You have the power to get through the hard times with a booster shot of positive self-talk. Self-talk is exactly what it sounds like: It's how we talk to ourselves, our internal dialogue.
When our self-talk is encouraging, we function like athletes coaching ourselves to the finish line. That internal messaging can sometimes be just the push we need to continue fighting toward the end goal. However, when self-talk is disparaging or negative, it has the opposite effect. It reduces us to a less than motivated state, from feeling discouraged to completely giving up and quitting.
Your personality can also influence your self-talk. Optimists tend to be positive and encouraging toward themselves, and positive self-talk comes naturally. Pessimists notoriously criticize themselves and others. They tend to have a judgmental, negative filter when interpreting events and situations.
Positive self-talk might seem like a fluff topic, but the impact has been documented in many research studies. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking starts with positive self-talk. The health benefits range from lower rates of depression and pain to greater resistance to illness and even increased life span.
In addition to many health benefits, positive self-talk increases problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, and our ability to deal with hardship. We can quickly lower the impact of internal and external stressors by using our supportive internal coping skills when faced with distress or anxiety. Then our positive self-talk process becomes a soothing companion during upsetting situations.
Recently, I had an experience that you can probably relate to. After months of long days trying to balance too many priorities, I sat down to record the final lesson of my updated online course, The Communication Protocol. I was exhausted and feeling run down, but I thought I could plow through it and make my deadline.
And then I lost my voice.
I could hardly speak for two weeks. I missed my self-imposed deadline, and my stress level increased with every passing day. I was frustrated and discouraged.
As soon as my voice returned, I recorded the lesson. But the process was emotionally exhausting. I had to take three breaks while recording to drink some hot water to soothe my sore throat and regain my voice.
I continued recording during those breaks. When I edited the recording, I could hear my exhaustion and distress, and as I was listening, I started to feel compassion for myself.
Then I heard my recorded self say, "You've got this! You can do this!"
Those unscripted and unplanned words came from the depths of my frustration and exhaustion, and they were intended purely to be encouraging and motivating. I needed to push myself to finish what I had set out to do.
After I heard those words, I noticed a distinct difference in my energy on the recording. As I continued to teach that final lesson, I sounded more confident and motivated. Those few, simple words got me to the finish line.
I've been teaching about positive self-talk for many years. I know it can make a difference in how we move through the world, support ourselves, and either motivate ourselves or tear ourselves down. But to witness the impact of my own voice and my unplanned use of positive self-talk was surprisingly powerful.
You might feel awkward or silly coaching and cheering yourself on. It might seem phony, or you might think it unrealistic that a few words could impact the end result. But they can.
Positive self-talk can help you get through the low points and regain confidence. And being supportive of yourself brings a more open and productive perspective to a situation. It does not minimize or ignore negative or unpleasant events. Instead, the intention is to seek a constructive outcome and feel supported along the way. Positive self-talk encourages you to move forward with a solution-seeking mindset.
What if I had been discouraging toward myself as I struggled to record that final lesson? Imagine if I had suggested giving up or questioned whether the project was worth the effort. What might have been different?
I can tell you.
A negative or disparaging comment at that critical moment would have given me permission to give in to my exhaustion and walk away from something very important to me. I was in no position, energy-wise, to argue with whatever direction my thoughts were taking me. I was simply going through the motions, hoping to complete the task and I am grateful that my self-talk led me to the finish line.
Our self-talk has a tremendous influence on our behavior. It is guided by our thinking -- whether negative or positive. Listen. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself and notice if your words are motivating or critical. Then ask yourself if you would speak to a good friend or someone you care about the same way you speak to yourself. Use that as your gauge. It's a great place to start making a change.
©Copyright 2022 Debra Roberts, LCSW All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced without permission from the publisher.
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