After a certain age, going into ministry, or leading a church, you would think that your inner critic aka negative self-talk would be silenced. I wish that were true. The reality is that we all have that negative voice inside our head that judges, criticizes, or demeans.
So, the question isn’t whether we have this in play… but how do we deal with our inner critic? This negative self-talk can lead to withdrawal from people, depression, and even a sense of worthlessness. I am willing to bet, this issue has led many people to leave the ministry.
Even people who are considered “successful” in their area of ministry have these feelings which lend to “imposter syndrome.” Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments.
Here are a few strategies to deal with negative self-talk and take control of your life:
Acknowledge and understand.
When negative thoughts come up, acknowledge your thoughts. Try to understand the source of where your thoughts are coming from. Ask yourself:
- Why do I feel this way?
- What are some patterns I recognize? Any triggers?
- Where do these thoughts come from?
- How do these thoughts affect my behavior?
What advice would you give someone else?
In ministry, we are used to giving advice to others. Let’s reverse the advice in a way. Let’s say someone came to you in the same situation as you feel, what advice would you give to them? Many times, we are harder on ourselves than we are with others.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
As leaders, we read… a lot. Sometimes we read articles about churches or pastors who are rocking it! Their ministries have grown and are impacting so many with the good news of Jesus. Those articles are meant to encourage you, not to crush your spirit. Maybe it’s a matter of timing, or perhaps you are called to a different assignment. Get to the place where you are living a life of obedience to God. Having done all you know… rest in that. After all, there is nothing else to do. Remain faithful with the assignment at hand.
Practice self-compassion – remember the wins.
What did David do prior to facing Goliath? Even after getting belittled by his brothers and having Saul push his opinions (Saul’s armor), David had to find a way to deal with the issue at hand. What did he do? He remembered his “wins”. He defeated the lion, as well as the bear. If he did it then, certainly he could overcome the present situation.
Get back to the Bible – on a personal level.
As ministers, we can get into the habit of reading the Bible for the next message. We know in our heart of hearts that this is not healthy. It’s time for you and God to meet up, not for sermon prep but for personal relationship building. Our heavenly father has much to say about you… and to you. Take the negative self-talk captive and receive God’s Word as the truth – because it is.
Distract yourself when you start replaying mistakes in your head.
Have you ever made a mistake and replayed those moments over and over again? That doesn’t resolve the issue. If you find you’re ruminating instead of actively problem-solving, try some of these activities:
- Put on some praise music.
- Hang out with some positive people.
- Take a walk.
- Listen to an encouraging podcast.
- Read a book on a subject that you find interesting.
- Do something you have never tried before.
Negative self-talk does not have to control you! Taking these steps to silence the negativity can help you grow and accomplish all that God has planned for you to do.