The Power of Positive Self-Talk
We are constantly talking to ourselves. For example, when we are angry, we speak to ourselves to analyze the situation, trying to justify our anger. Or when we are blindly in love with a person, we talk ourselves in, refusing to pay attention to the red flags that person has displayed. Instead, we say things like, “I can change him or her,” or “Nobody is perfect,” or “I believe they will change with time.” All these are in a bid to justify how we feel about a person or a situation.
Self-talk is the mental discussion we have with ourselves about ourselves. It is what we believe about ourselves. For example, I always told myself that I did not think I could drive at night because I do not see clearly at night. It is not as though I had a medical diagnosis that I have a blurry vision at night, but it was just an idea of myself I chose to tell myself and believe in.
While I use medicated glasses because I am shortsighted, I don’t have a night vision problem. But because I have believed that self-talk, I found myself not seeing at night. No doctor had diagnosed me with impaired night vision, and I took deliberate effort to review my diagnosis. Guess what? I could perfectly see. I only talked myself into believing the wrong thing about myself.
Another classic example is not knowing the price of things I bought. While people might take it like a boss-level move, I self-talked myself into believing that I do not remember the costs of the things I buy. So, when you ask me how much I buy an item, my default response is that I do not remember, which is true!
But I did not forget because I have a terrible memory but because I have trained my mind not to pay attention to the prices of things I buy. When I realized this, I started paying attention to myself talk, and I have seen myself recalling the prices of things I buy.
Hence, self-talk is what we want to believe about ourselves. Moreover, there is overwhelming evidence that our conversations about ourselves play a significant role in our emotions, actions, and how we see and interpret our world.
There are two kinds of self-talks – positive self-talk and negative self-talk.
The Negative Self Talk
Negative self-talk involves judgemental, blaming, and condescending phrasing to describe ourselves during our thought processes. Here, we force ourselves to believe the negative things about us and accept them as our identity. We say derogative stuff with which we think and identify.
Saying things like, “I am bad with names and faces,” is a lousy label that we get to believe about ourselves over time. As such, you begin to see yourself forget people’s names and faces.
“I look so black and ugly. No wonder nobody wants to date me.”
“I am so short, and I freaking hate myself.”
“I am so stupid. I never get anything right.”
Negative self-talk is mostly a product of shame – perceived and actual. We are taught to talk down on and about ourselves due to the shameful experiences we find ourselves in. When we are rejected, ridiculed, and diminished, we tend to find an escape by linking the cause of our rejection to our worth. For example, saying we were rejected because of how we look seems to reduce the pain on us at that point as we find an outlet to blame.
However, what negative self-talk does is that we begin to believe what we say about ourselves and get to live it.
The Positive Self Talk
Contrary to negative self-talk, positive self-talk uses affirming, reassuring, and supportive phrasing during our thought process. Many people disagree with the idea of positive self-talk, claiming it avoids the truth. But that is where they get it wrong. Positive self-talk is not about avoiding the truth. Instead, it is about acknowledging the truth and being optimistic about the future, irrespective of the truth.
Positive self and optimism are linked. When you are optimistic about a thing, you are more open and confident to solve that problem. Positive self-talk considers all the possibilities to find the best route.
For instance, if you have a negative self talk about your body size, what you do in the positive self-talk is not to deny your body size; it is to investigate it by asking questions like
- is this the best body size for me?
- am I comfortable with this size?
- what do I need to do to manage my body size?
- is this healthy for me?
- am I doing this because people are shaming me or because it is the right thing to do? etc
To harness the power of positive self-talk, you must be ready to practice. Instead of saying
I am overweight and out of shape, and I do not care. Instead, you should say, I am in charge of myself and want to be healthy. Aside from all these, positive self-talks boost our confidence level and give us a higher threshold to try as many times as possible.
Start speaking good about who you are and who you want to be. Then, you become what you say. So, say the right things.