Self-talk is a mix of conscious and unconscious beliefs that we hold about ourselves, our actions and the world around us.
Our individual patterns of self-talk impact our mental and physical wellbeing including self-esteem, and they can also play a role in performance and success across different areas of our lives.
Some examples of self-talk are “I’m such a failure” or “I can do better next time”, but from these examples you might notice there are two distinct types of self-talk, and one is more common than the other.
The impact of self-talk
Self-talk can be positive or negative, but unfortunately negative self-talk is more frequent in the human brain due to our negative bias – our brains are hardwired to remember negative experiences over positive experiences.
Negative self-talk, like “nothing is ever going to get better” or “I look ugly” can worsen or bring rise to mental health conditions and eating disorders, and they just make us feel bad about ourselves.
Positive self-talk, on the other hand, can have a wide range of benefits such as stress reduction; improved performance at work, school or in sports; improvement in mental wellbeing and mediation of mental health disorders; boosted confidence and resilience; and better relationship building.
Examples of positive self-talk are “I’m doing the best I can” and “this is difficult, but I can get through it”.
Out with the negative – in with the positive
The first step to improving your self-talk is to be aware of what you are saying to yourself.
If you struggle to take note of these, pick some key moments to assess your thoughts – for example, when you’ve succeeded or failed at something, take note of your thoughts. Or maybe when you look in the mirror, are there things you are saying to yourself?
Once you are aware of these thoughts, ask yourself if they are positive or negative self-talk. Are there thoughts that come up often for you? What triggers them? Is there any evidence to suggest they are true? How are your thoughts impacting on you? And what would you say to a friend if they had these thoughts about themselves?
The next step is to take any negative self-talk and change it to positive self-talk. This will take patience and time, because good habits aren’t formed in a day! The key to changing negative self-talk is to make a conscious effort to correct it when you notice it. If you think “I’m so silly to have messed that up,” take a moment to pause, and correct it by saying “I made a mistake, but I will learn from it for next time”.
Another great way to practice positive self-talk is to write a list of positive things about yourself, and to say them out loud in front of a mirror. Using positive self-talk as often as possible will help to make it a habit that you keep!
Liz Gellel | Communications Coordinator