As I was heading to the fridge to make breakfast this morning, I stubbed my toe. I’m not gonna lie. It hurt. While it wasn’t severe enough to shout out expletives, my inner voice clearly let me know what a mistake this was. I really didn’t need to hear anything from my internal peanut galley. It actually made the situation much worse than it was.
These “helpful hints from self — to self” happens to all of us at some point. Whenever you make a mistake or question yourself, that pesky voice drags us further down. When that happens, it’s difficult to stay focused, engaged, and productive.
How to Talk Yourself Up
What if you were more kind to yourself? You know, like how you treat a friend who needs support? Well, that’s positive self-talk and it comes with the following benefits;
- Provides fresh perspectives during hard times.
- Increases self-confidence and self-efficacy.
- Helps manage psychological health, which is also good for your physical well-being.
- Opens us to new opportunities and relationships.
In short, positive self-talk isn’t about ignoring negativity, aka toxic positivity. Instead, it’s identifying your strengths and using them to solve problems.
And, it can actually be easy to incorporate this into your daily routine by doing the following.
Beware of self-talk dissonance.
“If your existing self-talk is negative, don’t try to overcompensate with overzealous, motivational monologues,” writes Malla Wollan for The New York Times Magazine. In other words, don’t exclaim “You’re the best!” to pep yourself up.
“Research suggests that people with low self-esteem who try to force positive self-talk can end up feeling worse,” adds Wollan. “Instead, begin slowly. Psychologists call this an experimental mindset.
Also, give yourself commands like ‘Take a deep breath” a try as well. “In a study of scuba divers,” it was “found that those who practiced instructional self-talk were significantly more focused and confident during certification than those who practiced motivational self-talk.”
Challenge negative thoughts and cognitive distortions.
At the same time, if your inner voice is spewing negative self-talk, you need to tell it to bugger off. If you don’t, you’re just adding unnecessary stress and anxiety to your life. And, you’re also sabotaging your own motivation and productivity.
To stop negative self-talk, try the following strategies;
- Whenever these types of thoughts appear, jot them down in a journal or a sticky note. It’s a simple and effective way to identify patterns.
- If you’re ruminating, literally tell yourself to “Stop!” I sometimes raise a closed fist as well when my mind is racing.
- Place a rubber band around your wrist and snap it back a negative thought pops up.
- Replace this bad habit with milder statements. For instance, as opposed to screaming “I hate traffic,” say “Rush-hour traffic annoys me.”
- Make lemonade out of lemons. It’s frustrating when the unexpected happens, like a meeting being canceled at the last minute. Rather than succumbing to anger, use this free block of time to your advantage, like cleaning out your inbox or desk.
- Turn self-limiting statements into questions. As opposed to saying “I can’t do this,” ask yourself how to make it possible.
Make “can’t” a forbidden word.
When I was a teenager, my parents loosened up the rules on what words I could and could not say. I think you have a general idea of what these words were. I’ve actually implemented a similar technique with the word “can’t.”
See, when you blurt this four-letter word out, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Mainly, this is because this word packs a powerful, self-doubting punch.
Instead, remove “can’t” from your vocabulary. It’s not an easy task. But, it’s possible with practice.
To get started, stop fearing failure. Use it as a learning opportunity. After that, give yourself visual reminders, like on notecards or post-its, along with telling others.
And, when you do catch yourself, stop and replace it with “can.”
Focus on what you do.
Recall in the past when you’ve done some networking. Whether if it’s in-person or during a discovery call, there’s a fine line that you must walk. You have to sell yourself while not coming across as an egomaniac.
Often, you can do this by talking about your favorite clients or a project that you’re particularly proud of. You could also share what you’ve got on deck. And, could have a conversation about the skills you’re currently developing or what trends you’re excited about.
You don’t have to follow this verbatim. But, hopefully, you get the jest. When you need a pick-me-up, focus on your accomplishments, what you’re looking forward to, and how you’re an asset to others.
Practicing gratitude has been found to increase happiness, our well-being, and self-esteem. It can also improve our relationships, decision-making, and our overall health.
If you stop and think about it, this does make sense. By focusing on what you do have, as opposed to what you don’t, can give you an attitude adjustment. In turn, this will bolster positive self-talk.
The easiest way to practice gratitude is by starting a gratitude journal. All this involves is just writing down 3 to 5 things that you’re grateful for during the day — or keep an online Calendar journal or list of these gratitudes at the end of the day.
Talk to yourself in the third person.
“At first, you might feel silly doing it, but psychological science supports this practice,” notes Jade Wu Ph.D., aka the Savvy Psychologist.
“A brain imaging study suggests that when you think about a bad memory or see something aversive, talking to yourself in the third person activates brain areas involved in self-control less than if you talk in the first person,” Dr. Wu explains. “You may need to use less self-control to regulate emotions when you say, ‘Hey [insert your name here], it’s okay. You’ve got this,’ compared to, ‘I’ve got this.’”
“Third-person self-talk creates a slight illusion that you’re talking to someone else, which provides enough psychological distance to make emotion regulation easier,” she adds. “And when it comes to emotion regulation in high-stakes situations, any help we can get is a good thing.”
Stop playing the comparison game.
It’s easy to fall into this trap.
You go to update your status on Insta when you see a high school friend flaunting their new house or car. Someone from college has been in Europe for the last month. And, a former work colleague landed a generous promotion.
Here’s the thing. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Someone who has a McMansion might be borrowed under debt. Earning a higher position at work might mean sacrificing quality family time.
Practicing gratitude can help. Define what success means to you and live your best life.
Surround yourself with positive affirmations.
Here’s a simple hack to talk yourself up. Write positive mantras and affirmations on post-its. Then, place them strategically at home and work, like on the fridge or add these to your online Calendar.
I get that this might come off as a bit on the hokey side. But, having visual aids can help change the tone of your inner voice. And, it also encourages you to tap into the power of repetition.
Say goodbye to yesterday.
“Every second you dwell on the past you steal from your future. Every minute you spend focusing on the problems you take away from finding your solutions” — Robin Sharma
Cool quote, right? I think so because it speaks volumes.
You’ve all made mistakes and will always have regrets. But, what’s done is done. Learn and grow from your transgressions and zero in on the present.
Work with a professional.
Kudos to talking yourself up. But, that doesn’t mean you’re going to resolve deeper issues like clinical depression or anxiety. That’s when you need to talk to a therapist or psychologist.
There’s no shame in this. It also doesn’t mean that you’re weak. Instead, a mental health professional can use cognitive therapy to assist you in identify and challenging distortions. These can include catastrophizing, jumping to conclusions, or “shoulds.”
From there, they can work to develop strategies to have more accurate thinking. And, they can also guide you in calming exercises so that you don’t feel as anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed.
Image Credit: cottonbros; pexels; thank you!