Self talk can be described as the conversations or simple comments we have going on in our head. It is an internal dialogue of our thoughts. It can be quite hard to catch the dialogue because it can come and go so very quickly. Self talk includes both our conscious and unconscious assumptions and beliefs. Sometimes our self talk will be positive, offering support and encouragement. Sometimes it will be idle chit chat of nothingness. And sometimes, sometimes it can be pretty negative. If the thoughts that are running through our heads are mostly negative, our outlook on life is likely to reflect that. If our thoughts are mostly positive, we are likely to have a brighter outlook. Self-talk is our internal dialog, the words we say to ourselves.
Have you ever caught yourself saying something to yourself that wasn’t very nice? I have. One day I happened to listen, I stayed quiet long enough to hear some of the self talk that was going on in my own head. I didn’t even know I did it before that day. It was quite an interesting discovery. When explored, most were rooted in childhood.
Children and young people pick up on so much. They absorb what is going on around them and interpret situations, conversations and statements. Something one teacher said once could stay with them forever, and if it was negative, maybe reminding them that they are not quite good enough. This may occur regardless of what the teacher actually meant.
Even if negative self talk is not a problem in our own lives, we may find other people around us struggle with it. There is lots of information on the web offering various ways to challenge these thoughts. Here are some that I think are helpful. The link is at the bottom of this article, along with a link to reachout with some helpful information.
1) If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself. Check in with yourself –and ask “would I say this to _________________?” If you wouldn’t say it to someone you care about, then don’t say it to yourself.
2) Take time and write some of these thoughts down. Sometimes seeing these negative things make it very clear just how we are devaluing ourselves. When you think something like, “I am so dumb,” it likely passes through your mind so swiftly, you don’t have a chance to even register it. Slow these thoughts down, listen to what we are saying to ourselves. Writing it down can highlight just how absurd it is.
3) Studies show that social media increases self-criticism. It can be helpful to take a break from social media and spend some time tuning in to yourself – thinking about how you feel about your own life and which direction you would like to head. Pay attention to your own thoughts and say something nice to yourself. It’s worth remembering that if we don’t speak to ourselves respectfully, it may be easier for others to treat us that way too.
4) Create a plan. Decide how you want to talk to yourself. For example, you could decide that you will be a friend to yourself, encourage yourself, and be true to yourself. You could decide that you will challenge negative self talk and defend yourself. It helps to write this down and have it somewhere you will see it.
Practice helps to change the patterns of negative self talk. Sometimes just noticing it can begin to create change.
Author: Emma Schofield
Youth Caseworker, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services