Self-Talk: Your Response to That Inner Voice
Article by Dara Winley, Ph.D.
Here we find ourselves in Black History Month, affirming and representing our culture. While there is so much to celebrate and look back on, it may be difficult for some to find the joy in today.
Living in a pandemic, maneuvering through financial or personal losses, combatting racial tensions, and battling anxiety or depression in the winter season on top of everyday struggles can create a lot of emotional unrest. So, let us take a deep breath together.
We tend to wonder what the outcome will be, but rarely pay attention to what is going on inside of us in the process. What I mean by this is that we often neglect to pay attention to how we think and what we say about ourselves. Our thinking has more power than we realize—and can shape an outcome, whether it is preferred or not. With that said, let us get into this conversation about checking our self-talk!
Self-talk is the inner dialogue or communication that you have with yourself which can either be positive or negative. This inner dialogue tied with unconscious and conscious thoughts, beliefs and biases about self and circumstances can influence how one reacts and responds. Unfortunately, we are naturally prone to negative self-talk and often have difficulty recognizing it when it happens. As an example, some people remember having a panic attack, but can struggle with recalling the moments leading up to it.
If you were to press rewind and play back the tape of how you talk to yourself—what would you hear? Examples of negative self-talk can be: “Why are you still struggling with this, you should be better by now”, “I don’t know enough”, or “I can’t change”. Without even realizing it, your thoughts then become your reality. Additionally, negative self-talk can turn into self-sabotaging behaviors. Self-sabotage is a type of self-destructive behavior or action that ends up creating the outcome you fear.
Below are a few steps to consider when proactively working against your negative self-talk.
Confront your thoughts
I often tell my clients to interrogate the mess out of their thoughts. This can be done through questions like: Why am I thinking this? Where did this thought come from? Was this here before and for how long? When was the last time I felt this? Take the time to sit with these questions so you can build better awareness, background knowledge, and new language about your lived experiences.
Explore the history of your negative thoughts
It helps to go back and learn where these thoughts may have originated. Even this month, we are exploring our roots both culturally and in the context of our families/communities. Take the time to note the origin of how your fears, worries and anxieties began so you can begin to plan an alternative response to them.
We tend to passively entertain thoughts and before you know it, it has grown and become bigger than you ever intended. Act sooner than later. This will help you to encourage the positive self-talk that you need.
Here are some additional steps and examples of positive self-talk to consider for your journey:
Be honest with yourself: Do not be afraid to name what you are feeling. I know it can be overwhelming and difficult to be vulnerable at times. However, just try saying to yourself, “I am really nervous” or “I am afraid”.
Accept what you can and cannot control: Part of creating positive self-talk is taking pressure off yourself. Remind yourself that you are human and there are many things you cannot predict – and that is okay. (Ex: I am recognizing that this is a limitation in my efforts, but not a barrier to my success).
Acknowledge and celebrate what is going well: Sis, while you may be able to name several things that need work, find one thing you can name that is going well and maintain that joy by offering yourself an affirmation and praise! (Ex: I am learning how to quiet my mind and release fear; I am learning how to find the balance; I am doing my best).
Bonus Tip: Say your affirmation aloud or write it down, repeating it throughout your day! Repetition helps maintain positive thoughts. You got this!
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