How often do you catch yourself in a storm of self-defeating thoughts? Do you tend to be self-critical and drift toward worry regardless of the circumstances? How do you usually talk to yourself? Are you your own cheerleader? How often do you hear in your head statements like “I’m no good”?
Your answers to these questions will reveal whether your self-talk is destructive or constructive. And it matters because, as relationship coach Lisa M. Hayes says, “be careful how you talk to yourself, because you are listening.”
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You, in fact, are the most influential person in your head. What others say can impact you, but it’s not nearly as powerful as what you say to and about yourself. But don’t worry if you struggle with negative internal dialogue because you can shift your self-talk toward the positive. This process begins with awareness of your thought patterns.
There’s a large body of research that shows that improving your self-talk has various health benefits, including increased life span, lower stress levels, lower rates of depression, better mental and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health, and better coping skills during times of hardship and stress.
In a study published in The Sport Psychologist, researchers found that athletes use the power of self-talk for a “cognitive and motivational” boost, while a separate paper proves that positive inner dialogue helps enhance the performance of young athletes.
In a nutshell, the way we talk to ourselves plays a crucial role in how we perform in life and how we pursue our goals.
How our internal monologues are developed
Have you ever found yourself fixating on your mistakes or dwelling on criticism? Do you pay more attention to negative news than positive news? Do you feel the sting of an insult more strongly than you feel the joy of a compliment?
The brain has a built-in negative bias, meaning that we’re hard-wired to remember negative experiences and focus on negative things more often than positive or neutral ones. Our ancestors developed negativity bias to survive as they had to be constantly aware of threats and dangers. Psychological research indicates that this tendency could negatively influence your motivation to complete a task or pursue a goal. It’s because instead of focusing on what you can gain if you keep working toward something, you’re more likely to obsess over what you might have to give up to achieve that goal.
This, coupled with our unpleasant past experiences and the limiting beliefs that our parents and society have instilled in us, results in us telling ourselves things like “I’m a failure”, “I can’t do anything right,” and “I’m never good enough”. But despite all this, you’re capable of developing loving and kinder self-talk. Trust me.
There are a number of ways to flip the negative scripts. Here are two tips I find very helpful.
Would you say it to a loved one?
We would never say some of the mean and negative things we tell ourselves to a loved one or even a stranger. We are willing to put care and effort into how we talk to others, but many of us don’t do the same for ourselves.
One effective way to introduce more compassion into your internal dialogue is to remind yourself that you deserve the same level of care and respect. Next time you hear that negative self-talk, ask yourself: Would I talk like that to my parents? To my partner? Or to my friends? If the answer is ‘No’, replace those words with a more positive message.
Fear takes many forms- negative thinking, pessimism, a feeling of paralysis. One practical way to feed your mind with positive thoughts is to learn to embrace it as a precious gift. This skill is more essential than ever before as many of us may have started or may be on the verge of starting something new in 2022. Setting and pursuing new goals can be both exciting and intimidating, but you can learn to use fear to your advantage.
You can’t reason with your reptilian brain, but the good news is that it learns through action. Every time you take action and survive, it learns a new lesson. In other words, the process of facing fear, acknowledging it, taking action, is like a muscle. The more you work it, the easier it becomes. This is one of the best mechanisms that I know for reducing the volume of negative self-talk because taking even small actions in the face of fear helps you become more confident.
How you talk to yourself matters, a lot.
[01:05] Language is incredibly powerful, and you’re in charge of writing your life script.
[02:47] Fear is a gift, a precious instinct.
[04:09] Take action despite fear.
[05:21] Naysayers are not in the room with you right now. Is fear doing a table read?
[06:36] Actions plus positive self-talk will be your ticket to writing your own script in life. Do not let your monkey brain rehearse lines from old scripts.
[07:55] Just do it!
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