Are you aware of how you talk to yourself?
That inner critic. Do you hear him/her often?
Of course, there can be many reasons people think this way, but in the main it isn’t from the result of having a bad childhood (although it absolutely can be) – rather, it’s programmed beliefs embedded within us that we have carried around with us all our lives.
It’s not uncommon, sadly.
And I’m not a walking talking example of someone who constantly speaks from ‘positive self-talk language’ – far from it, but when you’ve made progress yourself, you see negative self-talk quite easily in others because you have stepped outside the box now and are thinking differently.
Whenever I hear very strong negative self-talk from someone, my body reacts to it, which I think is from a place of compassion. I want to remove it for them, but I’m ultimately aware this would be a tough task to achieve.
It starts like this…
Believe it or not, when we’re between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, we don’t really do negative self-talk. We don’t know it.
We may hear it in our immediate surroundings from family members so it is setting into our subconscious mind, but we’re resilient little things and we don’t act on it really.
But, when we reach 3-4 years old, this is when things change. Our personality comes out more, we develop our ego and we are much more susceptible to language.
We digest language which becomes conditioned in us, and of course, we don’t have the awareness to question if what we’re hearing is good for our mental and emotional state of well being.
Then we start school. We mix with other children who unconsciously share their beliefs that they have been programmed with from their family, and so it continues and our negative self-talk grows more and more.
All the while this is going on for years and years, we then inevitably make mistakes being human, but we beat ourselves up for this, which adds even more negative self-talk.
The thing with making mistakes is that we are great at using the ‘mistake’ as evidence as a way of beating ourselves up. We aren’t taught that mistakes are normal and part of being a human being.
Imagine this for 15 years or so, and you have a pretty harsh inner critic.
Now, please don’t get negative self-talk and sadness confused. I am an advocate of sadness. It has its place and healing is so important for growth.
This post isn’t aimed at masking emotional pain; it is to explain the power of positive self-talk. In fact, using positive self-talk can start the healing process off.
Examples of negative self-talk
The word ‘should’ is so sneaky, yet impacts us so hard in a negative way, it’s overlooked.
It is incredibly powerful and dangerous language.
You did what you did and it’s done. If it can be changed, great. If it can’t, then that’s okay too. ‘Should’ is self-defeating language and makes you powerless. You are labeling yourself as wrong by a decision you either made or haven’t made yet.
Try using the word ‘want’ in place of ‘should’ and see how you feel.
‘I should do some exercise really…’ – drop that. How about ‘I want to go for a run’, or ‘I will go for a run later’.
The word ‘need’ is used in a way where we feel we’re lacking in ourselves somewhere and we can use this in a self-punishable sense.
You may have a plan to do something and once you do, you will feel better for doing so, but saying we need to do something in specific situations has a self-sabotaging impact.
Using the word ‘will’ in its place can help.
‘I need to find the right partner, because whatever I’m doing clearly isn’t working’
How about ‘I will definitely attract the right person next time due to the inner changes I have made’.
‘When’ is often used as an avoidance tool.
We become experts at putting things on hold so use the word ‘when’ as an excuse for avoiding doing something, which is often based on fear.
It’s an easy put-off word to prevent you from taking positive action right now.
‘I’ll address the issue with him/her when I feel up to it…”
‘I’ll start exercising when I have more time…’
‘I’m going to stop avoiding my fear and address the issue with him/her now in a calm and clear manner’
‘If I want to get fitter and lose weight then I’ll make time for exercising and watch 30 minutes less TV in the evenings instead”
You either will or you won’t. Think about it.
There’s no ‘try’ at all. We use the word ‘try’ as a fallback for failing at something. It gives us a pass to not do whatever it is we want to do.
Before we enter into something we tell ourselves we’ll ‘try’ it, but it’s very negative and defeatist language. It’s hardly inspiring or positive.
‘I will try to run that 10k’ in 5 months’
How about replacing the word ‘try’ with ‘will’ instead?
‘I will run that 10k in 5 months’
I caught myself using this word quite a lot so I’ve stopped now.
This is incredibly self-defeating and instantly puts your self-worth on the bottom shelf when it’s used in certain conversations.
Why will it be necessarily better? Why isn’t it acceptable and adequate where you’re at right now?
We tend to use the word ‘better’ in goal setting scenarios, especially when talking to others.
We use this word during conversations to sell ourselves to the other party as something we can give more at, but we don’t realise by doing this we’re actually talking down about ourselves.
‘I’d be a better person if I lost some weight – it helps my mood’
‘When I lose weight it helps make me feel better overall and I feel more positive’
Spot the difference. Even this tiny tweak can do wonders for your self-esteem.
Positive self-talk words/phrases
The following words and phrases are ones I am aware I use during conversations. They may help you too:
- with ease
- perfectly achievable
- it is happening
- of course
- I’m very confident in that area
- I have zero concerns about what I’m hearing
- I feel very good about this
- this is right
- there’s no doubt in my mind
- I have a solution for this
- I trust
- I make
- I allow
The list could go on forever, but this gives you an idea.
Credit where credit is due
One thing I have noticed about myself is that I don’t give myself enough credit for who I am.
And I see it in most people I encounter. Sadly, the ego attaches a weight to us and pulls a down a little.
But if we can give ourselves credit for even what we consider the most basic of things, then this creates a positive flow into our well being. More credit = more self-love.
This is an area I have been working on for over two years and still am, but I’m comfortable and pleased knowing just how much I have changed, and I imagine you are exactly the same if you look back on your progress.
A simple test of how you talk to yourself, or others about yourself, is to see what language comes up naturally during conversation. Don’t beat yourself up when you notice you are using self-defeating language, but instead internally smile as though ‘Ah! Gotcha!’ and you will remember for next time.
The more you pick up on your language to yourself and others, your awareness will grow quickly when you communicate with anyone and everyone.
Your words will change without much effort, but it seems to happen in slow motion giving you time to adjust even during a conversation.
This is how awareness works in this sense.
Happy positive self-talk!