How you communicate with others is important. How you talk with yourself is critical.
“You can think of self-talk as the inner voice equivalent of sports announcers commenting on a player’s successes or failures on the playing field. Unlike that sports commentary, which athletes never hear while they’re competing, you can actually “hear” what your self-talk is saying. When this is upbeat and self-validating, the results can boost your productivity. However, when the voice is critical and harsh, the effect can be emotionally crippling.”
— Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today
Ever wish you could predict the future? Now that would be a handy SuperPower. You will get a pretty good idea of where your mind is headed—and therefore your life—if you listen to the things you say to yourself. Self-talk is a compelling window into the conversation that goes on, constantly, between your subconscious and conscious minds. This conversation can affirm your strengths, or it can argue for your weaknesses. Because of the Negative Bias phenomenon, discussed in Chapter 8 of my book Ignite your Dormant Superpowers, most of these thoughts will probably be negative.
Let’s say you are at lunch with colleagues from work (in the year 2043) and the conversation moves to the 30th installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. You hated the movie and say so. You point out that the series was dead after the 5th sequel and that by the 30th, and after a hip and two knee replacements, Jack didn’t have to fake his drunken walk, and that pairing him with a 24-year-old love interest smacked of pedophilia. No one at lunch agrees. Most of them think that it was the best since the first installment. Self-talk kicks in:
Well, that was a stupid thing for me to say. I believe what I said, but everyone disagrees, and some even seem angry. If my boss hears of this, she’ll think I have a problem getting along with others. There goes my promotion. I really screwed up this time. Why can’t I just keep my opinions to myself?
By the time you finish with this internal conversation, you feel worse than Jack looks. You run to the kitchen, pop an antidepressant and chase it with a tall glass of wine.
Change the Dialog
The first step in turning your self-talk positive is awareness. Be aware of the conversation going on inside. When the negativity begins to flow—stop it. Silva Mind Control, a self-help and meditation program developed by José Silva in the 1960s, taught that when you hear the negative dialog starting up, you say, “cancel, cancel.” This is a triggering mechanism that tells your subconscious to cut the crap. You can then consciously direct the conversation to the positive—with affirmative self-talk like:
I’m glad I spoke up. That movie sucked. If my colleagues all liked it, fine, but I am welcome to my own opinion.
I am glad that I had the guts to voice my opinion. I’m sure that some of them hated it too but were afraid to say so. Speaking my mind demonstrates that I am an independent thinker, do not fear criticism and have leadership qualities that the company will respect.
Positive self-talk can lift you up, bolster self-confidence and strengthen your self-image. The critical thing to remember is that, even though this is a conversation, both sides are you. You are not just listening to these negative messages; you’re sending them. They are the doubts and fears that reside within your comfort zone.