I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “We’re our own worst critics.” We’ve all been there. Something happens–an event, a presentation, or simply a remark. We start to process it and form unfounded beliefs about what others think of us, which informs our own negative thoughts, such as, “I messed up. I’m toast, a complete failure.” Before you know it, the inner critic takes over.
If we allow that inner critic to consume us, those thoughts can derail our personal growth, confidence, and willingness to put ourselves out there again.
That’s not to say a healthy dose of self-doubt isn’t good for all of us. A fair amount of self-doubt helps us get along better with one another and more easily monitor our own behavior. However, if you find your inner critic is on a constant replay loop, it’s important to build practices that bring you back to center.
Again, most of us are not alone in our attempts to keep that critical self-talk at bay, which is why there are nine very common ways that negative self-talk shows up as a “mental distortion.” Here’s a helpful list that I use regularly with groups to dispel the myth that everyone is alone in their irrational distortions.
Now that we’ve established you’re not alone in your irrational self-talk, we can begin to practice recognizing these thoughts or internal statements when they happen. The ABC Method is a sequence that’s designed to help you identify and change negative thought patterns. Here’s a breakdown of the method with an example:
A = Activating event: This is an event or trigger that led to your negative thoughts. This can be a specific situation, interaction, or internal thought. For example, let’s say you receive constructive feedback at work.
B = Beliefs: Examine your beliefs about the activating event. What thoughts or interpretations are going through your mind (check the list above)? These are often irrational or distorted beliefs. In the same example from above, you might think, “I’m a failure. I’ll never succeed in my career.”
C = Consequences: Explore the emotional and behavioral consequences of your beliefs. How do these thoughts make you feel? What actions or behaviors result from these negative beliefs? Continuing with the example, you might feel depressed and avoid tasks at work that put you at risk of hearing more feedback.
D = Disputing: The way you get back to center is by disrupting irrational beliefs is how you get back to center: You accomplish this by recognizing evidence of past successes and acknowledging that everyone receives feedback and this loop is helping you improve.
E = (New) Effect: Now you’re free to feel more motivated to address the feedback and make moves to improve.
F = (New) Feelings or Functioning: You have increased confidence and a more positive outlook on your professional growth.
By reframing events that trigger your negative self-talk with this ABC Method, you can start to eliminate unhealthy beliefs and lean into practices that help you move on to more rational thoughts. The next time you experience a trigger, try to find a moment soon after to prevent “the yapping” and get yourself back to center. It’s a sequence that helps me and my clients. I’d love to hear if this works for you and your team.