The old joke about talking to yourself: It’s ok to talk to yourself out loud; it’s ok to question yourself, its ok to answer yourself. You’re in trouble when you say, “huh?” Sometimes “huh” is probably one of the best things you can say to yourself. The reality is we all talk to ourselves – all the time. There is not a minute, not a moment, that we are not talking to ourselves, even in our sleep. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of the fact that we are consistently talking to ourselves. Our self-talk is one of our greatest tools and assets yet, more often than not, painfully missed and neglected.
We all have a set of core beliefs that dictate our every action and reaction. Some of these we recognize, but because of limited self-awareness, often we have limited understanding of these core beliefs. These aren’t beliefs as in our values such as, “I believe in being patriotic” or “I believe in the sanctity of marriage”. Core beliefs have usually been bestowed upon us and within us, through an osmosis-like effect as we grew and interpreted messages without filters. These are things we have been taught to believe, whether we chose them or not. Deep, internal, almost hidden beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t …” As adults, we learn what these core beliefs are usually when we have tried to defy them. Once this awareness is recognized, as well as its need to be challenged, self-talk becomes one’s #1 tool to create new, healthier core beliefs.
So what is self-talk? Self-talk is all those things you are thinking in your head. There are, what I call, 2 sides of self-talk. One side is what I call the “facts”. “Just the facts ma’am.” How fast am I driving? What am I going to cook for dinner? How much is the electric bill? What is next on my to-do list? Etc. The facts and to-do tasks that fill our days and activities are the benign, non-emotion evoking thoughts that run through our brain. Then there is all the rest - those things that have some type of emotional attachment or belief attachment.
Only 2 Options
Our self-talk that is not part of the facts and data thought, our true “self-talk” has only 2 options in the direction in which we talk to ourselves. We say things that are positive and build us up or negative and tear us down. That’s it and that’s all. There is no gray area. The positive self-talk isn’t just “rainbows & blue skies” and the negative isn’t just “I’m a dummy”. It is much more subtle and habitual. Self-talk includes questioning ourselves, questioning our abilities, comparing ourselves, reverting to negative statements about yourself that someone else planted in your thoughts. These negative thoughts reinforce our limitations – self-imposed limitations. Positive thoughts, self-talk, reinforce our beliefs in our abilities, our strengths, our dreams & goals. They retrain and reformat those negative beliefs. They literally redirect the electrical and chemical reactions in our brain from following those same paths that lead to the same negative results.
"Self-talk includes questioning ourselves, questioning our abilities, comparing ourselves, reverting to negative statements about yourself that someone else planted in your thoughts. These negative thoughts reinforce our limitations – self-imposed limitations."
- Jennifer Horton
How do I know?
How do I know if my self-talk is negative or positive? How do we increase our awareness of our self-talk? Increasing our awareness of our self-talk is a simple process – but not necessarily easy. Our self-talk directly affects our moods, our feelings. The 1st simple way to begin raising your awareness of your self-talk is to raise your awareness of your moods. Raise your awareness of your moods throughout the day – 2, 3, 4 times per day with mood tracking. When you stop and think, “Hmmm, how am I feeling right now? And why am I feeling that way? What am I saying to myself?” Begin to recognize the paths you are taking – how you are talking yourself into the rabbit hole of doubt, fear, and indecision. Are things you say to yourself things you wouldn’t say to a loved one? If you wouldn’t say it to a loved one, it is most likely something you shouldn’t be saying to yourself.
How Do I Challenge and Change Them?
As you begin to raise your awareness of what you are saying to yourself, keep a log of them. Yes, you just increased your workload for the day, but it is important. We can’t possibly remember every time we think a certain thought – but as we keep track of them, we recognize patterns. As we recognize patterns from hindsight, we begin recognizing patterns when they come up. Now, we can begin to challenge them directly. “I can’t handle this…” is a habitual negative statement to limit ourselves. Once you recognize this pattern, the next time it comes up, “I can’t handle this…” becomes “I can’t handle this….Wait! Yes I can! I choose to handle this moment by (Predetermined game plan…take a breath, keep moving & not freeze, ask Susie Q for help, etc.) Will you feel like you believe this at that first moment? Probably not. In fact, your gut will probably go “yeah, whatever.” But, you are going to reinforce your “I can’t handle this” thought one way or another. Now, you are responsible for deciding how you chose to respond.
There are only 2 options: Reinforce the self-defeating negative thought or retrain and improve your thought, thus changing and improving your core beliefs. You are going to reinforce it one way or another so why not be intentional about how you reinforce yourself, otherwise it becomes a vicious cycle. Your negative core beliefs drive your self-talk and your self-talk reinforces your core beliefs. You must break the cycle and change the self-talk to change the core beliefs. Your core beliefs are the glass ceiling you can’t break through.
The flip side of challenging your self-talk as a response is to intentionally begin to change your self-talk and core beliefs by direct assault. Positive affirmations. Again, not fluffy rainbows stuff. But intentionally choosing a doubt you have about yourself & retraining that thought. We all have tapes replaying in our minds all the time. Think about the old reel-to-reel tapes playing over and over and over. “I can’t believe I’ll be good enough…I’m not smart enough…I’m not talented enough…” and on and on.
Choose 1 belief you want to challenge. Develop 3 specific affirmations to challenge it. For example:
“I’m not smart enough”:
• I am smart
• I am creative
• I am intelligent.
Then, reinforce it “to me” and why - “for me”:
• I am smart to me for me
• I am creative to me for me
• I am intelligent to me for me
Then, cement it: say it out loud, eyeball to eyeball to yourself in the mirror. “I am smart to me for me” out loud looking at yourself in the mirror. You just amped up your retraining and reprogramming your self-talk. The first time you will most likely feel extremely awkward looking at yourself and saying it out loud. The more awkward you feel, the better indication this is a core belief you must change.
Your self-talk dictates what you do and what you believe every moment of every day. Do you want to let it continue to be by default or do you want to be intentional and design it – design your self-talk to design your life? Raise your awareness of your self-talk, determine if it is positive or negative, and find specific ways to reprogram your self-talk to benefit you instead of tearing yourself down. It is your choice what you say!
About the Writer
Jennifer Horton, MS, Therapist, Coach, Certified Coach, Trainer, & Speaker, John Maxwell Team
Jennifer is a Speaker, Coach, & Trainer with a purpose & passion for helping people improve their lives and grow closer to God. She is a Wife, Mother of 4 adult children, and Grandmother of 2. She is a Certified John Maxwell Speaker, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Education and Master's Degree in Psychology & Counseling and has 20 years of direct service provision to individuals and groups as a therapist and coach. However, her greatest personal victory is her ongoing role as a Daughter of the King of kings & sharing His healing & saving message with women around the world. Growing up in an abusive & neglectful home and then moving to an abusive foster home, left her with scars and limited beliefs about herself, her position in Christ & her relationship with God. Through honesty with God, prayer, and allowing God to heal & light her brokenness, she now carries the message to women, "You are His Beloved."
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