Managing Self Talk

Long ago I heard someone say, “It’s not talking to yourself that makes you crazy, it’s when you start answering!”  I’m not sure about that, but I am certain that we all talk to ourselves.  With tens-of-thousands of thoughts going through our minds each day, we have the ability to influence our lives far more than anyone “on the outside.”

But what thoughts race through your mind?  More importantly, what thoughts race through your mind about YOU?

As I work with clients to help them improve their attitude about the world around them, we consistently find that their self-talk – the thoughts they have about themselves and the things they say about themselves – are often reinforcing their shortcomings.

Any good marketing professional will tell you that one key to getting a message across is repetition.  Think about the slogans of some of the big companies we all know – Nike, McDonalds, Coca Cola.  Their “catch phrases” come to mind because we are bombarded with them.  They’re everywhere – TV, newspapers, the internet, in stores, billboards, movie houses, etc.  Repetition is critical to getting us to remember their message.

Back to our self-talk.

What are the things you say about yourself?  Do you berate yourself when you make a mistake with thoughts of “That was stupid!” or “I should have known better!”? Not only do these thoughts not help you, they hold you back.  The repetition of a negative thought deepens your belief in that thought.

You might say, “I only say those things, I really don’t believe them.”  If the first thing that comes to mind or pops out of your mouth is self-defeating, then you believe it.

If you have success and your thoughts are, “I got lucky.” or “That never happens to me.” or some other “blow it off” thought, you’re reinforcing the same message as failure.  I often work with clients to help them own their successes!  Instead of “I got lucky.” try “I thought it would work.” or “I knew I’d do it!”  What a difference it makes in your attitude and your belief in yourself!

Even though you might be stuck in a rut of defeatist thinking, that’s OK.  It’s just where you’ve been, and maybe where you are – but it’s not where you have to be.  With awareness (which you now have) and a little focus, you can change that self-talk and replace it with something positive!  It’s not difficult, it’s just different and takes a little practice.

The next time you make a mistake, rather than beat yourself up over it, say something like, “I just learned something.  Next time I’m doing it differently.”  The next time you have success, own it with thoughts such as “I did it.” or “That’s what I expected.” If it feels braggadocios, keep it to yourself.

The real question is, “If you had friends that talked to you like you talk to you, would they still be your friends?”

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About the Author:

Dan Gabbert holds a Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology from Avila University in Kansas City, MO. Dan is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Certified Sex Addictions Therapist (CSAT), a rigorous certification issued by The International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Dan is also trained in EMDR, a therapeutic technique used for treating trauma and PTSD, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) a very effective approach to therapy and treating trauma and addictions.