From a young age, kids understand that they have a devil and an angel on their shoulders. So many TV characters, from Daffy Duck to Homer Simpson, are portrayed in this way at some point or another, with ‘good’ and ‘evil’ figures (complete with halo and pitchfork) hovering around their heads whenever they face a dilemma.
While the cartoon characters of our youth probably encountered this dichotomous view of themselves during a moral conundrum, as adults, it’s something we come across every day. We’re blessed (or cursed?) with both a healthy and unhealthy aspect to our ego, which manifest as positive and negative self-talk. On one shoulder, we have the negative voice that’s insecure, scared of failure and a victim. On the other shoulder, we have the positive voice that tells us we’re awesome and that every challenge presents an opportunity.
Both voices regularly play out in our head, but do you give them equal airtime and consciously decide which one you’re going to listen to? We’ve compiled several examples of positive and negative self-talk, to help you work out which of your two voices is loudest.
Negative voice: What if I fail?
Positive voice: What if I succeed?
Negative voice: If there’s a chance I’m going to fail, I’m not going to risk the embarrassment.
Positive voice: If I bring my best energy, focus and commitment, there’s a chance I’ll do really well.
Negative voice: Why does everything feel so hard for me?
Positive voice: This might be a good time to ask for help from people I trust.
Negative voice: I don’t think I’m smart enough.
Positive voice: This is an opportunity to learn.
Negative voice: What if they hate me or think I’m being too big for my boots?
Positive voice: People will appreciate my commitment.
There isn’t necessarily a black-and-white answer to this one. Sometimes you might be positivity personified and allow your healthy ego to reign supreme. But when you’re feeling a bit insecure, lethargic or decision-fatigued, the negative voice might take precedence. Perhaps your boss assigns you to a project that you’ve never done before. The negative voice will likely pipe up, panicking that everyone will be watching and waiting for you to fail. In these situations, the key is to consciously consider your response and choose to let your healthy ego take over. By doing this, you can push that fear of failure to one side and embrace the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.
This isn’t about getting rid of your unhealthy ego state. We actually need it; its job is to keep us safe and to make us think about things carefully. What is important is making sure that we’re paying attention and giving enough airtime to positive self-talk. Yes, our negative voice can be so loud at times that it feels like it’s screaming at us, but generally speaking, it’s not a true reflection of what we’re thinking. The negative voice is often what we think other people are saying about us. Similarly, our positive voice represents the people we feel are in our cheer squad.
Navigating your positive and negative voices is the ultimate battle between the two sides of your ego. The good news? It’s up to you to decide who wins.
– The Coach Place Global
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