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What is Self-Talk?
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We all have that inner voice that engages in a daily non-stop monologue throughout the day and night. This inner monologue that can be cheerful, supportive and positive or negative, self-defeating and sad is referred to as Self-Talk.
Our self-talk is our internal chatter. It is influenced by our subconscious mind, “it combines conscious thoughts with unconscious beliefs and biases” (Psychology Today).
It is an effective way for the brain to interpret and process our daily experiences– since we are always talking to ourselves.
Our self-talk reveals our thoughts, beliefs, questions, ideas and often control or determine our moods at any given time.
Take a minute and think about what you’ve said to yourself today or what you are saying right now (that little persistent voice in your head). Was it critical? Is it kind? helpful? Crippling? Paralyzing? Does it make you feel happy about yourself? or it makes you cringe and want to hide? How did you feel after you engaged in this inner discussion?
Your thoughts are the source of your emotions and mood. The conversations you have with yourself can be destructive or beneficial. They influence how you feel about yourself and how you respond to events in your life.
Our self-talk can enhance our performance or wreck it.
Self-talk is helpful when it is positive, talking down fears and boosting confidence.
Self-talk can also be critical, a little criticism is helpful and needed as it helps us refine our work.
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Self-talk can also unhelpful, irrationally critical, negative, fearful ad increasing our self-doubt.
How does self-talk work?
Positive self-talk might come naturally to some, but most people need to learn how to cultivate positive thoughts and let go of the negative ones. With practice, it can become more natural to think good thoughts rather than bad ones.
Positive self-talk is supportive and affirming. Example:
“I’m going to speak up in the meeting today because I have something important to contribute.”
Rumination: Negative self-talk
Rumination is the flip side of positive self-talk. It happens when you replay upsetting or cringe-worthy thoughts or events over and over again in your head. Thinking through a problem can be useful, but if you spend a lot of time ruminating, small issues tend to snowball. Constant rumination can make you more likely to experience depression or anxiety.
This statement shows negative thoughts can grow and become self-defeating:
“I can’t do this… I always fail at everything. There’s no point trying as trying will only prove the truth– that I am a failure…”
Researchers have found that it’s not just about what you say to yourself, it’s also the language that you use to say it. One 2014 report describes the role of language in self-talk. What’s the key? When practising self-talk, don’t refer to yourself in the first person, such as “I” or “me.” Instead, refer to yourself in the third person, using “he” or “she,” or refer to yourself by name.
Brené Brown, professor at the University of Houston Graduate College and motivational speaker, refers to the negative voices in her head as her gremlins. By giving her negative thoughts a name, she’s both stepping away from them and poking fun at them.
The report goes on to say that using the third person in self-talk can help you step back and think more objectively about your response and emotions, whether you’re thinking about a past event or looking into the future. It can also help you reduce stress and anxiety.
How to Get Started With Recognizing Your Persistent Self-talk
Spend a few days listening closely to your inner dialogues. Are you supportive of yourself? Are you critical or negative? Would you be comfortable saying those thoughts and words to a loved one? Are common threads or themes repeated? Write down important or frequent negative thoughts.
This is meant to be an introductory post to self-talk. In some later posts, I’ll delve deeply into negative self-talk as one of the sneaky habits that sabotage our personal growth.