My interest in self talk really ramped up when I saw the following picture a couple years ago:
That's a huge responsibility. And while I believe that many factors go into our self talk, this has made me pause many times and hear my words as the voice in my child's head. I have made a greater attempt to only plant positive seeds there.
As a coach, I've become even more interested (*obsessed*) with self talk. My inner voice rarely takes a break. Does yours? Are you even aware of what your brain is telling itself when you aren't actively controlling it? The brain is a powerful tool or weapon, depending on how you use it. Does your inner voice set you up for success or tear you down and weave self-doubt?
If you've never taken time to build awareness around your self talk, I recommend this exercise. Pick a chore that you do on a regular basis but that you don't really enjoy. Choose something that doesn't take a lot of concentration or skill. As you complete the chore, pay close attention to your self talk. For me, it's laundry. I think I could enjoy laundry if I only had to do a load a month, but with an active family of four, it piles up much more frequently than that. So I get annoyed with it. One day, I noticed how negative my inner voice was being. It was grumbling non-stop. It even went as far as suggesting that my family didn't respect my time or requests since there were STILL so many inside-out articles of clothing. By the time the load was folded, I was completely irritable. Where does your mind spiral when you are doing something unpleasant?
Once you've gained some awareness of your habit of thought, try changing it. Now, this isn't as simple as it sounds, so here are some pointers:
Once you've had some success redirecting your thoughts while doing a chore, you can start to build awareness and positive change around more complex brain patterns. For example, when you go swimsuit shopping, what is your voice telling you then? When you work out, are you encouraging yourself to keep going or trying to come up with an excuse to stop? When dealing with a challenging coworker, are you constantly reminding yourself what a jerk that guy is, or are you trying to see from his point of view?
The truth is, every thought is a choice. It might not feel that way. Some thoughts might be so ingrained or so habitual that you either don't notice them or think they are just a permanent part of your inner psyche. If your go-to thought has always been "this sucks" or "I can't do it," it might take a while to change. The first step is always awareness. I encourage you to take the next week to notice what your inner voice is saying, especially during boring, challenging or frustrating situations. Write down the thoughts you hear the most, and then try to find a replacement. Again, pick a thought you can wrap your mind around. Let's say you want to enjoy running more, but every time it starts to hurt you think, "This hurts. Running sucks. I'm out of shape. I should stop." You can't believably jump from that to "I love running! I feel amazing." However, you can move to a neutral thought such as, "I am running. I am out here doing it. I'm healthy and able enough to go for a run. I'll keep going." Or perhaps you can be positive about your surroundings, "Look at that beautiful tree. I'm running by my best friend's house...she's awesome. I'm glad I have a dog that will run with me. The air feels good. I like my neighborhood." The point is: CHOOSE a thought that is more uplifting than your default. Move...even if incrementally...from negative to positive.
Check out this fascinating talk about the power of a simple phrase: "I am enough." And then, if you're ready to give it a try but not sure where to start, I enlisted the help of my children to give you some ideas for simple phrases you can use to improve your inner voice. It really works!