One of the most powerful influences on your attitude and personality is what you say to yourself. It is not what happens to you but how you respond internally to what happens to you that determines your thoughts, feelings, and your actions. By controlling your inner dialogue (what you say to yourself), or your “self-talk,” you can begin to gain control over every part of your life.
Below are some examples of how we undermine our own success, followed by a more positive way to handle each scenario.
- Expecting the worst: "What if I don’t make a good impression?" Expecting the worst does not encourage you to behave as though you can succeed. Expecting the worst only promotes stress.
Instead: Ask questions that presuppose positive outcomes. "How can I make a favorable impression?"
- Focusing only on problems: This also known as complaining. We dwell on problems, instead of solutions.
Instead: Assume most problems have solutions and ask "How do I want this situation to be different?" What can I do to improve the situation?
- Thinking in Absolutes: We exaggerate reality with words like "always," "never," and "everyone," as in "I always eat too much--I will never lose weight."
Instead: Replace exaggeration with words that more accurately reflect reality. Example, "I often eat more than I need, but I can change that."
- All or Nothing Thinking: We distort reality by thinking only in extremes. Our efforts become total failures or complete successes---with nothing in between. Example: "Either I go to the gym 5 days a week, or I’m going to quit going".
Instead: Give yourself options or choices whenever possible. Example: "I want to go to the gym several times a week. Even once a week is an improvement. I will keep trying harder instead of giving up when things aren’t perfect”.
- Negative labels: Negative labels are the tools we use to lower self-esteem in ourselves and others. Example: "I'm not disciplined enough.” When we say phrases like these often, they become a part of our identity and we can begin to dislike who we are.
Instead: Change your negative "I am" statement into a statement about behaviors. Example: "I make unhealthy choices when it comes to food." It's easier to change a behavior than to change your identity.
Negative self-talk perpetuates negative emotions, such as pessimism, guilt, fear, and anxiety. When you catch your negative self-talking, take a deep breath, relax, or get up and stretch, take a walk, get a drink of water. Do something to interrupt your train of thought and get out of the negative rut.
If you have difficulty changing your negative self-talk, speaking to a counselor may be helpful.If you have difficulty changing your negative self-talk, speaking to a counselor may be helpful.
Source: Adapted from Self-Esteem/Self-Control Lesson Grade 10 Lesson 29, West Virginia Department of Education, Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://bit.ly/2C68zS9