What is Self-Talk?
You can think of self-talk as being something you tend to do naturally during your waking hours. Over the years, people are now becoming more and more aware of just how positive self-talk can be. Self-talk has been identified as a powerful tool for boosting your self-confidence while curbing negative emotions as well. If you are able to master the concept of positive self-talk, you are likely to become more confident, productive, and motivated. You can think of self-talk as being a pep talk you give to yourself.
How Does Self-Talk Work?
For some people, positive self-talk comes naturally, while some people need to learn how to acquire positive thoughts and curb negative thoughts about themselves or a particular situation. Over a period of time with regular practice, self-talk becomes a more natural part of your personality and you automatically become more inclined to focus on thinking good and positive thoughts rather than negative thoughts.
Importance of Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk can make a world of difference to your personality and to your outlook towards life. Positive self-talk can be affirming and supportive. For example, consider the following thoughts that a person has.
- “I am going to speak up and be heard at the meeting today because I have valuable thoughts to contribute.” This immediately sounds like an affirmative and positive plan and also indicates that the thinker of this thought has a positive attitude.
- “I do not think I will be able to speak up at the meeting today because I will just come across as being foolish if I speak the wrong thing and my colleagues will make fun of me.” Now, look at this statement. It is full of negative comments about oneself and is unlikely going to result in anything positive.
Negative self-talk is referred to as rumination. This is the opposite of positive self-talk and this happens when you continue to replay upsetting or self-degrading thoughts or events again and again in your head. While thinking through a problem and understanding how to solve the situation can be useful, but indulging a lot of time ruminating about the problem is only going to cause the issue to become larger than life itself. Constant rumination is going to increase your chances of experiencing depression or anxiety.
Why Language Matters in Self-Talk?
Researchers have found that the critical part about what can be termed as a successful self-talk is the language you use while saying the statement. It is not just about what you say, but a lot more about the language you use while saying it. A 2014 report by the American Psychological Association found that the role of language in self-talk is absolutely critical. The report described that the key to practicing successful self-talk is that you do not refer to yourself in the first person. Instead of using the terms ‘I’ and ‘me’ to refer to yourself, try to refer to yourself in the third person. Make use of the terms ‘he’, ‘she’, or better still, refer to yourself by your name.
According to the famous motivational speaker Brene Brown, it is also a good idea to give a name to your negative thoughts. This separates out the negative thoughts and gives them an identity of their own which you can then use to discard them away from your life.
The report from the American Psychological Association also states that when you refer to yourself in the third person, self-talk helps you step back from the situation and look and think of the entire scenario in a more objective manner. You are, thus, able to more objectively focus on your emotions and on your response. This will remain the same regardless of whether you are thinking about any past event or if you are looking at any future event yet to happen. Speaking in a third person will also help lower your anxiety and stress levels.
How to Begin Positive Self-Talk?
The first step to beginning the process of motivating and positive self-talk is to listen and learn. You need to first of all just spend a couple of days listening closely to your inner voice and focus on your inner dialogues. Do you sound supportive of yourself or are you being overly critical and negative about yourself? What you are thinking about yourself, would you be comfortable in speaking these same thoughts to a loved one? Are there any common themes being repeated? Make sure you write down some of the frequent thoughts you are having, especially the negative ones.
The next step to follow is to think about the thoughts you have listed down. Ask yourself the following questions about the thoughts you have been having.
- Am I labeling myself too harshly? Do you constantly refer to yourself as being stupid, fat, hopeless?
- Am I overreacting? Is it really that much of a big deal? Is this even going to matter in the long run?
- Am I mind reading? Or am I just assuming what others might be feeling or thinking about me just because I see myself in that certain way? Am I simply guessing how they are going to react?
- Am I overgeneralizing? Am I concluding something based only on an opinion or do I have some facts to back up my conclusion?
- How accurate and truthful is this thought?
- Am I viewing one incident as being excessively bad or excessively good without really considering that the reality could be something completely different?
- Take a step back and think about what your friends would be likely to say about some of these thoughts you are written down.
- Change your Approach
Now that you have understood what you are repeating in your mind, it is time to switch tracks and learn a new tactic to self-talk. Look at the thoughts you have written down and reword these thoughts using more positive and kinder words.
Here are some examples.
- Negative thought. I am going to disappoint everyone if I change my mind.
- Positive thought. The power to change my mind is with me alone. Others will eventually understand my decision.
- Negative thought. I have failed and embarrassed myself.
- Positive thought. I am proud of myself for at least giving it a try. That took a lot of courage and next time I will do it in a better manner.
Remember that you yourself are your biggest critic and it is high time that you banish your inner critic and embrace a new you that is more confident, more productive, and has positive inner conversations. Adopting new positive self-talk comes naturally to many people while others may find that it requires a lot of time. Take whatever time you need and keep putting more efforts into the process until you become an expert at banishing negative and self-degrading thoughts and embrace positive self-talk. It is definitely going to be worth the effort as you see yourself moving towards a better future with an improved sense of self-worth.