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iStock 000022028767XSmallSomething that comes up in many of the self development books I read is the idea of self talk. It's the chatter that goes on in the background in our own heads.

It matters how we talk to ourselves! Language is a powerful tool for change.

But what if, like me, you find it quite tricky to notice your self-talk? What if sometimes it's fuzzy and so far in the background that it evaporates as soon as you go looking for it. Surely I'm not the only one who has an issue with this. I know that when I make a mistake or don't follow through on a decision, I don't say to myself "oh, you idiot!", or "stuffed up again eh?", or "well of course you didn't go to the gym today, you're just naturally lazy" etc. But I do recognize a feeling that says pretty much the same thing.

Learning to notice and identify those feelings might be easier for some than trying to identify specific words said to yourself. Do still look out for any bits of actual words you may say in your head, or even the occasional ones you may say out loud or to the cat about yourself, but worry not if you feel you're just not getting them all. At those times when you sense there is some negative self talk in there somewhere, but you're not quite sure what it was or if it was even in language, just pick up on what the general feeling was.

 

If what you're noticing is insane dialogues or conversations, have a look at what is going on there. It may seem like it's not self talk, but just observe what is happening there. Is it people questioning you or accusing you, and is it things nobody would actually ever say or even think? Where is this nonsense coming from? Look for the assumptions or meanings that must be there to allow this jabber to go on. If you can see what they are, you can laugh and make the necessary adjustments.

If it's just a feeling, do the feelings lead to conclusions that were also just feelings, like "I'm just not smart enough", or "who am I kidding, I can't really do this", or "what's the point"? Just notice what meaning you are giving to the event in the moment which has a negative emotion attached to it.

Once you've picked up on the feeling, quickly label it as negative self talk and remind yourself that you don't need this and it's not helping.

The next part is to drown it out! You can replace it with actual language based self talk, i.e. words you say to yourself, and of course you will be choosing supportive, loving, positive language.
Not only can you do this whenever you recognize either the negative self talk or the feelings that are a clue to it when it's hard to pin down, you can also pre-empt it with positive self talk whenever you know it's a situation where the negative stuff could even potentially sneak in. Chatter away to yourself in positive language before any unpleasant feelings, associations or meanings even get a chance to appear.

I do love examples, so here are some that come to mind. I'd love to see you add some cool ones of your own in the comments (if you're reading this in an email - click the title to go to the website so you can comment directly there.

- As you head out of your driveway or out of your building, or perhaps when you're nearly at your destination, you remember something you meant to bring with you – a postage item, shopping bags or something, and you say to yourself something like "I can write that down in my calendar for tomorrow, I can leave it by the door near my keys, I'm getting so much more organized every day, I'm awesome, I'm the Queen/King of the world, I can do anything....."

- As you look at an email, which reminds you of your bookkeeping, which reminds you of your tax, which makes you think you are drowning in a sea of paperwork and boring administrative torture which is going to take over your life...... stop and label this escalation and catastrophising for what it is, and insert some happy self talk straight away, such as "it's just an email, one thing at a time, I'm capable, my purpose right now is ____, I can just do this now, and then I can choose what to do next, happy happy la la la I'm awesome I'm fantastic.."

- As you're getting dressed in the morning and decide to try something else because that one is a little too tight, and the feeling comes up about that (you know the one) and you're very tempted to go and eat a whole pizza because what's the point anyway etc, so you stop, label that thought as unhelpful, and say stuff like "I'm so gorgeous, what's going to look best on me right now, I like and approve of myself, I deserve to dress as well as I can, I'm amazingly wonderful..." etc.

Ok, so as you can see, I'm not the world's leading expert at coming up with specific things to say, yet! In fact, only you will know the best things to say for you, and you know what? It's just self talk, you can change it up, try things out, be silly, experiment. Nobody is going to hear you, and if you're alone you can even try saying stuff out loud. It's freaky at first to say it out loud, but the dog doesn't judge, and it's completely safe, I promise.

To go along with it you can also create alternative pictures, feelings, or conversations to insert when you have the opportunity. It might be an idea or a meaning that represents a belief or a feeling.

It's all a game, and it's not about who ends up with the most toys. It's about how we feel – how much joy, satisfaction, love and sense of well being we can create for ourselves.
Your self esteem is in your hands – nobody is going to hand it to you. How we talk to ourselves, including the bits we can't even quite hear, matters very much. Talk to yourself lovingly and playfully, with possibilities, support, and faith in yourself. You don't have to feel faith in yourself first before you express it! Expressing it is what develops it. Respect yourself. Be kind to yourself. If you felt love and compassion towards another person, how would you speak to them? That's a big fat clue.

So, if like me you've found it tricky at times to adjust your self talk because you weren't literally hearing words in your head all the time, let go of taking it literally and let the feelings guide you to the meanings behind them, and make adjustments from there. When we learn to identify and recognize thinking that is not kind or helpful, we suddenly have so much more power and choice, over our mood, how well we are functioning and how we relate to others.

Keeping the purpose in mind helps us overcome perfectionism, and the purpose here is to change or adjust the meaning and the belief behind any unhelpful feelings and any language that pops up around it, so that we feel better about ourselves, so that we do better generally. Learning to be light with ourselves, be a bit silly and be playful and gentle is very effective.

Find the inner voice that makes you feel good. That's who you really are!

Comments   

#3 Michelle 2013-10-21 15:37
Hello Yvette,
I really enjoyed your article on self talk. I'm a person that doesn't hear my self talk but an aware of my feelings. Thanks for your many examples I will use a great number of them. :-)
#2 Tricia 2013-09-04 07:45
I think I've talked and listened to my inner self since childhood, playing with my dolls. For years, when someone asks me....uhhhh, were you Talking to yourself just now? I smile and say... Yes, Sometimes it's the only place I can go for an intelligent conversation!
I usually get,a smile back, but no one has EVER come up with any response good enough to change my ways.
#1 Elaine 2013-09-04 07:44
:-* I have my insecurities and lack of confidence and I have much self doubt

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