We all deal with negative self-talk in some form or another throughout our daily lives. I often notice negative self-talk creep into my mind when I’m creating a new habit. Forming a new habit isn’t easy! Especially in the busy lives of surgeons. If we fail to meet our perfectionist standards, that voice inside our heads can turn into our most brutal critic. All too often our own self-criticism outweighs the real consequences, and rarely does that critic serve our greater purpose. When negative self-talk occurs, it can seriously impede our progress.
One recent example from my life is creating a wellness routine throughout the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, practicing yoga with an instructor in a heated studio 3 days per week was an important part of my physical and mental well-being. As the pandemic wore on, and I couldn’t practice in a studio, I was forced to create something new. But I found it difficult to recreate the mental focus and enjoyment I experience in the studio. Recorded video classes are tough with internet glitches. I shifted to more Peloton cycling, but it didn’t really match the wellness routine that I had. With all these challenges, my yoga practice has diminished significantly, which has led to me beating myself up with negative self-talk.
When we don’t achieve the way we think we should and negative self-talk creeps in, how do we process it to mitigate the impact and to stay committed?
I try being more positive around the failure, and reframing it to gain perspective.
Duration – Frequency – Intensity
When I consider if I am really failing, instead of continuing to beat myself up with negative self-talk, I think about duration – frequency – intensity:
- Duration – How long are my failures? Has it been months, weeks, or just a few days?
- Frequency – How often am I coming up short? Am I missing one day of practice every once in a while? Weekly? Or is it a regular occurrence?
- Intensity – How bad was the fail? A 30-minute class isn’t my usual one-hour class, but it’s better than none.
Asking myself simple questions about duration, frequency, and intensity has improved my perspective about my “level” of failure. This doesn’t even include that “the why” are largely factors outside of my control. I realize that I need to give myself credit for time I am investing in my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I am still exercising.
So instead of the uncontrolled negative self-talk, what if you analyzed “the failure” with duration, frequency, and intensity?
Perhaps you’re not failing as much as your self-talk is trying to make you believe.
Perhaps you’re not failing at all! Instead, you are on the path of success.
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