Most people get it wrong when they think about who their greatest influence is. It’s not your mom, your dad, your high school gym teacher, or your first boyfriend. It’s not your abuser or any of your exes, no matter how horrible or amazingly wonderful they were.
You already knew where I was going with this, right? You are the storehouse for all of the information ever given to you about life and yourself. Ultimately you chose how to interpret past voices and feed it back to yourself as experience. You alone speak to yourself more than anyone speaks to you. You also speak to yourself more than you speak to anyone else, which makes you, my dear friend, your greatest influence. And this is the best news in the world!
What Is Self-Talk?
The crazy thing is your self-talk doesn’t originate with you. If you think about it—nothing really does. Except for the uniqueness of your God-given soul, all of your thoughts are recycled words, ideas, and information.
Your self-talk comes from the voices and insinuations you heard as a small child, combined with all the words piled on top of them until now. That mental picture doesn’t sound too easy to comb through, but you don’t have to. You just need to intentionally create a new, healthier pile. First, let me tell you why, and then I’ll explain how to go about accomplishing it.
Remember the time in high school when you tripped and fell down the stairs in front of the entire school cafeteria? Oh wait, that was me. Well, you’ve probably had an equally embarrassing moment in your life and your self-talk can either make it or break it for you. You can chalk it up to the clumsiness you inherited from your grandmother and call it a very embarrassing moment that your gray-haired self will one day laugh about. Or you make yourself out to be the most stupid idiot that ever walked the face of this earth who is doomed to fail and be ridiculed for the rest of their life.
The problem, though, is that most people have no clue what they are saying to themselves, even though they’re saying it multiple times per day. Because of this, I require almost every client of mine to take an inventory of their self-talk. Most of them give me a blank look that says, “I don’t talk to myself.” Then, as I sit quietly and let them think about the ridiculousness of what they just didn’t say, their expression changes to “…at least not much, at least not admittedly…well, the stuff I say to myself doesn’t really count anyway.” Then they actually open their mouths and admit, “I can’t really think of what I say to myself,” and we’re ready to dive in.
This Is How Self-Talk Influences You
Your internal script starts with what was said to you. If your mother told you that you shouldn’t wear leggings because your legs are too chubby (shame on her), you may have taken in her words without evaluating whether you were accepting them as truth or not.
Later, you moved away, but you carried her words with you through your self-talk. So when you are out with friends and you see someone glance at your leggings, you immediately think, “She thinks my thighs are fat.” You’re auto replaying the same negativity that you thought you got away from. What’s even worse is that she’s really thinking, “I love the pattern on those leggings,” but that doesn’t matter because your brain believes what you tell it.
You may never actually allow someone to verbally abuse or demean you, but you don’t have to. You do it to yourself every day.
No matter what your current issue is in life, I can tell you that getting your self-talk in line will likely fix it faster than any other solution you can come up with, and I challenge you to prove me wrong.
So, how do you do this? Well, it’s not a one and done magical pill that fixes your self-talk. Sorry, I’d camp for a week in line to take that pill too. Instead, the work is starting a consistent habit of being intentional with your self-talk.
How to Change Your Self-Talk
Figure out what the heck you’re saying to yourself. We already established you talk to yourself. Take a couple of days and write down every negative thing that you notice you say—especially when you are sad, angry, frustrated, defeated, or embarrassed.
Take your list of negative self-talk and refute them, one by one. You do this by writing something that proves it to be false. For example: “I’m ugly” could turn into “I am a beautiful, unique creation.” By the way, don’t evaluate whether you believe this or not. You don’t. I already know that. The incredible thing about our brain is that it believes what you tell it regularly. So, go ahead—tell your brain the lie if that’s what you need to do. You’ll soon believe it. Then you will realize that the real lie is the negative thing you feel most comfortable saying to yourself.
Take your refutes and keep them in a file on your phone (you could also post them on your mirror). Recite them 10 times a day as well as anytime you tell yourself something negative. This can feel exhausting at first, but you’ll find that the more you say them, the more automatic they’ll feel. You will slowly notice the negative thoughts fading away. The result of all that practice is that when you are in that intense emotional moment, you will have a different, positive, and more loving script to share with yourself.
Your self-talk is the absolute cornerstone of everything you are and everything you will become. No matter where you go or what you do, your self-talk goes with you and influences every experience you have. Get it in line and change your life.
For more on self-talk from Dr. Zoe, check out her program.
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