Self-talk, what is it and why does it matter?

Self-talk, what is it and why does it matter?

What is self-talk?

It’s easy to sit back and listen to someone talk right? If you said yes, I’d challenge you to think again. You might find that listening to others is or isn’t that easy. You might also acknowledge that listening to someone, really listening to someone takes effort, skill and in some cases a planned and deliberate approach. It’s something that is so essential, is often taken for granted and can change the direction or outcome of a conversation. 

But when was the last time you actually listened to yourself? Your own internal dialogue? Your own inner voice or compass?  

The words that are said and the reaction to the words that follow will in many outcomes change the action that someone takes in their day, year, life and can have a dramatic effect on the end result. 

Self-talk is the conversation that happens on the inside. Simply speaking, self-talk has everything to do with your thoughts. 

What is negative self-talk?

The first step to understanding negative self-talk is simply tuning in, and starting to pay attention to our thoughts. Some may refer to this as self-awareness, listening, watching or even practicing being ‘the observer’. 

Like any skill, this can take some practice. Sometimes your skill levels are low when you begin trying something new. Sometimes you surprise yourself and realise although you haven’t had much deliberate practice, your skill levels aren’t too shabby to start with. We are all different and we all start from a different place and that is OK. 

The next step is to ask yourself “What is the general theme of this self talk?” Is the talker friendly? Encouraging? Or is the talker pessimistic? Discouraging? Afraid? Or even down right nasty? 

Negative self-talk can take many forms. Here are some examples of what negative self talk might sound like: 

  • “I’m not that good at this task, so I shouldn’t bother attempting it again.”
  • “I can never do anything right!”
  • “I barely passed that test. I guess I’m really not good at math.”
  • “I’ll probably fail this class and never get into university.”

What are the effects of negative self-talk?

Thoughts have a huge influence on actions and outcomes in our lives. 

Our thoughts may be a guiding light, a type of resilience, a mind-set that allows for continued improvement. It may be the biggest influence for the type of change we wish for in our lives. 

Our thoughts may also keep our world small, our growth limited and a reason that halts development. It may be the biggest reason for the type of change we never see in our lives. 

A negative self-talk, or “inner critic,” may sound a lot like a critical parent or friend from your past. This can be an important realisation in a journey of self awareness. 

Negative self-talk can sound like an inner dialogue that could halt your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities to reach your potential. It is any thought that reduces your ability to make any positive change in your life or your confidence in your ability to do so. Because of this, negative self-talk cannot only be stressful – it can really hold you back from realising your hopes and dreams. 

Negative-self talk has been found to enhance the symptoms of anxiety and depression, increase stress levels and shape a lowering of self-esteem. 

If you are feeling a sense of decreased motivation and feelings of helplessness you may also find you resonate with the concept of negative self talk. 

Tips to stop negative self-talk!

Challenging negative self talk starts with this awareness, this ‘watching’ and then having a deliberate plan to move forward to challenge the talker. 

Here are some really helpful ways to change the dialogue:

  • Be aware of what you’re saying to yourself – watch and then challenge. 
  • Ask yourself – is this really true? 
  • Name the inner critic/ the negative dialogue. Put your thoughts into perspective (so what?)
  • Ask yourself – what might be a more helpful thought? A kinder way to speak to myself? 
  • Ask yourself –  Would you say these thoughts out loud to friend or would you like a good friend to say them to you? 

When you start to realise the pattern of thought and then the following behaviour, you allow yourself an opportunity to be kinder to yourself, to encourage positive change, to create a relationship with yourself that is built on kindness. 

This can be a powerful realisation to empower people with the perspective of a past experience to then plan a deliberate path forward to create a better life – and a new best friend.