On the Power of Self-Talk

leaves-smallThink about the things you say to yourself, out loud or in your head. Would you ever speak to someone else that way?

A few months back, I attended a leadership training in which we role played a very unique scenario. First, we described a time when someone put a great deal of stress on us. Our partner role-played as that person and we were charged with first responding as we did at the time, and then responding after taking a deep breath and centering ourselves, in order to notice the difference.

negative-self-talkOne of the participants chose to have their partner act out their own thoughts. Much like myself, this person was more impacted by their own thoughts than any stress caused by another. In the exercise debrief, we talked about how it felt. The partner who had to act out this person’s self-berating was on the verge of tears. He talked about how hard it was for him to talk to her that way, how he imagined saying those things to his wife and it broke his heart.

I don’t know that most people have thoughts so severe about themselves, as if the world’s most abusive, demanding person lives inside their head, but I know that it is something I have struggled with all my life.

I have thought about it, and I know that I would never say to anyone else what I tell myself, that I would never hold anyone else to such a high standard. Seeing that heartbreak drove home a reality I had not felt before. There’s a striking difference between knowing you wouldn’t speak to anyone like that and seeing someone hurt at the effort of repeating your own thoughts to you.

Negative self-talk eats at you. It eats away at your confidence and motivation on a daily basis and must be struggled against equally often to avoid simply giving up and accepting you aren’t capable of whatever demand you’ve placed on yourself and you are, therefore, inadequate as a person.

As Jancee Dunn of Huffington Post said, “A little self-criticism is a good thing: It can be a reality check that spurs you to be a better person. But there is a vast difference between ‘I need to work out more,’ which sparks your motivation, and ‘I’m a jiggly blob.'”

leaves-smallRemember: Rewind, be kind!

The way you talk to yourself can affect your performance and self-perception in very real ways, in everything from sports to business. “Positive, instuctional, and motivational self-talk” has the same strength, though. Put away those negative thoughts as much as you can. Attempt tp recognize when you’re experiencing negative thoughts and give yourself a chance to rewind and try again. Stop the thought in its tracks, back up and frame it in a positive, motivational, or instructional way instead, as if you were speaking to a good friend. The mantra “Rewind, be kind!” may serve you well in remembering to rethink your bad thoughts.

If you don’t quite share my love of dated references, check out this extended article on the subject or, perhaps, choose a more serious affirmation, like the one below.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

~ Henry Ford


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