We all talk to ourselves. Our inner dialogue is always running sometimes quietly and sometimes very loudly whether we actually speak out loud or not. This inner stream of consciousness has a huge impact on the way we see ourselves, the way we behave and the way we interact with others.
My previous column (March 19th) was called Harnessing Your Thoughts and this is a continuation of that theme as our thoughts are reflected in our internal conversations and for many of us there is a disproportionate amount of negative versus positive. Words are powerful, they can wound or they can inspire and that applies to our internal dialogue.
My question is: would you talk to anyone else the way you talk to yourself? The ideal answer would be yes because that would mean you are emotionally healthy, realistic, kind, honest and caring and that’s the way you feel about yourself which manifests as positive self-talk. But I know from experience interacting with many people of all ages, that this simply isn’t true. The more likely scenario is that whilst we may very well be friendly, generous, supportive and encouraging to others, we frequently are very harsh in our assessments of ourselves.
We can fall into this bad habit without even realising it. Our subconscious over time, from childhood on, has been absorbing everything which impacts us both emotionally and physically. When we are very young we don’t have much choice about our surroundings or our parents, our teachers, our friends who are our main influencers. If we are lucky, they are positive or at least enough of them are to counter any negativity. Unfortunately, as we are all flawed human beings, this isn’t the case for everyone and we might grow up with a skewed perception of who we are or how we ought to be because those other critical voices still resonate in our subconscious.
How often do you undervalue and tell yourself that you are not important, are afraid, are not good enough, don’t know enough, have no value – and on and on? The list can become endless like a runaway train. This is detrimental to your emotional well-being both in the short and long term and will impact every area of your path in life.
It’s natural to be wary of or doubt new situations or challenges – that’s healthy and keeps us safe. It’s not healthy if it develops into anxiety or stops us from moving forward in the ways we want. Lifelong habits are tough to break, but identifying them is the first step towards making a conscious adjustment to the negative back talk. Words have a vibration like music – we can turn that into positive feedback. It takes work. We have to focus on positive re-enforcement so that we can shift our perspective and stop the slide.
How we perceive ourselves is one of the most important steps in self-awareness. We have to adjust our minds to think differently and we do this by changing our self-talk. We don’t have to be overly critical but we do have to be analytical. Our internal dialogue should be reflective and realistic, understanding our flaws but not allowing that to dominate the conversation. We need balance and to be as encouraging to ourselves as we are to others.
Athletes and successful people constantly repeat positive feedback methods for superior performance and mental health. We should be doing the same, emphasising our strengths to access the potential we bring to each day. Making a conscious effort to think and talk positively makes it real. Out loud if necessary. Not only will we create all the right words, we will change our lives. It’s your choice: is your inner dialogue setting you free or taking you hostage?