflect on what’s been going right.
Work on increasing your self-compassion
If you start hearing those negative thoughts in your head, say them aloud. Ask yourself if that’s how you would talk to a close friend or family member in your situation. This may sound counter-productive on the surface, but try writing down your negative thoughts as soon as they come up so that you can look at them objectively.
You can’t stop negative self-talk from happening, but you can work on increasing your self-compassion. When you start hearing those negative thoughts in your head, say them aloud. Ask yourself if that’s how you would talk to a close friend or family member in your situation. If it isn’t, then why are you speaking to yourself that way? Instead, try writing down three positive statements about yourself and repeat these statements throughout the day. Tell yourself that you are strong and capable, even when things get hard. Tell yourself that you have done great things in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Let go of perfectionism
Perfectionism is another thing that leads to negative self-talk. Perfectionism is a set of beliefs about what we should be doing or achieving and how we should be doing it. Perfectionists tend to be very hard on themselves when they don’t achieve their goals or meet their own expectations of themselves. This can cause disappointment, leading to more self-criticism and negative thoughts about themselves. Perfection is a myth. Embrace your flaws and respect yourself for making an honest effort, no matter what the outcome may be.
Lastly, practice gratitude every day
Gratitude has been shown to improve mood, decrease stress and even boost immune function — all things that are good for your mental health! Start by making a daily list of things in your life that you are grateful for — even if they seem small or silly (like the sun setting after a long day at work). You can also try keeping a gratitude journal where you write down three things each day that made you happy or thankful during that day.