How Do You Speak To Others?
Do you realise how much power our self-talk has on our life? It has such an impact on our day-to-day life and can be the maker or breaker of our dreams. Let’s start by looking at our external talk.
Have you ever felt bad for the way you spoke to someone? Maybe the words you used weren’t as gentle as you’d hoped. Or maybe the tone of your voice came across as more aggressive than you had intended. Or maybe your body language didn’t quite show the respect you thought it did. In the end, you feel guilty because what you said didn’t come out the way you had planned.
The way the person felt after your communication with them was not how you had envisioned it. And this can sometimes have a lasting effect because many of us area acutely aware of how we make others feel. If we feel we have been misunderstood, we don’t feel better until we have cleared the air and ‘righted the wrong’ so to speak. Or at least tried to explain what we actually meant. The point it, it affects us consciously and we go away thinking about it.
What About Your Self-Talk?
What about the way we speak to ourselves? I’m not talking about you having a full-on conversation out loud with yourself in public. I mean, go right ahead and do it. There’s nothing wrong with it – and at times it’s even powerful! – but you might just get some curious looks coming your way.
But I’m talking about the quiet thoughts and criticisms that you think to yourself – sometimes even out loud – as you go throughout your day. (You didn’t think we knew about them, did you?)
Ah, but we do. And you know why? Because we pretty much all do it! We all have an inner voice that can sometimes make us feel like there is a constant running commentary going on in our heads.
The Truth About Self-Talk
The truth is, if most of us spoke to other people the way we speak to ourselves, they would be horrified. In fact, I’d be surprised if you’d even have a social life anymore. If people constantly say negative and critical things to you, you certainly wouldn’t want to spend time with them, would you?
Who would want to be around someone that always insults them, puts them down and never has much compassion?
Can you see where I’m going with this?
If we don’t think it’s acceptable to talk that way to others, why do we think it’s acceptable to talk to ourselves that way then? What part of treating ourselves like sh*t makes us think this is ok?
Notice What Your Self-Talk Is Like
I want you to take the time and notice what your self-talk is like. Even though you may not be fully aware of it most of the time as it happens subconsciously, try to consciously follow your thoughts and be aware of your self-talk for a day…or a week.
What kinds of things do you think or say to yourself?
How often do you criticise yourself?
Are your criticisms focused on one main topic? (For example your physical appearance, your intelligence, your likeability, etc.)
How do you feel after you’ve given yourself negative self-talk?
Being aware of how we talk to ourselves is the first step in changing our inner-dialogue for the better because most of us might not even realise how harsh we are on ourselves until it’s pointed out. Unless you take the time to actively be aware of it, it’s hard because most of your self-talk is done internally.
But I’m here. And I’m calling you out on it!
Is Your Self-Talk Toxic?
Do you notice yourself always being your own worst critic?
When someone else puts you down, do you find yourself agreeing with them internally?
Do you find yourself expecting to fail at something ? Then when it happens, you think something along the lines of ‘I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it’ or ‘I told you so’?
Do you struggle to catch yourself having any positive thoughts about yourself?
Has it become a habit to always think that others are thinking the worst of you? (Even though it’s actually YOU that’s doing that job!)
If you’ve discovered that your self-talk needs a radical change, it’s time to make those changes NOW.
How Your Self-Talk Affects Your Life
It’s obvious that our self-talk can make us feel good about ourselves or can leave us feeling totally hopeless, depending on what our internal thoughts are. But the words we say to ourselves can affect almost every aspect in our lives. Negative self-talk can lead to issues with confidence, relationships, sex life, motivation, decision making and problem solving, social life and health, just to name a few.
How To Change Your Self-Talk
To change your self-talk into a voice of support in your life, there are different ways you can approach this. The good news is that you’ve already done the first and most important step. That is the simple act of being aware of your inner dialogue, your self-talk. By acknowledging it’s there and that it’s not a resourceful inner voice is critical. Before you can change anything, you need to realise there is a problem.
Now that you are aware of your negative self-talk, let’s talk about some ways you can tackle this issue so that your inner voice can start to help you thrive!
Focus on the present
Focus on the current moment and all the choices and opportunities that are available to you right now. Don’t reconnect with situations in the past when things may have gone wrong. Be aware that your past does not define your present or your future so what may have happened in the past does not signify that that is what will happen now. Every situation is a separate part in your life and the outcomes do not need to be rooted in past experiences.
Challenge the Truth of The Self-talk
When your inner-thoughts rain down with criticisms, take a moment to actually think about what the criticisms are. Challenge the words you hear by asking yourself, ‘Is this factually true?’ ‘Is there concrete evidence that is true?’ When you challenge the thoughts that arise and take the time to truly think about them, you will usually find that they hold no merit and can’t be taken for facts. They are biassed opinions of a voice – your inner critic – that is only trying to keep you small. By keeping you in the same place and in the same situations, there is no danger of experiencing the new and the ‘unknown’. When you can identify that what your self-talk is saying about you isn’t actually true, you can start to disregard it and start creating your own truths.
Name Your Inner Critic
Since you are aware of your negative self-talk, give that voice a name. Create an identity for it so that you can start to see it as something separate from yourself. Being able to recognise that this self-talk isn’t actually YOU – that it only represents an idea of you that you created internally – will help you to not absorb the negative feedback it is offering. Tell yourself that when you hear your negative self-talk, ‘Oh, that’s just so-and-so piping up again.’ It does not represent the truth.
Silence Your Inner Critic
Your inner critic has a name and you have started to accept the fact that it’s not actually the real YOU. What the voice and ideas convey are not true. When the self-talk begins, start to practise silencing it. When you hear the criticisms rolling in, try to completely ignore them. Shut them out.
It’s like that annoying bully in school who used to go around irritating other children just for attention and a sense of power. What happened when you ignored them and didn’t give them the reaction they wanted? They got bored and moved on. They might, momentarily, have ramped up the bullying in a last attempt to get the reaction they were craving and when it wasn’t delivered, they were unsatisfied and moved on to something else. This is like your inner voice. If you practise and train yourself not to listen to what the negative self-talk is saying, you will find that it will start to get easier and easier and until, one day, you might find it not there at all.
Create a New Inner Voice
Now that you know you don’t need to listen to your inner-critic, it’s time to start creating a voice that will help you thrive! What things do you actually want to believe? What words will help inspire you in life and make you feel good? Tell yourself these things – even if you don’t truly believe them at first – say the words you would want others to say to you. Create your new ally that is there to help you get through situations with positive feedback.
You ARE good enough. You CAN do it. You DO matter.
This may feel challenging after having talked negatively to yourself for so long so try it in small steps. When you catch yourself talking negatively to yourself, change the thought into something positive. Reframe the situation and find the silver lining. For example, if you catch yourself thinking ‘The date didn’t work out because he didn’t think I was attractive’ then you could reframe that into ‘I’d make a great girlfriend so it’s his loss if he’s not interested’ or ‘It didn’t work out because I know there is someone even better just waiting around the corner.’ You can change a negative thought into a positive one with practice. In every situation, remember that you haven’t failed at anything and there is always something to gain.
Start with one comment or thought at a time. Each time you feel yourself about to say something negative to yourself, try to catch it and switch it to something with a positive spin on it instead.
Don’t Be Afraid To Laugh
Remember that when things don’t go your way, it’s ok to find the funny side of it. Find reasons to laugh about a particular situation instead of turning it into a serious piece of drama in life. If you did something embarrassing and you are about to self-lecture yourself on how you’re an idiot, stop there. Think about that moment again and laugh about it. See the humour in a situation and that will instantly help you to feel lighter and avoid creating a negative spin on it. Laughter takes away stress and anxiety so turn it into something entertaining and almost enjoyable. (Because, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s good to laugh at the silly things we do once in a while! It’s funny. We’re funny.)
Choose Your Company Wisely
Surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on you. If you notice that those around you are negative towards you or even negative towards themselves, be aware that this will have an effect on how you talk to yourself too.
I’m not telling you to get rid of all of your friends and find new ones. I’m just simply saying to be mindful of what kind of environment you find yourself spending most of your time in. To help eradicate negative self-talk, you want to create a positive and supportive environment around you. One where you have role models that show themselves love and compassion so you can help nurture your own positive self-talk. Basically, don’t hang out with arseholes. If the company you keep treats you poorly, you can’t be surprised if you treat yourself that way too.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Become the Queen or the Master of your self-talk. Knowing that negative self-talk could very likely be having a massive effect on your life, you can start to take action to change all this for the better. It’s important to remember, however, that your negative self-talk has become a habit. It’s what you’ve been doing naturally for years (or possibly even decades!) Habits take time to change so it’s not something that will go away in a day or two. You need to practise showing yourself compassion and using positive language towards yourself. Practice learning how to silence the inner-critic. Have patience with yourself when you’re creating new and supportive habits. You’ll be glad you did in the long-run.
So the next time your inner-voice pipes up and tries to tell you you’re crap at something, you’ll know just what to do. Whether you laugh in his/her face (I suggest not doing this out loud in public!) or whether you take a moment to think about it and realise just how untrue that statement is, you’re creating a new self-support network that will make you become your own biggest fan.
Self-talk your way to getting what you want out of life.
Feature image by Andrea Piacquadio