Yes You Do! That was one right there!
I often ask audiences to raise their hand if they know what I mean when I say ‘self talk’ and whilst half the room will raise their hand, many will sit looking at me and others will shake their head. I will almost be able to ‘see’ the internal dialogue going on: “I have no idea what she’s talking about”, “I don’t talk to myself”, “I’m not admitting that, that’d make me look crazy”. At this point I’ll say “for those of you without your hands up, thinking ‘I don’t have self-talk’… it’s that thought right there!!”
Everyone Has Self-Talk
Self-talk is not only normal, it is an essential part of the process of evaluating and processing information. Each and every day, our mind is bombarded with suggestion: the things we do, see, hear, taste and touch: the people we interact with and the things they do and say: the stuff we read etc. Our mind has to disseminate that information and make sense of it and our thoughts are part of that process.
So, the only difference between those who say they don’t have self-talk and those who say they do, is that those who say they don’t are unaware of theirs. And whilst the extent to which you are aware of your self-talk has no bearing on the impact it has, awareness is important, because once you start to become aware of what you are saying to yourself, you begin to have a better understanding of the belief systems you hold and once you know what they are, you can then choose which ones to keep and which ones to lose.
Tune Into It!
The key to becoming aware of your belief systems is to intentionally tune into your internal voice and be aware of what it is saying to you and the feelings it generates. Admittedly, this is easier for some than others, but most people find that when they apply themselves consciously to listening for their internal dialogue, they start to become aware of it almost immediately.
The times when you are most likely to be aware of your self-talk are times when you are on auto-pilot. You know, those times when you are just ‘doing’ without thinking. Like showering, or driving, or sitting on the loo! When I first started to become aware of my self-talk, I would notice it when I was waiting for the kettle to boil, or listening to ‘on hold’ music on the phone, or waiting for a bus. This is because the conscious mind is not ‘doing’ anything and so your mind is in what’s known as an ‘altered state’. It’s in this state that your self-talk is most evident.
Your self-talk can be like a helpful coach who believes in you: supporting and encouraging you, inspiring affirmative feelings in you and resulting in positive action. Or, it can be like a bully: undermining and criticising you, resulting in demotivation and self-destructive behaviour.
Some people are not surprised by what they discover when they tune into their self-talk, whilst others are very surprised. Whatever the case, having this awareness is crucial as it provides an essential explanation for the things we currently have in our life.
There’s a saying: ‘What you think about, you bring about. What this means is that your thoughts literally become things. This is because thoughts generate feelings and both are responsible for behaviour. As I said in my tweet, if you have goals, but you’re not achieving them, the chances are you have beliefs that are in conflict with them, and this will inevitably be showing up as negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk is essentially thoughts that lead you to feel negative. That’s because negative thoughts create stress. For example, if you tell yourself that something you need to deal with will be ‘difficult’, then your body responds to that thought with the appropriate feelings, as the body starts to prepare itself for difficulty. Whilst the good news is that this means that your body is working properly (it is providing you with the resources you need to deal with the situation), it is responding to a perceived threat that is not real.
Change Your Perspective!
If you were to view the same situation as a ‘positive challenge’ or ‘an opportunity for learning’ for instance, then your body would respond to that thought with feelings that are appropriate to dealing with that. Whilst still preparing you, it is preparing you with the resources that will enable you to deal with a challenge or an opportunity, as opposed to facing difficulty.
The difference may seem subtle, but the impact is significant. Negative thoughts that are left to run their course manifest in negative outcomes because when we perceive that something is going to be a certain way, we prepare physiologically for that outcome and we are likely to manifest it. Self-talk is self-fulfilling – always.
So, what are YOU saying to yourself? And how is that showing up in your life?
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