This time of year people tend to think about changes they want to make. New Year’s resolutions often center on physical health, like exercising more or losing weight. An equally important area to focus on is mental and emotional health.

Imagine a steady diet of junk food — chips, cookies, soft drinks, ice cream — and the effects it would have on your body, like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, just to mention a few. We can easily recognize how eating junk food can ruin our physical health. But what about the junk food we feed our minds? I’ve seen clients lose their confidence during meetings and presentations because they have been feasting on self-criticism and self-doubt, envy, arrogance, and anger.

Don't Feed Your Head Junk Food

Self-criticism and self-doubt result from self-talk that diminishes how you view yourself. It sounds like:

  • I don’t know what I’m talking about.
  • No one thinks I deserve having this role.
  • I’m not smart enough, confident enough, articulate enough for this job.
  • I’m an imposter.
  • I don’t look like an executive.

Don't Feed Your Head Junk Food

Envy, arrogance, and anger come from self-talk that sounds like:

  • Look how great I am.
  • I’m smarter than my peers; they should work for me.
  • How did they get promoted?
  • I should be the one the boss chooses for high-visibility projects.
  • I’m fed up with being overlooked.

Instead of being stuck in their own heads, great leaders focus on connecting with their team members and their audience. They feel confident and at ease, and meeting their audience’s needs is foremost in their mind. Their self-talk sounds like:

  • This is a great topic; I’m excited to be sharing it.
  • I’m feeling good about my relationship with the group.
  • I’m here to help others learn, make decisions, solve problems.
  • Hmm, I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ll get back to everyone later with an answer.

Don't Feed Your Head Junk FoodHaving sworn off mental junk food, great leaders aren’t focused on themselves, but rather on adding value to the discussion. They know mistakes are normal and they acknowledge their errors because they are more interested in learning than in looking good. In her book Mindset, author Carol Dweck refers to this attitude as having a learning mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. They want the team to succeed and aren’t caught up in who gets credit for ideas and solutions.

Take some time to reflect on the needs of your team and your organization and how you can add value. If negative self-talk creeps in, replace it with more empowering thoughts. Feed your mind healthy thoughts that increase your confidence and effectiveness. You are the one who lets ideas in; make sure they are good for you.