Why Do You Believe Your Inner Critic?

“I’ll never be able to make these kids learn or behave appropriately. They just don’t listen! If I don’t get them to master the content, I am in trouble. Tests are around the corner… what If I loose my job? I’m not good at this… actually I am really bad at teaching. What if I just quit and forget about all of this? But then, I’ll never be able to find a job that I enjoy…”.

Sounds familiar? When we are under stress or dealing with a difficult situation or person, we might talk to ourselves in very pessimistic ways, allowing our inner critic to have a full-blown party. We might think:

“I’ll never be able to…”

“I’m messing everything up…”

“I’m not good enough…”

These negative thoughts make you feel worse about yourself and they might affect your ability to focus and do your job well. Notice that when you tell yourself these things, you treat them as if they were true. If someone told you “you’re a complete failure”, you would get upset and dispute the accusation, right? We have the ability to dispute false accusations and fight the negative voice in our heads.

Dr. Martin Seligman, well-known author for his work on optimism, recommends noticing this pattern and interrupting the flow when you find yourself having negative thoughts. When we approach things with pessimism, we treat events as if they were Permanent and Pervasive, and over which we are Powerless. This is what Seligman calls the three Ps of Pessimism. Pessimists are defined by their failures, while optimists bounce back and begin trying almost immediately after a setback; for optimists, defeats are temporary. What are your tendencies, more of a pessimist or an optimist?

Optimism is a learned skill, something that you learn and develop over time with some practice.  This is how you can develop optimism:

  1. Notice when you start generating negative thoughts and interrupt them.
  2. Check if you are using the three Ps of Pessimism and dispute the accusations. Are you treating the events as if they were permanent or pervasive? Are you telling yourself there is nothing you can do to change it?
  3. Change the pessimistic approach with T-I-E, a simple but powerful positive thinking framework. Tell yourself:
  • This is Temporary. Remind yourself “This too shall pass”
  • This is Isolated. Think “Other parts of my life are successful”
  • This is changeable with Effort. “I have the ability to change this”

It is difficult to avoid generating negative thoughts; in a way, it is part of our human nature. However, negativity can overload our mind and harm our productivity and well-being. You can develop your optimism by identifying when you have negative thoughts, challenging the truth of the statements and replacing them by using positive thinking. Once you can do this for yourself, you can teach it to your students. What are some other ways to bring optimism into your life and classroom? Please share in the comments below!


Additional Resources

Using Optimism for Resilience from the InspireED Educator Toolbox

Optimism: The Hidden Asset by Bruna Martinuzzi

By |Published On: March 10th, 2016|Categories: SEL, Teacher Development|Tags: , , , , |

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