One way the ever-present inner critic gets to us is by asking rhetorical questions. You (and your inner critic) already know the answer, but the question hangs there for effect—to diminish you, or send you into a funk of embarrassment.
Last week, while I was teaching positive self-talk to a group of job seekers, one of the participants was looking for a shortcut to the right answer, and he discovered something interesting.
The task was to create new, positive self-talk from old, negative self-talk. The negative statement was, “Why would that company choose me?” The student turned it into “How can I help the company choose me?” That’s brilliant. Most people, having seen too much of Stuart Smalley, say, “This company will choose me–I will get this job!” While it’s positive, it often feels empty to someone who has been turned down for 45 jobs. And when it doesn’t come true, it’s easy to assume that positive self talk doesn’t work.
This line of answering works for the inner critic, too. “What makes you think you are an artist?” turns into, “What can I do to feel more like an artist?” When the inner critic asks, “How can you ever think you will be as good as John Doe?” you can think, “What is it I like about John Doe?” or “John Doe and I share several great characteristics.”
Flipping the negative question to result in a positive answer is a great way to face your journal. It doesn’t sink you into “poor me” pity parties and helps nudge you in the positive direction.
The other day I said, out loud, after an embarrassing misstep, “What was I thinking?” and almost immediately I had a better question, “What did I learn from that?”
—Quinn McDonald messes up, gets up, dusts off and moves on, taking notes all the way.