Self Talk: Changing Reality One Word at a Time
Recently I was giving a workshop where I spoke about the importance of changing our self-talk. Self-talk is the conversation we hold with ourselves on a continuous basis—and usually it is less than kind and flattering. My suggestion was that we become aware of what we are saying to ourselves and begin to change the conversation to one that is affirming and supportive. Rather than being continuously judgmental, I invited the group to focus on looking for their good qualities and consciously identifying what they do right and using self-talk to reinforce the good news.
Someone then asked me if words were really that important—after all, isn’t what you do more important than what you say? This is a bit akin to “which comes first—the chicken or the egg?” For the most part, we tend to think that our words reflect the truth of what we have seen in our actions. We trip over something, so we tell ourselves we are clumsy. However, we then take that experience and turn it into a belief and repeat it in our self-talk. We tell ourselves over and over again that we are clumsy and over and over again we bump into things, proving ourselves right. The question is, though, if we stopped reinforcing that belief, would it remain true? Could we change “reality” by changing what we think about it? What if when we bump into something, we started telling ourselves: “It isn’t like me to be clumsy; I’m very careful.”
By reinforcing a more positive thought, and turning it into a belief, we are actually sending a message to our bodies to line up with our words. Our bodies work to obey our command, and our thoughts and beliefs send energy commands to our body to follow the orders. If we constantly tell ourselves that we’re careful, our actions are far more likely to line up with being careful than if we constantly tell ourselves the opposite. Remember, your body will work hard to prove you are right.
Let’s look at how this might work in relationships. We have a tendency to come to grand, generalized conclusions from one or two isolated experiences. These conclusions then become beliefs that we wear like glasses, seeing the whole world through them. Someone cheats on us or lies to us and we decide all guys are cheaters and all girls are liars. Someone breaks our heart and we establish the belief that we aren’t worthy or capable of having a loving, lasting relationship.
Then, we see someone we want to introduce ourselves to and the old self-talk tape pops up loud and clear, reminding us that we are incapable of having a lasting relationship. We tell ourselves how they are probably not trustworthy anyhow. We may even allow this self-talk to stop us from meeting the person—and if we do meet them, we are always waiting for them to prove us right. We sabotage the relationship by constantly seeking—or creating—the evidence that love is out of our reach. We allow our words, our thoughts, to impact our actions.
Here are some things you can do to experiment with your own self-talk:
1. Self-observe and notice what you are saying to yourself.
2. Turn your words and thoughts around to support what you want to be true instead of what you don’t want to be true.
3. Keep isolated experiences with a person isolated to that person. Prejudice begins with one experience with one person applied to all people of the same race, gender, etc. Watch for your use of generalized words like “never,” “always,” “everyone” or “no one.” You will find these words seldom speak the truth.
4. Turn around what you are saying to reflect what you want. This is, in part, the basis for affirmations. It is not a form of “wishful thinking” but rather an effort to get your words and thoughts working for you instead of against. Catch yourself when you say, “This is to die for” or “I’m dying to”—instead, turn it into “This is to live for” or “I’m living to.” Catch yourself when you say, “I’m sick and tired of” and turn your words into something that affirms your life and vitality instead of being sick and tired.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: How would you see life differently if your self-talk told you how loved you are?
Love Tip of the Week: Imagine you are giving your body and psyche a command and choose your words and thoughts carefully.