How do you handle self-talk? Do you know what it is? Is it weird for you?
When I was playing sports regularly I had to do a lot of self-talk. Something was always in pain. Whether it was a broken leg, broken fingers, or messed up shoulders, I was usually dealing with some form of injury. Knowing this about myself and wanting to stay competitive I got to a place where I told myself that I did not feel pain. It became a joke with my friends. Something would happen to me that ordinarily, would be painful, but I played it off like nothing happened. At one point enough people knew I was doing this that they would intentionally try to inflict pain on me. My little trick was not a healthy use of self-talk but it was effective. I would verbalize the fact that I did not feel pain, every time something painful would happen. I got so good at it that I played three months of college football with a shoulder that slipped in and out of socket just walking to class. But I had been practicing my self-talk for years. For a while, my brain was more powerful than my body. Eventually, yes, I cracked and decided to drop the not feeling pain charade. However, in that process, I learned something that has stuck with me. Self-talk is powerful.
I believe this to be true for everyone but right now Millennials have the highest rates of anxiety and depression among any generation. This is not to say that other generations do not struggle with the same problems but no one has ever talked about it like we millennials do. We are more open to talking about our anxieties than any generation before us. So, with that in mind, I want to write about self-talk and how I think it helps.
*** Disclaimer: This is not intended to take the place of real therapy or cure-all for any mental health struggles you may be facing. ***
When negative events or mistakes happen, positive self-talk seeks to bring the positive out of the negative to help you do better, go further, or just keep moving forward. The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation. – Gregory L. Jantz Ph.D.
I was curious, so I did some reading. While I have seen self-talk work in my own life I wanted to know the real impact that positive self-talk can have. And I came across an article that made it really clear. You see, I was going to write about how self-talk was essentially lying to yourself in order to achieve a different state of mind. Sort of what I was doing with the whole pain thing. After limited research, I found out there may be more to it than that.
Healthy self-talk is about identifying real truths in your life. We are not perfect. We were not created to be perfect and we never will be. Mistakes happen. We mess up, often. Accept that truth before putting self-talk into action. From there, it is a matter of searching for positive truths in moments of weakness or sadness or loneliness. For me, I get overwhelmed by trying to make everything work all the time. The truth is that I can’t make that happen. Instead, what I do is say things out loud to myself. For instance, before I make any sort of presentation I say, “dude, you’re gonna kill it.” Do I always? No, but you can bet your ass I think I am! We don’t always have to be right, but we do always have to be persistent. You can’t let up. Things like depression, insecurity, and anxiety are real. They do not disappear, we just get better at dealing with them. There becomes a point where we start believing the positive truths about ourselves instead of only seeing mistakes and failure.
This can play out in how we approach any situation. If you are like me then you probably have defense mechanisms. Things you do leading up to a situation where you anticipate feeling inadequate can be self-sabotaging. Maybe you talk negatively about your abilities leading up to something or maybe you joke too much in an effort to avoid the reality. I have talked before about my sarcasm, in many cases that is me being defensive. I think many of us downplay moments in our lives where we are not confident. This is where positive self-talk can make a huge impact. Instead of saying you can’t do something start talking about the things you have done or the little things you could do to move toward a goal. My dad used to always say “can’t never could.” Every time I said I could not do something he would respond with “can’t never could.” And he’s right. Without being Mr. Philosiphyzer I think about the Confucious quote, “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.”
Positivity has to start with you. No one else can do it for you. No Tony Robbins or Gary V or whoever’s podcast you listen to can change your outlook. Look yourself in the mirror and speak positive truths. You may not love looking in the mirror but you need to. Gosh, you need to. Show yourself some grace and be positive.
There is this thought that gives me chills when I think about it. Do you know what it is? It’s the thought of you telling yourself you are worth it. The world we live in tells us so many things but what we need to hear the most is our own truth. You are worth it.
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