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By Rita Maulucci

“The quality of your life reflects the quality of yourself-talk.”

Self-talk is a form of thinking experienced at a conscious level. As we go about our daily lives, we constantly explain to ourselves many things that happen. Self-talk is the term used to describe this process of private dialogue which we conduct silently in our own head. Self-talk is unique to each of us and it is important in shaping the way in which we experience life. It is sometimes positive, sometimes negative or often just neutral. Obviously the more positive we are in explaining our experiences; the more we tend to enjoy life. Self-talk is:

  • Learned.
  • Automatic in that we usually cannot help but engage in it.
  • Often habitual in terms of whether it is positive or negative.

The psychologist Martin Seligman in his book, Learned Optimism, makes the point that pessimism has its uses and is necessary to give us perspective to the realities of life. Seligman further notes that generally, optimists enjoy better health, greater enjoyment of life and more success. He makes the point that at the root of either optimistic or pessimistic styles of thinking lays the fact of our ‘explanatory style’ or self-talk. That is, if our self-talk is mostly positive, we will think optimistically; if our self-talk is mostly negative, we will think pessimistically. Benjamin Disraeli had the right idea when he said:

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes.”

In this quote Disraeli is saying we need to think in a positive way so that we can create a more positive life for ourselves. We cannot prevent bad events occurring in our lives but we can change the way we think about them and consequently how we react.

Positive Self-talk

We are who we are because of the way we have talked to ourselves every day of our lives: it is as if we become what we think. When we use positive self-talk we feel more empowered, optimistic and self-confident. Positive self-talk also helps us to remain calm in stressful situations, to take risks in new situations, to perceive negative events from a different perspective and to accept both our positive and negative experiences.

There are three principles in changing our negative self-talk to positive self-talk, and they are as follows:

  • We need to realise that we cannot completely stop our self-talk (except when meditating) but that WE CAN CONTROL it. One way to do this is to be conscious of the times we are being negative and stop ourselves from continuing to be so.
  • We need to consciously look for the POSITIVES in ourselves, in others and in the world and be grateful for what we already have in our lives.
  • We need the skill of being able to CORRECT ourselves when we perceive ourselves to be failing, keeping in mind that failures are opportunities to learn and grow.

Following is a step-by-step technique for managing negative self-talk using the principles above.

Self-talk Control

Every time you are aware that you are experiencing negative self-talk, follow this procedure:

  • Call out, “control, control” or “change, change”. Alternatively, wear a rubber band on your wrist and flick it each time yourself-talk is negative.
  • Ask yourself, “What is this experience trying to show me?”
  • Acknowledge that you are experiencing negative self-talk and release it … do not respond with any behaviour.

Immediately replace the negative self-talk with the exact opposite, for example:

Negative self-talk = “I’ll never be able to get that job”,

replace with:

Positive self-talk = “I can do that job.”

Whilst we are conscious of our self-talk and we can clearly see the relationship between it and our behaviour, our beliefs are subconscious and may have an even greater influence on how we behave.

More articles:  1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6 . 7 . 8 . 9 . 10 . 11 . 12 . 13