Self-talk

We hear a lot about how people talk to each other, but what about how we talk to ourselves? Many people might say, “I don’t talk to myself!” But they do. We all do. You may not even notice it, but your mind is keeping up a running narrative about you, your life and the people in it all the time. What it’s saying can affect the way you think - both of yourself and of others.

To put it into perspective: when you speak, you do so at about 125-150wpm (words per minute). But when you think, your thoughts run at about 1250-1500wpm. That’s a lot of words! Some of them you may not even notice. But they are there and your brain is hearing and reacting to them even if you don’t realize it. Your mind is making judgments, decisions, criticisms, assumptions and creating narratives 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the entire time you are alive. Many of these things are based on false information, outdated belief systems and conditioning that you were subjected to before you were even old enough to understand or form your own conscious thoughts.

 It’s time to become conscious of the kinds of things you are saying to yourself. Investigate. Write down your thoughts about yourself for 10 minutes and see what you end up with. How much of it is negative? How much of it is unsupportive or even cruel? Are these the kinds of things you’d say to a friend? If a friend asked how they looked in a pair of pants, would you say, “You look awful. Like a hog. I don’t know why you even bother, because no one cares about you anyway”?

Why say those kinds of things to yourself? How much does this negativity control the choices you make? Maybe more than you think. Maybe a lot more.

We need to become much more aware of the kinds of things we are saying to ourselves and challenge them when they are unkind or untrue. We need to challenge our belief systems about ourselves as a whole, because so many of the beliefs we hold about ourselves don’t actually belong to us. They belong to other people: parents, relatives, teachers and others who had influence over us during our formative years. Children accept whatever they are told by adults, especially children under six years old. They have no filtration system or way to test any information they are given. It simply goes straight into their subconscious and becomes part of their personal make-up. Even well-meaning adults can unwittingly create negative beliefs in children’s minds about themselves and/or the world in general. As adults, we need to aggressively examine the beliefs and opinions we have about ourselves to be sure they are:

  • true

  • fair

  • actually our own

We want to try to get out of the habit of negative self-talk. Part of that is making sure you don’t disparage yourself to others. Instead of saying, “I’m broken, I’m stupid, I’ve failed,” try saying things like, “I’m healing, I’m learning, I’m trying.” These things are not only kinder, they are the actual truth - whereas the other things are not. The latter is more realistic and that is what we want to aim for: realistic expectations, realistic beliefs, realistic narratives.

When you catch yourself speaking unkindly or negatively to yourself, stop. Make a conscious, purposeful effort to speak more kindly and fairly to yourself. Examine your belief systems (about yourself, about others, about everything) to see if they are actually yours. Learn to observe your thoughts and challenge them regularly. This is a skill that can be vital in changing your life. After all, it’s all in how you look at it.