Why You Need a Self-Talk Safe Word
Congrats—you’re in a relationship with yourself! Yup, a divine swipe right paired you with this self you’re inhabiting, the self you’re navigating through life. It’s the longest relationship you will ever have, and arguably the most committed. You’re your own ride or die, literally.
Like all good relationships, this dance with yourself takes work. And even though it’s, well, you you’re working with, your other half doesn’t always naturally go about things in the best way. Specifically: It's not always the kindest.
You’re not even qualified for this Why are you even trying? You're gonna bomb this presentation Everyone will hate your GIFs
Sound familiar? That’s just a preview of my own inner voice, doing what it does best: firing up some seriously negative self-talk.
We all have an inner critic, and it loves to hog the mic. It knows exactly how to feed our fears and insecurities, and it can troll us like the worst of the worst on Tinder. We often feel like this kind of talk is productive, like it’s helping us be realistic or manage our expectations. But negative self-talk is never in our interest, according to Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D.
“Like it or not, everything you say to yourself matters,” Vilhauer explains in a Psychology Today article. “The inner critic isn’t harmless. It inhibits you, limits you, and stops you from pursuing the life you truly want to live. It robs you of peace of mind and emotional well-being and, if left unchecked long enough, it can even lead to serious mental health problems like depression or anxiety.”
We can’t just ghost this inner critic, unfortunately—it’s part of our inner voice. But we can learn its habits, how to bring it down a notch, and protect ourselves with a self-talk safe word.
Here, a few tips on how to have a better relationship with that inner voice of yours:
1. Have a Self-Talk Safe Word
When your inner critic starts to steal the mic, notice it and take action.
“Talking back to your inner critic is an important part of taking away its power,” Vilhauer writes. “Simply telling the critic you don’t want to hear what it has to say begins to give you a sense of choice in the matter.”
Another way to do this: Create a safe word or phrase for your inner critic. This tip comes straight from the world of Fifty Shades of Grey. I like to think my relationship with my inner critic is kind of like an E.L. James/BDSM situation I didn’t choose. I didn't sign up for this kind of reprimanding, and I am not finding it pleasurable.
So, taking a page out of the book itself, it can help to create a safe word with your self-talk. In the erotic world of Fifty Shades (stay with me here—promise there’s a point), a safe word is used when someone feels they’re “approaching, or crossing, a physical, emotional, or moral boundary.”
Find a word you can use when your self-talk starts to get overwhelming. Maybe your safe word is “Boy, bye” or “Oprah says relax.” Make it something empowering that can help you steal back the mic. The word will serve as a simple way to 1) notice how that voice is playing with your emotions and 2) shut. it. down.
2. Study Its Style
Get to know your inner critic. Notice when it loves to start talking. Is it mid-meeting? When you’re hangry? When you’re in the 11th hour of a Netflix marathon? When you’re Instagram stalking? Take note of the situations and moods when your inner critic pops up. Then, you might start to notice some patterns.
If it helps: Try to even curate a bio for your inner critic, as if it were a potential suitor on a dating app. My inner critic bio: “Loves pointing out how I’m not prepared when I start the work day, really exploits my insecurities when I’m running on little sleep, always down for an all-inclusive guilt-trip when I drop the ball.” Get to know your inner critic and all its quirks. Feel free to even name it, too. Mine is definitely a Chad.
3. Turn Up the Good
Think of your inner critic as one bad frequency on the radio of your inner voice. You have the power to change the channel. Ask yourself: What would a loving inner voice sound like? What kind of things would it say? How would it make you feel?
Then, start to bring what you want into the conversation. Actively try to find ways to praise yourself, rather than bring yourself down. For example: After you accomplish tasks, hit pause and let your inner voice celebrate. “Wow, you just powered through that.” Have a great conversation with someone? “Hey, you just had a great connection with that person!” Go against your inner critic and actively try to find the good.
And if you’re facing a tough situation? Try to make your inner voice the partner you’d want by your side. Instead of “Yea, you don’t got this”, maybe it’d say, “This is tough, but a great opportunity to grow.”
4. Accept It’s Your Forever
It’s easy to put off dealing with your inner voice, but know this: You will be living with this voice in your head forever. Yup, forever. You can’t just swap in a new voice, Alexa-style.
Start to view your inner voice as a true partner, and recognize the power you have to make it a better relationship. Your inner voice is like a boyfriend or girlfriend after the honeymoon period—definitely not perfect, but down to improve. Trust that your inner voice can grow and change—it just needs a little feedback and redirection. Take the time to do that, and you’ll be amazed at what your inner boo can do.
Read next: 4 Ways to Combat Impostor Syndrome
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