You know that voice inside of you that criticizes you? This voice points out your mistakes and tries to make sure you’re perfect before you try something new. Have you heard it? The voice often stops adults and kids from being their best selves and from reaching their goals. Sometimes, the voice causes adults and kids to behave in ways that are very unhelpful. I call that voice a Thought Monster.
A Thought Monster is a combination of 2 things:
- Your amygdala: a tiny part of your brain that triggers fear.
- Your ego: the part of yourself that you show the world.
Your Thought Monster wants to help you.
But it is rarely effective. If your Thought Monster is ignored and left on its own, it can wreak havoc in your life.
Thought Monsters are scared.
When they get scared, they whisper negative and unhelpful thoughts to you. Thought Monsters fear:
Anything that makes you uncomfortable
- Not being smart, pretty, talented, rich, successful, (fill in the blank) enough.
*Meet your Thought Monster.
People who meet their Thought Monsters are less stuck in life and they’re happier, too! Why? Because once you meet your Thought Monster, you can calm it down so it can stop being so afraid. It’s simple to meet your Thought Monster. Let’s do it!
*After you’ve familiarized yourself with the activity, do it with your kids. Most children have a “Thought Monster” by about age 4. Their Thought Monster is not meant to be scary. If you think your child might be fearful about monsters, change the activity name to “invisible friend” or another concept that won’t be scary for your child.
How to meet your Thought Monster*.
Close your eyes & take a deep breath.
Listen for that critical voice.
Now that you hear it, describe what it looks like. Is it some sort of being? Or, is it a thing?
How big is it? What shape is it?
Does it have a color? Is it wearing anything?
- Does it have a name?
There is no right way to describe your Thought Monster. Each one is unique. Get a pencil or crayon and a piece of paper and draw your Thought Monster. If you are feeling resistance to doing this, just remember that it’s only a metaphor. Go ahead, draw your Thought Monster!
Listen to your Thought Monster.
Now that you’ve met your Thought Monster, let’s be a spy and find out what it has to say. What your Thought Monster says often stops you from being your best self and from reaching your goals.
- What do you hear your Thought Monster say to you over and over again? Write it down next to your drawing or on another piece of paper.
Does it feel good to think the thought you heard your Thought Monster say?
If your best friend was thinking this thought, what would you say?
- If your child was thinking this thought, what would you say to them to help them feel better?
Change the thought so you can feel better and do better…
What feel-good thought can you think and believe the next time you hear this negative thought? Hint: If your best friend or your child told you they were thinking this thought, you help them feel better by offering a better feeling thought.
- Example Thought Monster thought: I did a bad job.
- Example feel-good replacement thought: I did the best I could in that moment.
Notice whether the above replacement thought feels better to you. If it doesn’t, then that is not a feel-good thought for you. Make sure that the new feel-better thought that you or your kids choose actually feels better and that you believe it.
If you can’t think of a new thought, the simplest way to calm your Thought Monster is to acknowledge it and let your Monster know that everything is fine. You can “tell it” something like:
“I hear you. I am fine. You can go help someone else now.”
We never want to be mean to our Thought Monster in response to the mean thoughts it sends us. Meet your Thought Monster with kindness and you and your kids will start to feel better and behave in ways that are more positive.
Katie McClain, author of the book How to Tame Your Thought Monster, is a master life coach, the founder of the kidThink curriculum for schools and a faculty member at The Life Coach School. In her private coaching practice, Katie works with moms and their sons, ages nine and older, helping them gain confidence and self-acceptance so they can thrive. Find out more at kidThink.info.