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by Sarit Swisa, Clinical Psychologist

What is more powerful than a negative judgement? Think about it…. You might have had the most productive, creative day, checking all the boxes off your list. But it seems that that one moment of failure or disappointment colours your overall experience despite other achievements. Try to take a moment to think about some of the things you have just automatically said to yourself on any given day and see if you can identify the way you relate to yourself. You might be surprised how some comments would appear to an outsider reading a transcript of your internal narrative.

The words “good” and “bad” are not quite as innocuous as they look on paper. They determine the value of our efforts and, by extension, ourselves, in the world. That feeling of “I’m so stupid” or “I did that terribly” seems to act as a pronouncement of our worth in such moments and can leave one with a terrible heaviness and sense of futility or shame. True, your shortcomings may be owing to a lack of thoughtfulness or planning, however, research indicates that judgemental thinking has a negative impact upon mental wellbeing with increased anxiety and depression following hot on its heels.

Some may feel that the idea of relinquishing this way of thinking means to turn a blind eye to our failings and mistakes and “thinking positive”. That too would most likely be quite unhelpful! It is rather the language and tone we use to assess our (and others’) behaviour that carries the harmful psychological effects with it. These are words like “right”, “wrong”, “should”, “should have” and so on.

Bringing awareness to our lives is vital to combatting this method of blame and shame. However, this comes in the form of accepting the reality of what we’ve done, perhaps trying to understand how and why things transpired in a certain way and what can potentially be done to remedy the situation. Initially of course this will require numerous gentle reminders. Yet the benefits of not always feeling a fool, having our problem-solving capacity more accessible and also potentially being less harsh on others are probably worth the effort of some introspection and reshaping our self-talk.

If you identify yourself as someone who habitually uses negative self-talk, you might want to consider learning some mindfulness skills in order to develop greater self-awareness without the punitive aspect of a judgemental stance.

Contact us on 011 450 3576 or info@psychmatters.co.za to book your spot to learn about mindfulness skills or for an individual consultation.

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