As a part of our wellbeing theme of self-monitoring, staff are talking to students about their self-talk, and the important role this plays in our self-esteem. This isn’t the first time we have touched on this important topic on the Wellbeing Hive – you can read our previous article here.
We all talk to ourselves – both consciously and unconsciously and what we say to ourselves can have a deep impact – much like harsh words from a trusted friend or a beloved family member. Ongoing negative self-talk – over time – has the power to cause deep self-loathing, lack of self-confidence and an incapacity to reach our potential.
In accepting we need to take charge of our self-talk, the first thing we need to do is to begin to listen to what we have to say to ourselves.
According to Positive Psychology, negative self-talk tends to fall into one of four categories:
1. Personalizing – Meaning you blame yourself when things go wrong.
2. Polarizing – Meaning you see things only as good or bad, no gray areas or room for middle ground.
3. Magnifying – Meaning you only focus on the bad or negative in every scenario and dismiss anything good or positive.
4. Catastrophizing – Meaning you always expect the worst.
We may in fact use a combination of these, or we may be more prone to some styles than others. We might tend to personalize all things – so when a proposal isn’t accepted, we believe it is because of us, rather than the ideas or the needs of the client. Or, we might tend to catastrophise and believe the cause is lost before we even present it.
When you start listening to your self-talk – you will come to recognize not only what your self-talk style is, but also what you are most often criticizing yourself about. It may be your work performance, your relationships with others or even your appearance. Understanding this may be hard – but it will help you in your quest to self-monitor, by alerting you to the kinds of situations in which negative self-talk might appear.
One thing many experts suggest we do next is to reprogram our self-talk. When we hear in our minds the very kinds of phrases we have identified as damaging, we need to have at hand some replacement phrases that negate this. Where possible, these should be specific to the issue. For example, should you often tell yourself that you are a “bad parent” when you yell at your child, you might replace this with – “I am a good parent, who is trying to manage things better”.
Similarly, if you miss out on a new project at work, instead of telling yourself you are “no good at your job” you might instead replace this with: “I guess my skills just weren’t needed here”. Repeat these often enough, and just like those old, unhelpful phrases, they will begin to become second nature.
In addition, you might select a special mantra to help you retain your positivity. There are many benefits to this which you can read about in one of our previous articles.
In addition, I think adopting a handful of key phrases can be very beneficial in tackling and addressing your self talk. Here are five that I find very useful:
No matter what, I am proud that I tried.
I can’t control what others do, I can only control what I do.
I am capable and strong – I can do this.
I can learn from this situation and grow.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else does, I just need to run my own race.
These five phrases focus on:
• Your own capacity
• Reinforcing the value of effort rather than outcome
• Accepting others differences – whilst not comparing yourself to them
• Reminding you that you are in ultimate control of your reactions
These are also wonderful phrases to use when working with young people. If we model this kind of thinking, and verbalise it in front of them, we might just “program” them too to speak kindly to themselves in the future.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels