We all have a little voice in our head, and how it talks to us can make a huge impact on our confidence and self-esteem. Negative self-talk can be a very destructive force. There are some things that we can do to improve the ways we talk to ourselves.
Begin by asking yourself if you would talk that way to a friend. Would you say, “You are stupid and incompetent!” to someone you care about? Of course not! If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.
Studies have shown that talking to yourself using “you” or your name (as if talking to a friend) increases confidence and performance, and decreases anxiety. For example, instead of “I can do this!” I say, “Kathy, you can do this!” It’s an easy shift to make. No one knows exactly why this works, but it does, so let’s run with it.
Talking to ourselves as we would to a friend and using “you” and our name helps to put us in an observer role, which is another way to battle negative self-talk. In one study, psychologists had people stand in the mirror and comment on themselves. If a person said, “I am a fat blob with a jiggly belly,” the researchers would ask them to state factual information as an observer. The participant could say, “I have a round abdomen.” Observing factually leads to action more often than negative self-talk does.
Lastly, we can name our inner voice. In coaching, we call it a Gremlin, and it seems intent on sabotaging our efforts. Many times, our Gremlins are trying to keep us safe. My Gremlin might say, “Don’t put in a proposal for that job. You won’t get it, anyway.” It’s trying to save me the pain and disappointment that I would experience if I didn’t get it. I can tell my Gremlin, “Thanks! I know you are trying to save me some emotional pain and disappointment, but I’ve got this! If I don’t get it, it will be okay.”
It’s time for us to pay attention to what we say to ourselves! First, let’s stop using “I.” We can talk to ourselves as we would to a friend, in grammar and in content. Let’s also be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. Finally, let’s give our Gremlins a name and reassure them that we can handle whatever disappointments may come along.
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