Talking to Yourself
By Dr Peggy Marshall
What do you say when you talk to yourself? For most of us, our first reaction is probably “I don’t talk to myself”. However, we all do this-it’s a matter of noticing what we are saying and when! I was visiting my parents last weekend and was talking with my dad about a college baseball player who has hit consistently in the last 56 games. The record hitting streak is 58 games. We were also watching college softball and were talking about a superstar who had hit a slump and didn’t have a hit from the beginning of May. I asked my dad what he thought was the reason for the incredible success of this baseball player who as a freshman last year batted less than two for ten during the middle of the season and the lack of success for the softball player. My dad proposed that baseball player was keeping his eye on the ball and that success at the plate is eye-hand coordination. He didn’t have a theory for the softball player. While I can believe that a year of practice can help to develop us physically, I personally wonder if both of these players might be talking to themselves differently this year!
Back to self-talk. Self-talk is a term that refers to the voices that chatter away in your head. For example, when you wake up each morning and look into the mirror, what are the voices saying? Do you need a haircut, need to lose weight, or need any number of improvements?
Self-talk can be positive as well as negative. When self-talk is positive, it can uplift you when things aren’t going your way, bolster your self-confidence to try new activities and deepen relationships. But negative self-talk, on the other hand, can interfere with performance, put a black cloud over relationships and erode your self-esteem.
Self-talk has a number of sources. It can come from others-originating with messages received in childhood from parents, teachers and/or friends. It also comes from our successes and disappointments with life-things we remember about ourselves. The key here is that since it’s our self talk, we own it. And if we own it, we can change it.
Ways to change self-talk
1) Notice throughout the day what you are saying to yourself. Are the thoughts positive and uplifting or are you focused on what’s wrong and not working. It’s even more effective if you write down common thoughts you have throughout the day.
2) Look at your list. What messages came from other people? Which messages are coming from your own experiences? If your self-talk is predominantly negative, determine what judgments have been made by you or by others. Then challenge these judgments. Are they really true? More importantly how do these judgments make your feel? Typically, they create a spiral downward of self-esteem. Do you really want to feel that way?
3. Use words of encouragement and possibilities to challenge your self-talk. Instead of “I’ll never get all this done”, say “I am in the process of completing all my tasks.”
4. Negative self-talk zaps your energy. When you are feeling drained, consider a couple of options for raising energy. Go for a brisk walk around the block. You can also practice deep breathing-just a minute or two of breathing in and out to the count of 8 can change your energy.
This month practice listening to your self-talk. Change the easiest messages and let the stronger ones go for now-you can come back to them later. And don’t forget to keep your energy up!
Here’s to your success!