I learned this week that my inner self-talk might not be as positive as I assumed. I was raised by parents who instilled a sense of high self-esteem and self-compassion. My parents always told us that we were were smart, beautiful, capable. That along with a strong work ethic, was the foundation of success in our lives. We believed we could, so we did.
One of the most important lessons I ever learned from my mother was, “You don’t have to believe every thought that passes through your head. Thoughts lie.” Just because I think something doesn’t mean it is true. This served me well throughout my life.
The seeds my parents planted gave me confidence.
Sure, I may poke at that tiny bubble of fat around my belly button, pinch that bit on the side of my waistband, and deal with self-doubt like everyone else, but I generally like myself, my body, and my awkward personality. I’m not perfect, but I am uniquely me.
Out in the world, I often feel like I don’t fit in, but I like that about myself. I embrace my weirdness, but I was made aware that my self-talk wasn’t all as positive as I thought.
I had a massage appointment last week, and my therapist greeted me with a hug. “How are you?”
“I’m a mess,” I declared as I started to name off the long list of all the body parts that hurt.
He was quick to correct me. “Don’t say you’re a mess. Say you’re a work in progress, resilient, and getting better every day.” He practically made me apologize to my body for bad mouthing it.
I suppose because I didn’t associate my aches and pains with my self-esteem, I didn’t realize that calling myself a mess was a form of negative self talk because my pains don’t make me less of a person. But the stories we tell ourselves, however subtle, matter.
Before the hour was up, I did it again. “Are you trying to sleep on your back as we discussed?” He explained sleeping on my side could put unnecessary pressure on my achy shoulder, and sleeping on my back can help allow my body to relax while staying aligned.
“Ugh, yes, I try, but I can’t do it. I always end up on my side.”
He corrected me again. “Say you try every day, and you’re doing the best you can. Say you’ll try again tomorrow with more success, but never say you can’t do it.”
It was an ah-ha moment — self-talk matters. My negative self-talk was so subtle; I didn’t even realize I was doing it. The mind is powerful, the way you talk to yourself matters. A self-critical inner voice can hold you back.
What are the stories you tell yourself?
Instead of “I can’t” try saying, “I’m working on it and getting better every day.”
Instead of “I am (Insert negative thought)” try “I’m resilient and improving every day.”
If I physically can’t do a pull up, it’s an honest, non judgmental statement to say “I can’t do a pull up.” If a pull up is my goal, then add a “yet” to the end. “I can’t do a pull up yet, but I am doing the hard work to get there.” Then work hard to get there.
Now that I’m more aware of my self-talk, I can recognize negative thoughts and stop them in their tracks.
I can, and I will.
Will you? How’s your inner dialogue? Are you kind to yourself? Do you have hope for the future and faith in your abilities to figure it out? It’s the first step to success. You have to believe that you can, then you can do the work.
I’d love to hear about your inner self-talk. Is the voice in your head serving you or sabotaging you?
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Questions? I’d love to help.