Did you know that you talk to yourself all day long? No, not the mental chatter about activities and chores that you need to remember throughout the day. That’s a form of self-talk too, but I’m referring more to the things you say to yourself on a regular basis; and more importantly, the tone in which you say them.
When you make a mistake, do you berate yourself angrily? Do you put yourself down or call yourself derogatory names? When you have a hard time making positive changes in your life, do you bemoan what a “worthless” person you are and conclude that you’ll never do anything right?
Negative self-talk can be incredibly damaging to your self-esteem, especially if it’s a big part of your daily life. When you keep saying things like that to yourself, eventually you begin to believe them!
Most often these messages begin as statements uttered by the adults in your life when you were a child. They may have said something negative about you when your actions displeased them, or perhaps they had a habit of saying unkind things even when you didn’t deserve it. As painful as these experiences can be, even worse is when you pick up where they left off and keep repeating the same negative messages to yourself over and over!
The good news is that you can change your self-talk any time you want. You just have to know how to become aware of the tone of your messages and consciously replace them with more encouraging ones.
Try these simple steps for starters:
1) Develop awareness of your self-talk. It may take practice, but if you keep “listening” in to your inner voice, you’ll begin to notice when you talk negatively to yourself.
2) Challenge the negative messages. When you notice yourself saying something negative such as, “You’re such a screw-up, you can’t do anything right” – stop yourself and challenge that belief. Is that really true? Maybe you mess up sometimes, but do you ALWAYS mess up? Probably not.
3) Replace the negative messages with positive messages. When you realize you’re saying unkind and untrue things to yourself, simply turn it around in your mind. Using the above example, you might say, “Wow, that’s not true at all! I do plenty of things right. It’s true I make mistakes, but so does everyone. I’m a good person and I try my best. That’s good enough for me.”
Over time, your efforts will pay off in the form of stronger self-esteem and respect for yourself and your capabilities. It probably won’t happen overnight, but the more you work at turning your self-talk in a more positive direction, the better you’ll feel about yourself.