Do you know that inner voice that always seems to be going? It is constantly “telling” you what you should do, what you might do, and reflecting on things you have already done. It evaluates what you do while you’re doing it, providing opinions and suggesting possible ramifications and outcomes. This is one type of inner monologue which psychologists have identified and labeled as “self-talk”.
To get a better idea of exactly what self-talk is, psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne likens self talk to the “equivalent of sports announcers commenting on a player’s successes or failures on the playing field.” Unlike athletes that never hear a television or radio sports commentator’s voice, you definitely “hear” what your self-talk is telling you.
Unfortunately, this voice you seem to have no control over can be negative sometimes.
Think about the last time you did something embarrassing. You may have experienced self-talk telling you how stupid you were. Sometimes it is critical even if you haven’t done anything wrong. It reminds you that you are probably going to mess something up, because you’ve done it in the past.
As it turns out, you can respond with negative and positive self-talk to the same situation. It all depends on how you lead your thoughts. For instance, pretend that you have just eaten at a restaurant that all your friends think is amazing. You thought it was overpriced, the food was average at best, the service stunk and you had to wait too long for your food.
You find yourself at a party with your friends, when several of them corner you and excitedly ask you what you thought about the restaurant they recommended. You tell them your feelings, holding nothing back. They all say you are crazy, that it is the greatest restaurant of all time.
Your inner dialogue can respond in two different ways.
Perhaps you tell yourself, “Why didn’t you just keep your mouth shut!? Now you look like an idiot.” In response to the exact same situation, you could choose positive, constructive self-talk instead. You could say, “Good for you, for sticking to your beliefs. You reported exactly what happened, you didn’t overstate the situation, and it’s okay if your friends disagree with you about this unimportant topic.”
Psychologists believe that consistently driving your self-talk in a positive, constructive direction can train your mind to respond that way. At first you will not find yourself able to redirect your inner voice. It will simply blurt out a subconscious response. However, by continually appraising dysfunctional self-talk and turning it around, you create less stress in your life, boost your self-esteem, and feel good about your inner dialogue.
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