Who do I think I’m talking to like that? ME?

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, May 12, 2021
By Carlos Escanilla, LMHC

Self-talk is the dialogue inside your head. It is your inner voice that tells you what you can and cannot do. It is your inner voice that tells you to be something, change something, etc. It can be powerfully encouraging and, conversely, it can be devastatingly distressing.

Self-talk is influenced by your subconscious mind and goes unnoticed by you. It is an auto-pilot thought that flits through your mind and disappears as quickly as it comes.  Here is the thing, although you may not notice how you talk to yourself – your brain does.  And, even more alarming, how you talk to yourself can train your brain to default to this type of self-talk.

For example: if you flub something at work and you tell yourself, “I’m such an idiot.” a seemingly fleeting moment goes filed away in your brain under the “I suck” category forever. Put together years of internalized, unnoticed, negative self-talk, and you have successfully trained your brain to believe you are dumber than a bag of hammers and have nothing to offer the world.

Harsh? — hey, you thought it, not me.

But there is good news. Just by reading this post, you will probably become more aware of your self-talk (step one, by the way) and you will be able to distinguish if it is positive or negative. If it is positive, great! If it is negative, it becomes important to isolate that thought and turn it around. For example, if you think, “I messed up, I’m such an idiot and I’m sure everyone thinks I’m stupid.” Turn that into, “I’m not perfect and no one expects me to be.” “What can I learn from this experience?” Or “Everyone makes mistakes, I will not let this define me.”

Once you have your negative internal self-talk turned into a positive empowering one, you need to, and yes, I said NEED to, SAY IT OUT LOUD to yourself. Why is this so important? You may be familiar with spiritual manifestation or concepts like, “The Secret” were, very simply put, whatever you say, you make it a reality. Well, without all of the chakras and Oprah, there is truth to that. Much like small children need words of affirmation to help them develop a positive self-image, we need to hear we are worth it, smart, and capable. We need to hear it out loud.

The impact of physically saying the following phrases is immeasurable.

  • I can do this;
  • This failure does not define me;
  • I value myself too much to put up with this toxic behavior.

It makes them concrete and helps re-train your brain to believe you are valuable, important.

Research suggests those who engage in positive self-talk are more successful. This may be because

  • they have the confidence required to take a risk that can reap a bigger reward; or
  • because they are better equipped to deal with and bounce back from criticism and setbacks.

And, can we mention that they have way lower levels of stress and anxiety? So I challenge you to give yourself some verbal support. Begin by cutting yourself some slack, be kind, be understanding, and be gentle with yourself. Say empowering, positive things out loud and say them often.