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 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 may not always have conscious access to it all.
And that is a good thing. 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.
As we know, the more we practice 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 and gloomy, 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" of "Learning that skill is just for smart people" or "I’ll never get out of debt because…" or… you get the idea.
When negative dialogs go 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.
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.
First, let’s realize that 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 living hours thinking… amazing, isn’t it?
Even now, as you read this, there is an underlying and subtle chatter going on in your mind, sometimes several thoughts happen at the same time… stop and listen for a moment…
But, the amazing thing is not that we are able to have thousands of thoughts on any given day, but that this activity goes on wild and rampant inside our heads and remains unchecked most of the time. By becoming aware of your self-talk, you are a step closer to identify which of your inner voices is causing you more harm than good.
After having learned this, the known mantra "Control Your Thoughts and Change Your Life" takes new meaning, doesn’t it?
Follow these steps to transform your self-talk into a positive experience...
Because of their automatic nature, it can be challenging to change negative thoughts. However, since false beliefs and cognitive distortions are learned behaviors they CAN be changed. Fortunately, there are new programs that facilitate these changes, such as "The 8 Secret Self-Talk Programs" that focus on changing your programming where you need it most.
Above it all, remember to be patient with this process and practice, practice and practice some more until it becomes 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 years.
Also, the following video may help you to better understand the mechanics of "negative self-talk"...