“Loving or hating the life you are living is solely all in your repeated self-talk.” – Edward Mbiaka
What is self-talk?
Self-talk is your communication with yourself in a way that helps you get through tough times. Even though you might not know it, you’re already practising self-talk.
Self-talk is your inner voice, the voice in your mind that says things that you don’t necessarily say aloud. Often self-talk happens without you even realising it and can be a subtle running commentary in your mind’s background. But what you say in your mind can determine a lot of how you feel about who you are.
The difference between positive and negative self-talk?
Positive self-talk is thoughts that make you feel good about yourself and the things going on in your life. It is like having a reassuring voice in your head that always looks on the bright side.
- “These clothes look pretty awesome on me.”
- “I can make it through this exam.”
- “I don’t feel great right now, but things could be worse!”
Negative self-talk is thoughts that make you feel unhappy and dissatisfied about yourself and things going on. It can put a downer on anything, good or bad.
- “I look stupid in these clothes.”
- “Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.”
- “Everything is crap, and nothing is going to get better.”
An optimist looks at a glass half-filled with water and sees a half-full glass. There is still water left to drink. A pessimist looks at the same glass and sees a half-empty glass, focussing on the negative. It is a common expression used to determine a person’s worldview.
Negative self-talk is destructive as it brings you down all the time. It can impact recovery from mental health difficulties and make people pretty miserable. But being positive all the time isn’t achievable either and isn’t helpful all the time. So how can you make your self-talk work for you?
Why does self-talk work?
Self-talk affects the subconscious mind. It is the type of talk that constantly chatters in the back of our minds without specific, conscious thought. Things we think but don’t say. Things we tell ourselves about ourselves or our job or our life but don’t rationalise or justify before we say them.
The subconscious mind is programmed similarly to how a computer is programmed, so like a computer, the subconscious mind will only perform the tasks it is programmed to function.
Information presented to the subconscious mind causes both a psychological and physiological response.
The subconscious mind does not hold any biases or beliefs other than those already programmed.
The brain records what it receives without regard to where it comes from or how it gets the information. The brain doesn’t care whether the story is true or false, right or wrong.
Recognise what types of phrases we should not be saying.
What NOT to say:
- Nothing ever goes right. (a.k.a. Could just one thing go, right?)
- I’m no good at (fill in the blank) (a.k.a. I’m not that creative/clever/ambitious)
- Why should I try? It won’t work out anyway.
- I can’t get caught up. (I don’t have enough time. It is too much work.)
- I’ve tried, but I can’t.
- What is wrong with me today? (a.k.a. Why isn’t my mind working?)
- It’s just not my day.
- I’m so tired.
There are three things you can do that can help change the direction of your self-talk.
Listen to what you’re saying to yourself- we don’t always consciously note what we’re saying in our minds. The first step in improving your self-talk is actually to become aware of what your inner voice is saying. Take some time each day to listen and even write down what you’re thinking.
Monitor your self-talk- Is your self-talk more positive or negative? Start questioning your self-talk by asking things like:
- Is there actual evidence for what I’m thinking?
- What would I say if a friend were in a similar situation?
- Is there a more positive way of looking at this?
- Am I keeping everything in perspective?
- Can I do anything to change myself?
Change your self-talk – It is easier said than done, but it’s worth working on it. Try countering your negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you think,
“I’ll never be able to do this”, ask yourself,
“Is there anything I can do that will help me be able to do this?”
Avoid speaking in the infinite language and look for things that might add a better spin to a challenging situation.
Things TO say:
- I’m making progress.
- I can handle this.
- I’m willing to try.
- I am in control of this.
- I am excellent at writing/singing,/problem-solving.
- I have a fantastic mind/talent,/ability with people.
- I keep trying.
- I’ll get it.
When can I use my self-talk?
Take the time throughout the day to positively build yourself up when you are happy, angry, sad, excited, depressed, or any negative thing. The emotional state does not affect the amount of positive self-talk you should be using. The only thing determining how much positive self talk to use is one thing. And that one thing is using it all the time!
- Right when you wake up
- While you are brushing your teeth
- While you take your shower
- When you eat breakfast
- While you drive to work or go to school
- When you are at school/work throughout the day
- Whenever you feel down
- Whenever you feel uplifted
- On your way home
- While eating dinner
- While spending time with friends/family
- While getting ready for bed
- While laying down in bed
Do a self-test quiz on Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem quiz