So far, we've learned the importance of focusing on what we want instead of what we don't want. Now we are going to expand on those ideas to show you why your internal and external dialogue is a major factor in holding you back from writing, finishing, and publishing your book.
To make things as simple as possible, I’m going to put it to you like this:
Although it has many complex functions and abilities, your brain has one job – to make sure you stay alive. In a nutshell, that’s it.
Now in the grand scheme of life this is a good thing - but, when it comes to pursuing our goals it can prove problematic.
When we think positively, we subconsciously tell our brain that everything is fine, that we are safe and no action is required.
However, when we think and speak negatively, or get stressed out and upset, we are actually giving a direct signal to our brain that we are either in pain or facing a dangerous situation, and it needs to take action to keep us safe.
When we think and speak negatively, or get stressed out and upset, we are actually giving a direct signal to our brain that we are either in pain or facing a dangerous situation, and it needs to take action to keep us safe...
The catch is, our brain can't tell the difference between real danger, and the language we use within our internal dialogue...
Think about when someone jumps out at you as a joke. Your body reacts instantly. Adrenaline races through you, and your heart pounds. You clutch at your chest, and maybe get goosebumps. The thing is, you were never in danger - but your brain couldn't tell the difference.
Without making this into an anatomy class, put simply, the amygdala is an almond shaped cluster of neurons inside your brain responsible for fear conditioning - the process by which we learn to fear something.
Then there's the thalamus, a large mass of grey matter cells that relay sensory signals to and from the spinal cord and cerebrum. It is the most highly developed part of your brain, and responsible for tasks like reasoning, interpretation of impulses, and motor function.
Put simply, your mind generates thoughts and dialogue that are then funneled to the amygdala which determines whether you are at risk of pain or danger.
If this happens, the thalamus reacts by sending messages to your spine and the rest of your brain to react in a way that will make sure you avoid pain and danger, and more importantly - stay alive.
You may know this response as fight or flight.
So what's all this got to do with your book?
Unfortunately, according to research, our human brains are hard-wired to have a negative bias, meaning a brain scan will light up when we watch bad news and remain quiet when we watch good news.
Dr Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, North Carolina in an interview with the New York Times explained that our body’s fight or flight response served us well during prehistoric times when as cave-dwellers we were under constant threat. By having a brain hard-wired to negativity and hyper-aware of impending doom, our prehistoric ancestors were better equipped to stay alert to danger and avoid being killed.
But centuries of rapid change have left us with brains that are ‘super sensitive to threat, but unlike our prehistoric predecessors, are also capable of planning, thinking, forecasting and looking ahead’.
The result he says, is that ‘we essentially drive ourselves nuts worrying about things because we have too much time and don’t have many real threats on our survival, so fear gets expressed in really strange, maladaptive ways’.
Put simply, out brains are hard-wired to pay more attention to negative internal dialogue, and our bodies react accordingly to get us out of situations it thinks may cause us harm.
Here's an example of how your internal dialogue might be sabotaging your goal of becoming an author:
Your thoughts: Trying to finish writing this book is so hard, it's literally killing me
Your brain's reaction: Writing is putting us in danger - I must try everything I can to stop her doing it. I'll try distracting her with thinking up other tasks, making her head ache, making her back ache... whatever it takes to save us!
Your thoughts: I'm such a failure at writing, everyone is right. I'm not good enough at this. I'm not good enough at anything. What's even the point of my life?
Your brain's reaction: Writing is putting us in danger - I must try everything I can to stop her doing it. I'll try distracting her with thinking up other tasks, making her headache, making her back ache... whatever it takes to save us!
It's a little dramatic I know, but you get the picture.
Put simply, your brain is kinda like a loving dog running along the bank of a river while you are in the water splashing, shouting and having fun. The dog can’t tell the difference between happy shouting and its owner drowning. So regardless, the dog leaps in and tries to save you. Depending on the circumstances this can take a bad turn if the dog, meaning well, inevitably puts you in more harm by trying to rescue you.
You with me?
So, the question is: How do we stop creating negative thoughts and dialogue from holding us back?
Luckily, it’s actually a lot easier to control your brain than you think. It's all about mindfulness and consistency.
Here's what we need to do:
1. Download and print page 4 of your Workbook and for the next week take notice of the things you say to yourself and make note of them. What do you criticise yourself about using internal dialogue? This can be about writing or anything at all. The whole idea is to stop putting yourself down and increase your confidence as an author and in general so that when it comes time to market your book you can do it with confidence.
Also make note of what self-depreciating external dialogue you use. What do you say out loud that isn’t self-supportive. For example, if someone pays you a compliment do you accept it or say something to negate it like, ‘Oh it was probably just luck', or ‘Thanks, but it would read better if I wasn't so bad at grammar’. Maybe it’s even you who starts the dialogue – ‘You won’t believe what I did, I am so stupid’. Sound familiar?
2. Once you have a better idea about what self-sabotaging things you are saying, print out page 5 of your Workbook and start writing down some new dialogue to replace the old non self-supportive commentary you are creating. And really pay attention to the phrase – ‘That you are creating’. No one else is saying these things – you are. It’s time to stop and be your own friend for a change.
4. If your negative internal dialogue is associated with an external event such as someone saying your ideas are silly, that you don't have what it takes, or your plans won't work, it is always a good idea to realise that not every situation is how it may appear. There are hundreds of reasons people say the things they do and most of the time, as hard as it might to believe, those reasons probably have absolutely nothing to do with you. Remind yourself that you cannot be inside that person’s head or life to know exactly what they are thinking, or why they have acted a certain way. So, if you cannot know for sure why they're being negative, you can either guess it’s something that reflects badly upon you, or that it has nothing to do with you. Maybe they are afraid to pursue their own goals and feel bad when other people have the courage to chase theirs. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they don't want your life to change. Why choose the option that makes you feel bad when you can choose to believe something that doesn’t bring you down, especially when it’s probably the most likely scenario?
5. There will be times when you make a mistake or do something you wish you could take back. In those moments you will automatically chastise yourself - it’s natural. But instead of spending days hating on yourself, try to remember we all make mistakes and either use your energy finding a solution rather than chastising yourself, or use one of the alternatives you wrote on page 5 of your Workbook. If someone you loved made a silly mistake they felt bad about, you would forgive them, right? It’s okay to forgive yourself as well.
6. If you find yourself in a situation where someone else is trying to make you feel bad or speaking negatively toward you, you can choose not to engage in that communication. The best thing you can do is to avoid conversations that negatively impact your confidence. Don’t give anyone the power to make you feel something that doesn't serve you. You are in charge of your thoughts and emotions – not anyone else.
7. Be consistent. It seems like an easy task, but believe me, it isn’t. You’ve probably spent most of your like speaking to yourself in a self-depreciating manner, and bad habits can be tough to break. According to the experts, it can take between 21 and 28 days to replace an old habit with a new one, so don’t give up.
If you don’t have someone in your life who praises you, and speaks to you in a positive way, it can be easy to believe, ‘if only there was someone to make me feel confident about myself this would all be a lot easier.
While having external support around you is important, it's more important to find that source of praise within yourself. That way you can stop relying on other people to make you feel worthy.
So start making positive dialogue and self-support a natural and familiar state of mind.
It’s perfectly okay to tell yourself you did a great job or to remind yourself that you’re worthy. There’s nothing wrong with telling yourself you’re a good person who deserves a great life.
Go ahead and do it and if it feels weird, take that as a sign to do it more and more until it feels natural.
You can download Pages 4 & 5 of your print-friendly Workbook files below: