We talk to ourselves all the time, all day, every day. We may not necessarily talk aloud but we have an ongoing stream of consciousness or an ‘internal dialogue’. Self-talk is our inner voice or what we tell ourselves and our self-talk influences us and our mental wellbeing.
Self-talk can be negative and self-critical. It may be along the lines of “I’m so stupid”, “What did I say that for”, “Why did I take that wrong turn”, “Trust me to make such a stupid mistake”, “I could never do that”
In order to improve our self-talk we need to start listening and paying attention to what it is we tell ourselves. Examine whether your self-talk negative or positive.
Opportunities arise daily for us to praise and encourage ourselves. The routine of life is worthy of positive self-talk. We get up, shower, dress, chat, shop, work, raise children, provide care for others and participate in society but we rarely, if ever, congratulate ourselves or acknowledge the positive things we do which get us through each day.
Positive self-talk helps us to feel good about ourselves, increases our confidence and self-esteem and also helps us become more optimistic.
If we notice that what we are telling ourselves is negative then we must change. Start by challenging any negative self-talk – it is not self-indulgent - it is beneficial to have a positive internal dialogue.
If we ‘catch’ ourselves being negative, ask simple questions such as:
- Why exactly can’t do this? I am able.
- Do I really deserve to give myself a hard time about this when I would cut someone else some slack/give someone else a break/let someone else off the hook?
- What encouragement would I give my friend if he/she had the same thoughts as I have?
- Am I keeping things in perspective or am I being negative?
- What can I do to change this right now?
It might not seem relevant but (positive) self-talk is an important part of our self-esteem, confidence and overall mental wellbeing. Using positive words when we speak to ourselves and to others also helps us to think more optimistically.
Listen to what you tell yourself; challenge negative self-talk, speak encouragingly to yourself. Be positive about you and about others. Over time, you will experience the lasting rewards of positive thinking and of self-belief.
Challenge for this month - why not say something positive to yourself every day for 30 days and at the end of the month, gauge the results. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You might enjoy having an optimistic chat - with yourself!
Caroline Crotty (Counselling & Psychotherapy) works with adults & teens in Newtown Surgery, Bantry and at the Natural Clinic, 23 Sullivan's Quay, Cork City. Caroline also delivers mental health & wellbeing talks and workshops to organisations, schools and community groups. Phone Caroline on 087-710-7032