Shutting Down The Negative Voice In Your Head

By Katherine Wintsch

“You’re a poor excuse for a strong woman.”

Five years ago, I wrote those nine painfully hard-to-read words in my journal when prompted by my therapist to write down the last terrible thing I said to myself.

Five years ago, when my therapist asked me to write down the last terrible thing I said to myself, those were the words that poured out of my soul and into my journal. When people say the truth hurts, they’re not wrong. 

It still hurts my heart to see those words in writing, knowing that despite achieving decades of both personal and professional success, I continued to carry around enough feelings of inadequacy to sink a battleship.

The volume and intensity of the negative voice in my head has come and gone throughout my life. At different points, she has not-so-subtly insisted that I’m not only a terrible mother, but also a dreadful wife, friend, sister, daughter, employee, boss, exerciser, pen pal, and organizer. (Okay, that last one is not true. I’m a fantastic organizer, a real neat freak—and she knows it.)

Perhaps you’re familiar with parading around as perfect on the outside while convincing yourself that you suck on the inside for never being good enough, tough enough, smart enough, patient enough, thin enough, wife enough or mom enough. According to a research study I recently conducted with 1,000 women across the country, 8 out of 10 mothers live with daily negative self-talk that many women painfully personified as, “the meanest mean girl I know.” 

Ouch.

You’re not alone if you’re convinced that other mothers are gliding through life on ice skates while you tuck your muffin top into your pants and pray that you’ll make it through Thursday without losing your ever-loving mind. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below which puts the negative self-talk inside of women on full display. 

After years of crying through therapy, reading dozens of self-help books and watching hundreds of Oprah episodes, I finally slayed what I refer to as my “dragon of self-doubt,” and now I’ve dedicated my life to helping other women do the same with my book Slay Like a Mother: How to Destroy What’s Holding You Back So You Can Live the Life You Want. During workshops that I host with mothers around the world, I always invite the participants to write down the last terrible thing they said to themselves. See for yourself what bright, talented, loving and successful mothers have to say to themselves when nobody is listening.

See! You’re not alone.

Every time I see the painful negative self-talk that lives inside millions of mothers, I’m convinced that we’ve gotten the narrative about mothers fighting mothers all wrong. The media loves to write about the mommy wars, but the truth is, we are the real saboteurs. Mothers are not at war with other mothers, we are at war with ourselves. 

Does this war exist within men? I’m sorry, not sorry, to say that it does not. According to my research, when it comes to what the Buddha himself referred to as our “monkey mind” over 2,500 years ago, men are almost 20% more likely to say they never speak to themselves in a negative manner. When faced with imperfection, mishaps or mistakes, a man’s dragon of self-doubt is likely to whisper something along the lines of, “Do better next time, buddy,” while a woman’s spews fire in her face by saying, “You’re a horrible human and everyone knows it.”

Jen, a mother who attended one of my co-parenting workshops with her husband saw this difference on full display. When invited to share with each other the last terrible thing they said to themselves, Jen was mortified to reveal to her husband the laundry list of horrific thoughts that cross her mind on a daily basis. Meanwhile, her husband was unable to conjure up onesingle example of negative self-talk. Not a single one.

Shocked beyond belief, Jen took to Instagram to share her revelation with her followers, “Ladies! This is why men rule the world!! Can you imagine what you could accomplish and who you could become if you could not recall the last terrible thing you said to yourself?” 

She’s exactly right.

If you’re getting a lashing from the mean voice in your head these days, the first step toward mental sanity is to direct the voice toward a friend. As soon as you hear your dragon’s harsh words, teach that beast some manners by asking it to rephrase the statement in a way that would be appropriate to say to a friend going through a similar situation.

That is to say, what would you say to your friend who skipped the gym this week, promised to watch a movie with her partner but fell asleep too early or forgot teacher appreciation week? Undoubtedly, you’d reassure her that it’s OK, she’s doing the best she can and that it’s time to forget about the mishaps and move on. 

Hell, you’d probably even compliment her hair and ability to organize Legos along the way. Now it’s time to extend the same kindness and courtesy to yourself. 

When your friend feels like she’s falling short, you immediately come to her rescue and lift her back up, right? Which proves you have the necessary skillset to turn negative thoughts into positive ones on the spot. I know from personal experience that the more you confront your dragon of self-doubt – either out loud or on paper – the faster you will experience the sheer joy, excitement and relief of realizing that your inadequacies were only ever perceived that way by you.

Now, get slaying!

Katherine Wintsch is the author of SLAY LIKE A MOTHER: How to Destroy What’s Holding Your Back So You Can Live the Life You Want an internationally recognized expert on the topic of modern motherhood. As the founder and CEO of The Mom Complex, Katherine and her team help develop innovative new products, services, and marketing strategies for the world’s largest mom-focused brands, including Walmart, Babyganics, Pinterest, Kimberly Clark, and the Discovery Network. 

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