In your head? Try this.
The Fearless blog exists to help you grow in your journey to freedom from fear and anxiety. We are so grateful to be connected to other Christ followers who share the heart behind our mission and are excited to introduce you to our guest writer this week.
Miranda Carls is a writer, speaker, podcast host, and corporate leadership and organizational development coach with a passion for supporting Christian professionals in thriving professionally while living biblically. She is a contributing writer to The Gospel Coalition, Biblical Leadership, and other publications. Miranda and her husband live outside of St. Louis with their three sons. You can learn more about Miranda at www.mirandacarls.com.
In your head? Try this.
It's true that most of us spend a lot of time in our own heads.
"I really bombed that..."
"I'm not cut out for..."
"Everyone thinks I'm..."
Can you relate? I know I can. That unkind inner voice creeps its way into our thoughts. It starts yapping as we leave a party where we met someone new. Its ugly head pops up as we reflect during our drive home from a job interview. It has a lot to say as we sit down on the sofa and scroll social media. For some of us, it's so loud and active that it keeps us from stepping into the peace and joy Jesus offers. The enemy prowls around like a lion (1 Peter 5:8) and he can use that negative self-talk to devour us. He uses it to put us right where he wants us.
Don’t give the enemy that foothold. It’s time to direct your thoughts back toward what is good, true, and lasting. Before we look at a path forward, let’s anchor our perspective to a few things most negative self-talk statements have in common.
#1 – They are normal.
Negative self-talk is relatively normal. (Whew!) Isn’t there always a sigh of relief in knowing other people are every bit as messy as we are? There’s a reason we use phrases like “I’m my own worst critic!”
As selfish humans, most of us spend far more time thinking about ourselves than
others… and many of those thoughts aren’t very positive. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, your self-talk may be more frequent, more exaggerated, or more damaging than what the average person faces.
#2 – They are likely untrue.
Our negative self-talk statements are often exaggerated or simply untrue. We often take our self-talk at face value. The problem? We may be wrong or blowing things way out of proportion. Maybe you take something as simple as a person’s facial expression and craft an entire story about how they feel about you. Maybe you send a difficult email and have already imagined the most catastrophic of outcomes when you haven’t heard back within a few hours. The reality is
often much better than what our brain has painted something out to be.
#3 – They are unhelpful.
Yes, reflection is a valuable tool. We should reflect on what we’ve said or done and consider how we can do better going forward. When we need to apologize or are in a conflict with another person, we should work to repair the situation. (Matthew 5:23-24)
As Christians, we should notice our sins and take them to God with repentance. (1 John 1:9) Those are examples of productive reflection. However, replaying an endless loop of negative thoughts isn’t doing you any good. When negative self-talk statements are too frequent or too severe, they can be downright damaging.
With our heads in the right place, let’s move forward for the benefit of both your mental and spiritual health. Next time you get caught up in your own head, work through three simple questions.
Question 1: Is this thought true? Can I prove it?
This question pulls us back to reality. Really spend some time digging into this one. Is that negative thought in your head even true? What evidence do you have to back it up? Do you even have enough data or input to make a statement at all? What Biblical truths do you need to remind yourself of? Anchor in both God’s truth (in Scripture) and the things that are objectively true about the situation you are in. If you aren't sure, it might help to bounce your thoughts off a friend to seek their outside perspective.
Question 2: What impact is this thought having on me? On others?
This holds us accountable for the impact of our thoughts and provides some motivation for getting out of our heads. Are your worrisome thoughts preventing you from taking an action you know you need to take? Is replaying that conversation from this morning causing your confidence to plummet or preventing you from being present with your family this evening? Are negative thoughts becoming a barrier between you and an intimate relationship with God? If so,
it's time to shut those thoughts down.
Question 3: What is my role in this? What do I need to do, given this thought?
This pulls us toward something actionable. As we mentioned above, sometimes our negative self-talk is actually healthy reflection that needs to be converted into action. We all mess up from time to time (most of us mess up a lot). Your negative self-talk may be fully or partially true. Is there some cleanup or follow-up that needs to happen? What's your best role in this? (Note: Sometimes your action is to do nothing – to take it to God, let it go, and move forward.)
Sometimes, you’ll need more than these three questions. Turn to your community.
Process your thoughts with a close friend, spouse, or therapist. Those closest to us are often most aware of how our thoughts tiptoe away from the truth and into dangerous waters. They can be a valuable resource in holding us accountable.
First and foremost, take your worries to your Heavenly Father. Ask for the Holy Spirit to protect your thoughts from the attacks of the enemy.
We hope you enjoyed that message from our friend Miranda. She is right; negative self-talk is damaging. On March 4th, we are taking the day to teach you how to identify those thoughts and replace them with God's truth! Join us at Grace Church St.Louis for the Freedom Thoughts Conference. Register here.