What We Can Learn From Our Negative Self-Talk

What We Can Learn From Our Negative Self-Talk

Seeing Negative Self-Talk Differently

In the wellness, spiritual, mindset, and coaching communities, there is a strong narrative of trying to eliminate our negative thoughts. It’s considered taboo to have these thoughts. The ideas of “what you focus on is what you create” and “having only positive thoughts” reinforce this narrative.

As someone who used to be part of the spiritual New Age movement, I constantly witnessed this: – people being hard on themselves because they had negative thoughts and people judging others. After all, they had negative thoughts. When talking about negative thoughts, I’m referring to the negative self-talk many of us experience. The voices inside us telling us that we’re not good enough, that we need to be perfect to succeed, and that others don’t like us.

In my experience as a trauma survivor and someone who helps Latinas and women who are cycle-breakers process trauma, I see these negative thoughts differently.

I invite you to do the same.

How Your Internal World Works

The modality I use to help my clients process trauma is called Internal Family Systems (IFS), also known as Parts Work. This powerful evidence-based modality was created by psychotherapist, Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D. The idea behind it is just like there are many people out in the world who have different personalities, feelings, thoughts, dreams, and goals – we also have different personalities that live inside us with different feelings, thoughts, dreams, and goals. This is not the same as multiple personality disorder. This modality refers to these different personalities as “parts.”

These parts help you navigate, make sense, and feel safe in the world. You can see examples of parts operating when you say, “A part of me feels this way, but another part of me feels that way.” These are two parts speaking through you! Or when you act a certain way at home but then code-switch and act differently at work. Those are also different parts operating in you. Every thought and feeling you have are connected to a part that lives in you. This includes those negative thoughts!

Inside you, there are specific parts that are holding on to that negative self-talk. But why would they do this? The simple answer is they are trying to protect you from a past trauma getting re-activated. Some past client examples are:

One client noticed a part of her being judgmental of her all the time. She would have thoughts that constantly criticized everything she did. It turned out that this part of her was doing that because she had experienced trauma with a narcissistic parent. This trauma made the client not feel good enough, so the part started to criticize her to protect her from the parent’s judgment. At least the judgment was coming from her and not the parent anymore! This was the part’s way of having some sense of control.

Another client noticed a part that made her feel like people never liked her and she would never fit in the world. She constantly had thoughts that nobody liked her. According to what we discovered together, the client experienced abandonment in the past. That part protected the client from being re-abandoned by not letting her feel close to others.

The main thread here is that those nagging negative thoughts we have, more times than not, are parts of us that are trying to protect us from what could be a past trauma we experienced. When we can start to look at our negative self-talk from this place, we can begin to grow compassion for ourselves, and the curiosity to understand where these thoughts originate from.

The other aspect of this is that contrary to popular belief, negative thoughts from past trauma prevent positive affirmations from working. Those negative thoughts are protective mechanisms that your internal world has developed to help you cope with past trauma. You can spend years trying to change your mindset by doing positive affirmations, but you can’t force your parts to believe in them if that’s not their reality, and it doesn’t feel safe in your internal world.

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The only way to change your mindset is to do deeper work to process trauma. In my experience, once you start to process trauma, your mindset will naturally shift on its own. My clients also exhibit this behavior 99% of the time. Then, affirmations become easier to take in because your internal world is more receptive to them.

So what can you do in the meantime?

Here Are Three Simple Steps to Help You Cope With Negative Self-talk (Negative Thoughts):

1. When you notice those nagging negative thoughts, understand that’s a coping mechanism your internal world has created to help you cope with life or past trauma.

It’s important to have compassion for those parts of you that are trying to protect you. Close your eyes and connect to your inner compassion. Allow it to grow and send it to this part and yourself. This part has been working hard for what has probably been many years to keep you safe, and this is the only way it knows to keep you safe – even if it doesn’t make sense to you.

2. Connect with your inner curiosity to gain clarity on what this part is trying to protect you from by creating this negative self-talk/thoughts.

If you have time, you can even have an inner dialogue with this part. If you do this, you must stay within the compassionate or curious space to make this experience safe for you and your parts. You can ask this part directly, “What are you protecting me from?” and see how it responds. Parts communicate through images, words, feelings, sensations, and colors. Just be open to how your parts communicate with you and what they want to say.

3. You suppress what you push away or try to get rid of, giving it more control over you.

Instead of trying to get rid of or push away parts of you, stay within that curious energy and send yourself compassion for everything you’ve been through. Your internal world has worked hard all these years to keep you alive, and it’s done a pretty good job, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes! Sometimes your parts need an upgrade or update so they don’t have to keep protecting you the way they have all these years. The way they protected you before worked then, but it may not work now that you’re an adult. Let your parts know you’re open to learning new methods and be more supportive of them. Ask them what they need from you to support you in learning this new way of being.

Developing this powerful connection with your inner world will better help you process and navigate that negative self-talk. As a result of working with a coach or practitioner trained in Parts Work, you’ll also develop more clarity about where those negative thoughts came from. You’ll begin to process those experiences. By doing so, you can live the life you’ve always wanted!

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on July 28, 2023

Latinas Breaking Free From Family Expectations

Latinas Breaking Free From Family Expectations

Breaking Latino Family Expectations and Cycles

If you’re a Latina like me, your family probably put a lot of expectations on you growing up. My parents brought us to the U.S. to escape poverty and create a better life. As a child, I remember many adults around me constantly having conversations about who was doing better and then comparing us kids to each other! There was an unspoken expectation that the children would get them out of poverty.

To add to this, living in a traditional Mexican household created even more family expectations of who I should be and how I should behave as a girl and woman. In my childhood, Latino culture expected girls to act a certain way. They warned me that everyone would shame me if I strayed from those expectations. We Latinas are often shamed by our family and community when we don’t meet our culture’s expectations.

We are told that our job is to be at home and take care of everyone else but ourselves. Society expects us to get married and have kids by a certain age. People expect us to stay married even if the husband is macho and abusive. Our families raised us to be good Catholic women. Many of us feel the pressure to graduate from college with top grades and pursue a high-paying career to take care of our parents and siblings. We’re trained from a very young age to make our lives about others instead of what makes us happy.

These expectations only cause us to create a life that’s not truly authentic with who we are. For those brave enough to take a different path, we’re sometimes disowned by our families and shamed for not fulfilling their expectations. As a trauma and credentialed professional goal coach, these are real fears that many of my Latina clients experience. They realize they created a life that their parents and family wanted for them while not being truly honest with who they are. Yet, they’re terrified of the threat of shame or being disowned by their family if they start living a life that’s honest with themselves.

As a Latina who did just that, I’d like to share some valuable advice that can support you in your path of truly knowing yourself.

How My Near-death Experience Pushed Me to Break Family Expectations as a First-Generation Latina

When I was 24 years old, I went through a near-death experience in a car accident. My life changed completely after that event as a first-gen Latina. I left my corporate career to move to Sedona, Arizona, so I could focus on my spiritual path, healing, and getting to know who I was. My Mexican parents were furious. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, so they saw me leaving my corporate job as me throwing my college degree and career away forever. They were no longer proud of me or supportive of my life choices because it was no longer in alignment with their expectations of who they thought I should be or how I should live my life.

I spent five years living in Sedona, and although it was challenging, I don’t regret it. I learned about myself and grew a lot in those five years. When I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, I was able to get back on my feet with my career in a way that was honest and authentic to myself. I would not be living my life being true to myself now if I had not done all this work on myself. Since I’ve been through this journey, I’d like to share some 4 tips with you that I wish someone would have shared with me when I decided to walk my own path.

1. It’s Okay Not To Know!

Many of us grow up too fast in our families. Our families give us adult responsibilities from a young age, which prevents us from truly enjoying our childhoods. When this happens, it becomes easy to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to know things when we don’t know. My parents had a lot of expectations for me even though I didn’t know what the heck I was doing when I went to college. That was the reality: I didn’t know. The expectations of having to know caused a lot of anxiety to the point that I ended up in the hospital several times during my time in college. We have to remember that it’s okay not to know. Part of our journeys in life is to accept this and be open to trying and learning different things to know who we are and what feels right for us. This thought process is a natural part of our growth and evolution.

2. Learn Who You Are

As Latinas, many of us learn to prioritize the needs of others over our own. When we do this, it becomes easy not to know who we are. We might make important choices about our lives based on what others expect instead of what feels right for us. At some point in life, these choices always catch up with us. At a certain age, we start to feel that the life we created is not ours, and we’ll start to question everything about it. So it’s vital that you do the inner work as soon as possible to understand who you are and get to know yourself better. This introspection will help you build a solid and honest foundation for your life.

3. Get Comfortable With Putting Your Needs First

Our Latino culture encourages us from a young age to put others’ needs before our own – this includes even our parents. When this happens, the roles in our families get reversed – our parents become the children, and we become the parents. It’s never okay for parents to use their kids for their own selfish needs. It’s never okay for our parents to try to live their dreams through us. This only causes harm and prevents the child from developing and creating a solid sense of self. That’s vital for safely navigating the world. Putting your needs first doesn’t make you selfish! It makes you human. You’re not a robot. It’s human nature to have needs and to have them met. You cannot truly be there for others until you start to be there for yourself first. If you start focusing on putting yourself first, you can break free from others’ expectations and live a life that’s authentic to you.

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4. It’s okay to take your time

As women and Latinas a lot of pressure is put on us to do certain things in our lives by a certain age. Marriage and parenthood are two examples. The reality is that some of us are choosing not to get married or have kids for the sake of it. Many of our parents used harmful parenting methods while we were growing up. We know we don’t want to put our kids through the same trauma. We would rather wait to find the right partners than get married and be miserable. It’s okay to want better for yourself and future kids and to take your time to do things at your pace. It’s better to take one step at a time and be intentional with your steps than having to rush through life, making choices based on what others expect of you, and rushing to meet a random milestone.

You’ll begin to break free from the expectations of others by following these steps. In the process, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of yourself and create a sense of self-confidence. Self-awareness and having a secure sense of self are what help you navigate the world more easily. That’s a powerful place for Latinas to be!

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on June 28, 2023

6 Essential Self-Care Tips for Latinas to Cultivate Personal Connection

6 Essential Self-Care Tips for Latinas to Cultivate Personal Connection

Self-Care in the Latino Culture

You’ll be surprised to hear that in 2023 self-care remains a taboo subject in the Latino culture. We’re so used to pushing through life that we don’t have or create time to take care of ourselves and our well-being.

Our culture is around la familia for many of us. As Latinas, we are used to sacrificing our needs for others. When we don’t, we are called selfish even when – in reality – the person who is asking us to sacrifice our needs is being selfish themselves. There’s a natural fear of being labeled selfish by our family for wanting to take care of ourselves because of this.

Many of us don’t realize that when your life evolves around others all the time, it’s easy to lose your sense of self! Our natural evolution as humans is to develop a strong sense of self. This strong sense of self helps us feel confident, secure in ourselves, and safe navigating the uncertainty in the world no matter what challenges life throws at us.

If we had the “perfect” parents, this would happen during childhood. Our parents would teach us how to care for ourselves by how they take care of us and show up for us. They would teach us how to make sense of our feelings, how to make sense of the world, how to value ourselves, how to set boundaries, and how to voice our needs, just to name a few behaviors. Yet, in the Latino culture, our childhoods are often centered around survival and our parents’ needs, so we learn to ignore ours from a young age. This prevents us from creating a true sense of self and learning to care for ourselves.

The reality is that there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. It’s part of being human. When you take care of yourself, you can better show up for yourself and others. When you set time for self-care, you’ll also begin to discover who you are and find the path to healing. Below are six easy ways you can begin a self-care journey. These are the same practices I did – and still do – in my healing journey.

1. Meditation

Meditation is learning how to be more mindful, self-aware, calm, and at peace with yourself. There are different types of meditation. In some practices, you learn how to “empty” your mind from all the inner chatter and be more present in the moment. You’re not focused on the past or the future but on the now.

Other meditation styles are guided, and you visualize in your mind as a way to bring more awareness and calmness into your life. Other meditation approaches focus on the breath and using your breathing to help you ground yourself in the now. In some styles of meditation, you keep your eyes closed, and in others, you keep your eyes open.

No matter what form you choose, they all have the same goal: to help you learn how to become more self-aware and in touch with yourself. You’ll start to notice the thoughts you experience more, the sensations in your body, and what state of mind you’re in; which all can be helpful in your self-care journey.

2. Connecting with Nature

“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being,” says Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D., a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature.

The earth is a living being, and just like we have a nervous system, so does she! When you’re out in nature, you’re regulating your nervous system with hers. This is one of the reasons nature heals the soul and helps to ground us. Being in nature also helps you be in the present, which is vital not only for self-care but also to help with your personal connection.

Many of us Latinas also have Indigenous roots. Our Indigenous ancestors lived connected to the earth. Our Indigenous ancestors have done this for thousands of years! We’re doing what’s natural for us.

3. Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is another way to take care of yourself. We often neglect to take care of our bodies even though they are constantly working hard to keep us alive. What you may not know is that stress and trauma build up in the body. This means our bodies remember what happened to them from years ago. Imagine being a body and carrying the burdens of the past, year after year. You would get deeply exhausted after a while!

Massage therapy can be a supportive ally to help your body heal distress and let go of past pain. I have experience working in the spa industry. I can’t tell how many people leave after a massage crying because of how healing the experience was for them physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

There are different styles of massage out there. For example, there’s the gentle Swedish style to deep tissue or lymphatic massage that drains built-up fluids in your body, especially useful after a traumatic physical event. Massage can also help you experience deep relaxation, which is a cornerstone of self-care and connecting with yourself. You can always start with a Swedish massage and then test out other styles until you find the right one for you.

4. Creative Expression

Whether through dancing, painting, singing, writing, or any other type of art – expressing yourself is a powerful tool to support your self-care. Humans are creative beings, and it’s natural for us to want to express ourselves. You can use creativity to describe the most challenging feelings or experiences as a way to heal from them too!

I grew up around domestic violence in my home. At the age of seven, I used dance and singing to express all the uneasy feelings from being stuck in a home that only caused stress, confusion, and frustration in my life. In time, I started to perform, and then teach dance classes to kids. Watching these little ones use dance to express themselves and build confidence was rewarding for me! I used creativity to transform something painful in my life into something empowering that I could also share with others. This is the power of creative expression. The act of creative expression can help you make sense of feelings and thoughts.

5. Therapy and Coaching

Therapy and coaching are some of the most supportive allies for self-care and will help you connect with yourself. Sadly in our culture, they’re seen as something only crazy people do.

The reality is that therapy is something healthy people do because we all have experienced trauma. Healthy people acknowledge their trauma and do the work to heal from it. Trauma controls you if you choose not to heal from it. Healing from trauma helps you to take back your power, and this is healthy. You can use a resource like Psychology Today to find the right therapist.

Coaching can be supportive of your therapy journey because you can use it to help you develop life skills to navigate your life and reach your goals. As a Professional Goal Coach myself, I wish I had coaching when I was in college and even younger. My life was like many in our community, and I had to figure out how to navigate the world on my own. I would have been able to think about my goals more clearly if I had a coach earlier in my life. You can use a resource like International Coaching Federation to help you find a credentialed coach to support you in any area of your life.

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6. Spending Time Alone

Being alone can be frightening for most of us, especially for Latinas raised to stay close to their families. Yet it’s through spending time by yourself that you’ll begin to learn who you are and connect with yourself more. When I started my healing journey many years ago, this was one of the first things I started to do. I ate at restaurants, went to the park, attended events, and traveled by myself. I started doing everything I could think of to help me get over my fear of being alone. The more I did this the more I began to learn different things about myself that I didn’t know before! It was refreshing to realize that I didn’t have to live my life centered around someone else for once.

I invite you to select one of these six self-care tips and try it out for a few weeks. Notice how you feel before you start doing it and after. You’ll be surprised by the transformation that can occur in your life just by caring for yourself.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on June 21, 2023

First-Generation Trauma in the Latino Community

First-Generation Trauma in the Latino Community

Sharing My Story as a First-Generation Latina

After spending the past few years healing from trauma, I can look back at my past and acknowledge the trauma I experienced as a first-generation Latina. First-generation Latinos were born in a Latin American country and moved or were brought to the US, usually as children.

My intention in sharing my story is to help other first-generation Latinos who have similar experiences feel validated. After all, the norm in our community is not to talk about the trauma we’ve experienced. To break free from generational trauma, we must start talking about it.

As an immigrant from Mexico, I arrived in the U.S. when I was five. I remember feeling overwhelmed, confused, and numb being in a strange country. In Mexico, we lived in poverty in a pueblo. We lived humbly and connected to the land; we grew our food. Suddenly I was in an unfamiliar country, and this situation made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

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Common Struggles First-Generation Latinos Face

When my mom put me in kindergarten, she placed me with an English-speaking teacher. This teacher started calling me a name I had never heard before. In Mexico, my name, Mónica, was pronounced with an accent on the o. Suddenly this strange lady was calling me a different name and would get angry at me for not understanding her. She thought I was ignoring her when I didn’t understand she was addressing me.

During my elementary school years, I learned to make myself small to survive. As a new immigrant in this country, I learned that people like me were not safe here, which created feelings of shame. We constantly had to watch our backs and deal with racism, even from other white Latinos in our community. This took a toll on my mental health. I didn’t have any support from anybody, including my parents, to help me cope with the intense feelings of shame, overwhelm, and uncertainty. I felt like an imposter because I didn’t feel I belonged in this country.

Additionally, I lived in a home where both of my parents worked all the time, so my older siblings and I were constantly left alone to take care of ourselves. My upbringing didn’t prepare me for society’s demands. I had to teach myself, but how is an elementary-aged kid supposed to teach themselves things they don’t know? I grew up in a domestic violence atmosphere and being shamed for being a girl. Several family members told me not to let anybody know what was happing at home. My trauma took on more layers due to this.

In high school, I finally got fed up with my home situation. Living at home after high school was not an option for me. When I thought about this happening, I felt extreme dread and anxiety. I had to figure a way out! This was when I decided to go to college.

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My parents and family’s perception of me changed when I began college. Both of my parents put me on a pedestal. They thought I would be the person in our family to get us out of poverty and help make something of ourselves. This pedestal created a lot of anxiety in me. I felt the burdens of my parents’ dreams taking a toll on me. I thought it was my responsibility to create a new path for my younger siblings too. Due to this, I started developing anxiety attacks that made it challenging to attend class.

In college, there weren’t that many Latinos in my major or even in my school, so I felt isolated and had little support. I had nobody to look to for guidance since I was the first in my family to go to college. It was me trying to figure things out on my own. At one point, I started to see my school’s counselor for support, but she had no understanding of what it was like to be a first gen. What kept me pushing through this difficult time was the fear of failing to reach this goal and disappointing my entire family.

Even after I graduated from college, I started to have nightmares that I wouldn’t graduate. When I would wake up from my nightmare, I would remind myself that I already did that! These nightmares lasted for years.

After graduation, it took me six months to land my first professional creative job. This had its challenges. Even though I had a four-year degree that proved I could do the work, I felt like a fraud. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be at this job. I worked long hours to prove my worth and continued studying topics I had already learned in school. Being the only Latina working with the “higher-ups” was also challenging. I didn’t feel like I belonged, so when I was at work, I was by myself unless I had to attend team meetings.

After a few years of working at this company, I thought about looking for another job to help me develop my career. However, every time I thought about moving on, I would experience intrusive thoughts like, “Who would want to hire me!” I felt shame for thinking I could grow past where I was. After all, in my head, I thought, “People like me don’t get this far.” Eventually, I left this job after a near-death experience in a car accident, but that’s a different story.

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My Advice to Other First-Generation Latinos

It wasn’t until I started to heal from my immigrant and first-gen trauma that I began to have compassion for all my struggles and how far I had come in life. If you can relate to any of my experiences, I welcome you to be more compassionate towards yourself. As first-gen Latinos, we have unique experiences that nobody else in our family has. They don’t know what it’s like to create a new path that has never been walked before for future generations. They won’t know what it’s like to figure things out on your own even though you have no idea what you’re doing. They won’t know how traumatizing it can be to be the first in your family to go to college. They won’t know what it’s like to try and advance in your career only to feel more like an imposter the higher up you go. There aren’t many people who look like us up that ladder. All they see are the final results. They can’t see all the struggles and traumas we experienced to create those results.

If I could do this over again, I would also not take on my family’s burdens. I love them, but having those burdens put on me was harmful. Let’s not forget that our parents are adults and they can put in the effort to reach their own goals too. They should not be living their dreams through us! Our responsibility is to pursue our own dreams, to live our lives authentically, and to heal from the challenges we had to overcome to succeed and grow as first-gen Latinos.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on May 3, 2023