How You Communicate with Your “Self”
Self-talk, inner chatter, on-going self-dialog, the little voice in our heads… either you are conscious of it or not, we all do it… all day long.
From the moment we are born, we are interacting with and absorbing information from our surrounding environment. This is how we grow up, by relating to, connecting with and learning from the encounters and events that happen around us. In time, we become creatures of habit and develop into the unique individuals that each one of us is.
Actually, scientists have proven that we retain in our brains every single thing we have ever seen, heard, read, talked over, touched, tasted, and smelled, much like in a huge data-base of information that keeps on growing as time passes; however, we don’t always have conscious access to it all. And that is a good thing in a way. Think about it! It would be mind boggling!
But, for better or for worse, every experience no matter how small, is still in there, recorded in your brain, giving raise to your uniqueness and affecting the way in which you think and interact with the world at large.
Part of that learning and adapting includes the development of self-talk patterns. Yes, we literally learn to have conversations with ourselves and in time, this becomes habitual. Most of us do it silently, but some folks talk to themselves out loud. I’m sure you’ve seen people who do this! 😉
As we know, the more we practice a certain thing and anything, the more rooted the behavior becomes. This is no different with inner chatter. However, self-talk can create extra burden and stress because we often let it run wild without realizing how it’s impacting our life.
This is not to say that all self-talk is harmful. Actually –and fortunately- most of it is not. If you need to pick your child at school by noon, keep a dental appointment, or getting up to speed at work, you may find yourself exerting self-talk around these issues.
Thoughts such as “I need to hurry up to get to my 3:00 o’clock dental appointment on time” or “I have to submit this report by 5:00 o’clock today” actually help us function as responsible human beings, and it is perfectly normal and healthy. However, when the self-talk becomes negative, judgmental, gloomy, or even cynical, it can be harmful and self-destructive.
Such is the case of the person that continuously repeats to himself that “I’ll never be able to lose weight” or “Learning that skill is just for smart people” or “I’ll never get out of debt because…” or… you get the idea.
When negative dialog goes on in your mind frequently, you are reinforcing this kind of self-talk that becomes –you guessed it- an habitual behavior. This kind of chatter creates, feeds and supports limiting beliefs. It is what keep people stuck.
As if that was not enough, the problem goes deeper than that. You see, your subconscious mind wants to please and protect you. After all, it is responsible to keep you alive and well, all within your comfort zone. Furthermore, your subconscious mind takes everything at face value. It doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong and cannot discern among reality and fiction. Thus, to prove yourself right, your subconscious mind makes every effort to bring your affirmations –either positive or negative- into your reality. Here is the sequence of this vicious cycle:
Negative self-talk plus persistence leads to habits which create limiting beliefs that give raise to self-defeating behaviors which affect your results that help reinforce the behavior which leads to more negative thoughts!
Self-talk directly affects your moods, emotions, behavior and actions. Thus… Your on-going self-talk is giving shape to your future, literally! No wonder self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!
The good news is that we all have the ability to reprogram our minds for the better. After all, we are intelligent beings with free will and in constant evolution. The first thing is to acknowledge that something needs to change, and then follow up with persistent action. Let’s discuss this step by step…
The human brain is the most powerful computer in the world, and it seems as if it cannot be turned off. The average adult has between 55K and 60K thoughts per day! We spend most of our awake hours thinking… amazing, isn’t it?
Even now, as you read this, there is an underlying and subtle chatter going on in your mind, frequently several thoughts happen at the same time… stop reading this, close your eyes and listen for a moment…
The amazing thing is not that we are able to have thousands of thoughts on any given day, but that this activity goes on inside our brains in a wild and rampant way, and it remains unacknowledged most of the time.
Once you become aware of your self-talk, you are a step closer to identifying which of your inner voices is causing you more harm than good. Yes, some ‘voices‘ are more harmful than others. Feeling strange yet?
Now, the known mantra “Control Your Thoughts and Change Your Life” takes new meaning, doesn’t it? Here are the steps to transform your self-talk into a positive experience…
As stated above, this is essential to gain control over your self-talk. Dedicate 15 minutes each day for a week to just pay attention to your inner chatter. Go to a place where you won’t be interrupted and relax. Just observe what goes on within your mind without trying to alter or direct your thoughts in any way. Do not judge or give your opinion either. Just become an observer while you let your chatter run wild. Take mental notes.
Now take a few moments to analyze the validity of the negative inner talk you just witnessed. Do you actually believe your thoughts are accurate and realistic? If you examine this carefully you may even be able to identify the roots of your limiting belief! To better explain this, let’s set an example. Let’s pretend you are looking for a job and you found yourself thinking that you were so nervous in yesterday’s interview that you’ll never be able to land that job.Do you perceive your nervousness like an opportunity to learn and grow, or like a challenge or even a threat to your self-esteem and future employment?
Do you perceive the experience as an opportunity to prepare better for the next interview or as a self-defeating behavior that you cannot control? Can you relate this limiting thought to something that happened in your past?More often than not, when you dissect your inner talk in this manner you’ll be able to expose the reality of the situation in a favorable way by realizing that there is always room for improvement, that you are capable of changing your circumstances, and that your negative though is never absolute.
Once you are more aware of your self-talk and do this on a regular basis, be determined to find a way to stop your thought process every time you catch a negative inner chatter; i.e. I use the word STOP or CANCEL and either say it out loud or see the letters in bright colors on the screen of my mind. A more drastic measure that works for some people is to wear a rubber band on your wrist and let it snap on your skin every time you discover a negative thought.
When you learn to stop your negative inner chatter as it happens, you will soon realize that if you don’t substitute it with something else, your mind will tend to go back to the original thought once the STOP sign is gone. This is when you need to be ready to affirm yourself positively every time you catch a negative talk going on in your mind.Let’s stick to the example above. If you catch yourself thinking “… I get so nervous when I interview that I’ll never find a job.” As soon as you notice this chatter, go immediately to STOP and soon after switch to “Every time I get interviewed I become more confident and get closer to get hired for the job of my dreams.” Even if it sounds fake to you, remember that your subconscious does not know the difference between fact and fiction. When you do this often, your conscious mind will eventually catch up and believe it as well.
- Visualization and Focus
As you state the positive affirmation, see yourself in that situation on the screen of your mind. Visualize yourself being hired, shaking hands, filling out paperwork to start working, or whatever image that helps you reinforce your affirmation. Focus on this image for a few minutes. Feel it. Enjoy the feeling that this scenario causes. Breathe. Know that you will get the perfect job!Because of their automatic nature, it can be quite challenging to change negative thoughts. However, since false beliefs and cognitive distortions are learned behaviors they CAN indeed be changed. Just know this. Fortunately for us, there are new programs that facilitate these changes, such as “The 8 Secret Self-Talk Programs” that focuses on changing your programming wherever you need it most.
Above it all, remember to be patient with this process and practice, practice and practice, until it becomes second nature for you which will develop into a NEW and productive habit. All you need is determination, perseverance, and the right attitude.
Here are a couple of extra suggestions for you… A powerful self-help technique that I use until this day, is autosuggestion. I recently wrote about how this technique helped me when I was under stress during my student and College years. Also, the following video may help you better understand the mechanics of “negative self-talk“…