Updated: Nov 14, 2020
"Be careful what you say about yourself because someone very important is listening. YOU ".- John Assaraf
Self-talk, also known as an inner dialogue, is a running monologue that we all do naturally throughout our waking hours. This internal dialogue is a mix of conscious and unconscious beliefs and biases we generally hold about ourselves that provides a way for the brain to interpret and process daily events and life experiences.
The effect of self-talk is generally dependent on whether your self-talk is positive or negative. When it is positive and supportive, it makes you feel good about yourself and have an optimistic outlook towards the things that are going on in your life. Research also supports the many benefits of positive self-talk, including resiliency to stressful life events (Iwanaga, Yokoyama, and Seiwa, 2004), effective learning for students (Wrisberg 1993), helping to overcome body dysmorphia (Smeets, and Dijkerman 2013), and mediate anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (Leung and Poon, 2001, Owens and Chard, 2001; Oliver, and Harvey 2011). Meanwhile, when self-talk is negative and overly critical, it can lead to preconceived ideas that we’re ‘not good enough’ or ‘always a failure’ or ‘can’t do anything right.
The good news here is that self-talk patterns can be challenging to change, as with all habits. So paying attention to which way you most often sway towards and actively working to alter your self-talk into something more supporting and encouraging can help transform your life for the better!
You can start living that life today! Just follow these simple steps to get started:
1. Make a list of your negative self-talk phrases and attitudes. For 24 hours, the record thinks it's true. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:
"He would never want to talk to me."
"I'm not good enough for that."
"I could never do that."
"Things will never get better."
2. Prioritize your list. Take time to examine which items on your list have the most significant negative impact on your life and your sense of happiness. Then, put the list in order, from the most significant negative impact to least.
Prioritizing is essential because it will naturally force you to spend your time on the most important items.
3. Create a new list. Now that you've prioritized your list items, convert the first ten items into positive thoughts. If you're feeling motivated, you can rewrite as many more as you like.
Even if you don't believe the new, positive idea, change it into an upbeat version. For example, "I could never do that" changes to, "I can do anything I set my mind to."
4. Change your thinking. Each time you catch yourself engaging in self-talk matching an item from your list, substitute the new self-talk expression.
Be diligent at all times. Considering how many times you may have said the negative item to yourself, this new practice will require a lot of attention. The good news is that over time, the positive things you say to yourself will become a habit, too!
5. Move further down the list. After you've conquered the ten most negative items, look at the list, and consider how it would improve your life to change those remaining
negative self-talk items. You may have formed such positive habits with your first ten items that the rest of them might not be applicable anymore!
Adopting positive self-talk might be easier for some, while others may have to give it more time and put more effort into it. Either way, it’s a practical step toward bettering yourself and improving your confidence and sense of self-worth.
Remember, self-talk will always be there, so learning how to have productive, positive inner conversations has no downside.
Netsanet Tegegn, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist in Virginia Beach who provides individualized counseling services for those who wish to create long-lasting and positive changes in their lives...