Changing your negative self-talk with the Paperclip Challenge

I recently concluded the book ‘The Kindness Method’ by Shahroo Izadi (I will be doing a full rumusan buku on it soon)!

Shahroo, a behavioral change specialist, wrote this very practical book containing maps and guidance for readers who want to change their habits for good – be it reducing weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, start exercising, etc. Specifically, she advocates that treating yourself kindly throughout the process is the only way to make changes that last, i.e. by shifting your focus to your individual strengths and skills!

In one of her many many many exercises, she brought up The Paperclip Challenge – that I thought was super neat-o. I quoted her below:

The Paperclip Challenge

“One of the nurses I once trained with shared a tip that helped a lot of her patients (and now my clients too).

These people struggled to change conversations that they were having about themselves, so she asked them to start each day with thirty paperclips in one of their pockets.

Then, each time they caught themselves staying something cruel to themselves, they were to transfer a paperclip from one pocket to the other. At the end of the day, they would empty their pockets and realize how frequently it had been happening.

The shock of this, combined with the knowledge of how counter-productive it was, was often enough to decrease the number of paperclips they would have in their second pocket at the end of the next day.

I have since used this exercise with my clients, many of whom have found it really useful. Some have jars dotted around their house that they throw a marble or button into every time they hear themselves saying something cruel to themselves, as a potent visual reminder of how ingrained this habit has become.”

To summarise:

Attempting the challenge

I thought this was a very practical way to measure and assess the kind of defeating self-talk we might be having throughout the day. I can confess that this is something that I am trying to be very mindful of too.

If like me, you don’t have a box of paperclips lying around, you can start with any small items that are accessible to you, such as buttons, earrings, shillings. If still tak cukup 30 of something, then I think starting with half should be alright kot for this little experiment. Or you know, just mix up the small items, no prob.

Other than the paperclips/or its alternatives, you also require some mindfulness for this exercise – as you have to be able to monitor the thoughts you are having about yourself – especially when undergoing a more challenging or uncomfortable experience throughout the day.

It’s okay if you can’t fix your self-talk yet on the first day – as this exercise is a bit more passive and only requires you to observe the frequency of negative self-talk. On the second day, if you do catch yourself trying to be negative about yourself- you can start to shift your self-talk to a kinder narrative (a good tip is to imagine what you way say to a friend if they were going through the same thing) and then carry on!

I am definitely doing it as well to check the kind of conversations I have with myself. My pro-tip is always the aforementioned ‘friend’ tip – if I won’t say it to my friend, I should definitely not say it to myself either.

All the best kawan-kawan and let me know if you do attempt this Paperclip Challenge 🙂


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