By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
When you hear a student say “I’m stupid,” I can’t do anything right,” or “I keep messing up”, how do you respond? Most teachers will be quick to step in and provide positive examples of things they do, reassure them that they can do what they think they can’t do, and provide other positive affirmations to help them believe in themselves.
However, how many of you teachers fall into negative self-talk patterns when it comes to yourself? How well do you practice positive affirmations or use positive self-talk strategies?
Unfortunately, if you are honest with yourself, it probably happens more often that you would like to admit.
Watch out for negative talk
Almost all of us have conversations with ourselves. Research shows that between 70-80% of that talk is negative. Think about that. We are feeding ourselves negativity. I don’t know about you, but there is enough negativity in the world without me heaping it on myself.
Negative self-talk can make you unable to see opportunities and to think you do not deserve or will not get them. This limited thinking, the desire to seek an unattainable perfectionism, make you feel insecure, and experience more stress.
In effect, it can keep you from reaching your potential for success, lead to depression, and give you a warped view of your self-worth.
Catch your negative thoughts in action and redirect
One way to do this is to be aware when you say something negative. Stop yourself and ask is this accurate? For example, you forget to turn in attendance and the office calls (again) to remind you. Is your immediate thought, “I’m an idiot. I never do anything right?”
Catch yourself in the act and rephrase that. What was actually happening? Were you managing a classroom of 25 students, greeting them, listening to their questions, starting class and directing them to the day’s lesson? You aren’t an idiot, you are a busy teacher!
Instead, after you apologize for the hundredth time this school year, rephrase your thoughts into something positive. “I am great at getting my class focused and started. I will take attendance tomorrow on time.” This may seem simple (and it is!) but when you turn the focus away from what you didn’t do to what you did well and what you will do better, you are creating a positive mindset that will
Shift your perspective
This can be as simple as placing the negativity into what I refer to as the “grand scheme of life.” So you forgot attendance, how does that fit into the grand scheme of life? On a scale of 1-10, how important is it? Is a life in danger? Will this problem exist a year from now? Is there a solution?
Sometimes we imagine things as much bigger problems than they really are and just stepping back to see the big picture helps put it into perspective.
Talk to yourself like you do your students
While this was mentioned earlier, what does that mean? You show your students compassion and expect effort but not perfection. You understand that mistakes happen. You offer grace.
Now let’s flip that mirror around. What are you expecting of yourself? How do you talk to yourself when no one is around and your mind is running rampant? How true is what you are saying about yourself?
Are you talking to and about yourself in a way you would never dream of talking to another person? If you are, how can you rephrase your self-talk to be kinder and gentler to yourself?
Developing a positive mindset begins with positive self-talk strategies and positive affirmation
Are you quick to show others love and then beat yourself up for forgetting to return a parent call, sleeping in on Saturday instead of grading papers, or making copies of the wrong test?
This is why teachers need positive self-talk strategies and positive affirmations of self love.
While teachers are great at showing love and building strong positive mindsets in their students, they often fail to show themselves the same love and respect. Are you now beating yourself up for beating yourself up?
Psychology Dictionary defines positive affirmations as “brief phrases, repeated frequently, which are designed to encourage positive, happy feelings, thoughts, and attitudes.”
Developing a positive mindset is vital to how you see yourself and scientific research shows that neurologically, it does make a difference.
A regular practice of positive affirmations can lead to long-term changes in the way you look at yourself, how you think and how you feel. Creating a positive self-identity helps you adapt to changing situations with more ease and to see threatening situations as something that is more manageable.
Positive affirmations can decrease stress, increase health, create a more positive outlook, and interestingly, research has shown that people who self-affirm are more open to errors which allows them to better correct for their mistakes. So instead of beating yourself up, you are more likely to find an approach that results in a solution.
Using personal affirmations and positive self-talk to develop a positive mindset
If you’ve read The Help, then you are familiar with the affirmation “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
While it may sound corny and feel uncomfortable, positive affirmations and positive self-talk can change your life. In short, you need to talk to yourself the way you talk to your students.
Try these steps to write your own affirmations and change your mindset
Affirmations are simply statements designed to create self-change in us as we use them. They can serve as inspiration, as well as simple reminders. Repeated often, these statements can turn into a belief and then into action.
Step 1: Make a list of things you believe about yourself. At this point, don’t censor yourself, but instead embrace in a brain dump and write as quickly as you can.
Step 2: Next, organize that list into a positive column and a negative column. Put all of the positive things you said into the positive column and list all of the negative thoughts into the negative column.
Step 3: Turn your negatives into positives. Instead of thinking: “I totally blew that lecture today. I’m so stupid!” tell yourself, “That didn’t go as well as I hoped, but next time I know to go into more detail on this section and save the discussion for after we watch the clip.”
Step 4: Write positive affirmations that are meaningful to you. Look at your list and select areas you see you need to start using positive talk and turn those into positive affirmations that you can start incorporating into your life.
Begin each affirmation in first person and write them in present tense.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- treat myself with kindness and respect
- achieve my goals
- do anything I set my mind to do
- make a difference in someone’s life today
- open my mind to the endless opportunities surrounding me
- focus on the positive today
- respond to criticism in a constructive way
- have a powerful positive mental attitude
- proud of all I have accomplished
- a valuable human being
- capable and strong
- valuable and worthy of respect
Using positive talk and positive affirmations in your daily life
Once you have written affirmations that will help you create a positive mindset, you must use them.
There is no correct way to do this. It depends on you and what works best for you personally. Here are some ideas for you to try.
- Choose one or two affirmations and repeat them several times a day until you feel a brain switch and the negativity surrounding them diminishes.
- Read your list before you go to bed and when you begin your day.
- Post your positive affirmations in various places you will see throughout the day like your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, the dashboard of your car and your desk at school.
- Write down your affirmations daily in your journal and think about how you used them that day. Think back about your day and acknowledge any times of negative talk and read aloud the positive affirmation that counters your negative talk.
Moving forward with your positive affirmations
As you begin incorporating positive talk into your daily routine you will begin to notice a mind-shift. Instead of reverting to negativity, you will find that your mind starts looking at possibilities and searching for solutions. You will start to believe in yourself and that will have the same effect on you that it does on your students.
Once you’ve tried positive affirmations for a few weeks, notice how your outlook changes and please share below or in our Facebook group!