Self-talk: make friends with the mean girl in your head
Self-talk is literally how we talk to ourselves. And more often than not the voice is a critical one, its comments harsh and derogatory. Even though we’re talking to ourselves in our heads – no-one can hear, no-one knows what we’re saying – we can still be so mean to ourselves!
How often do you reprimand yourself for feelings or thoughts you’re having? When you’re feeling nervous you might tell yourself to get a grip, when you’re scared you tell yourself to stop being so silly. When you’re sad or fed up you berate yourself for being selfish and when you’re sick you criticise yourself for not being well enough to get on with work.
When you look in the mirror how often are you critical of how you’re dressed, your size, your hair, finding fault with what you see? I’m guessing it’s a lot more often than when you tell yourself you’re looking great.
The thought of speaking to a good friend in this way is horrifying – you’d never tell her she’s being ridiculous for worrying, she’s stupid for finding something difficult or that she looks fat, has bad hair and is boring! And yet we think nothing of this negative self-talk.
You may be so used to the mean girl remarks you make to yourself that you don’t see the significance. But speaking to yourself in such harsh, judgemental ways is harmful. It eats away at your self-esteem and creates a negative mindset, reducing your potential to feel joy and contentment.
Imagine you’re giving a presentation at work. In scenario 1, before you enter the room, you silently say to yourself, “I’m prepared, I know what I’m talking about, I look smart, I am smart and I’m going to do my best, as I always do.”
In scenario 2, you say to yourself, “Don’t mess this up, everyone will think I’m rubbish, I look a mess, I’m going to make a fool of myself.”
Clearly scenario 1 is the better talk to give yourself but too often the mean girl in our heads trots out something along the lines of scenario 2. It might look obvious when it’s written down but we say negative, hurtful things to ourselves all the time and they do impact how we feel, think and behave.
Pay attention to the voice in your head and what you’re saying to yourself. The next time you make a mistake notice if you say “I’m an idiot” or “I made a silly mistake”. If you say the first you’re turning one action into a character flaw. This blanket condemnation is pervasive and if you say it enough times you’ll believe it. In the second you’re recognising this particular action was a mistake but you’re not letting it define you. You can learn from it and move on.
For just one day be really mindful of the messages you give yourself. Notice your self-talk and stop for a moment to challenge each mean girl remark. Ask yourself:
• is the statement true?
• what’s the evidence?
• does it apply to this moment or my entire life?
• would I say the same thing to my best friend?
• what would be a more positive message to give myself?
A few times during the day stop to think what positive remark you can give yourself. Perhaps you ate a healthy meal or snack. Maybe you completed a task or remembered a friend’s birthday. Simply being mindful rather than mindless of your self-talk is a positive message to give yourself!
The more we pay attention to our self-talk and the more aware we are of how we view and treat ourselves, the better we’ll become at being fair, kind and encouraging to ourselves. Which in turn helps create a more positive mindset, optimistic outlook and builds resilience to deal with life’s challenges. All of which contribute to how happy we feel.
I’ve broached this topic a few times on social media recently, and each time there’s been a response so I know self-talk is something many of you are wrestling with. In response to an Instagram post I created a printable poster and phone/desktop wallpaper for you in the Nook of Inspiration (click here for access to all the free resources).