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The Power Of Self-Talk To Help Or Harm Us

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Self talk

Are you aware that you talk to yourself all the time? We all do!

The question to ask yourself is whether your inner voice is your friend or foe.

Our unconscious is impacted by the words we say in the same way that it is when other people talk to us. Self-talk is the most underutilized available resource to master our minds and improve our lives. Positive thinkers are more optimistic, confident, and successful. Their effect is contagious and uplifts friends, coworkers, and loved ones.

Our Role Models

If you’ve ever watched young children play, you’ve overheard them talk to themselves, their dolls, action figures, and their friends in words and tone similar to what they’ve heard from influential adults, especially parents. How parents talk to them and also how they talk to themselves and each other provide role models.

Ideally, this helps children master tasks, comfort themselves, and learn to interact with peers, but undermining, critical, or angry role models teach children to talk to themselves with doubt, frustration, and scorn. Codependents grow up in dysfunctional families where parents generally provide ineffective role models, ranging from neglect, emotional reactivity, over-control, disapproval, or blatant verbal abuse. Even when well-meaning parents can inadvertently shame their children, which can lead to internalized shamethat impairs adult functioning. (See “7 Parenting Essentials.” )

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The “Tyrannical Trio:” The Critic, Perfectionist, and Pusher

In Codependency for Dummies, I describe the “Tyrannical Trio” comprised of three inner voices: The Critic, Perfectionist, and Pusher. They work in tandem reinforcing one another and can make life hell and create anxiety,depression, and inertia. The Perfectionist sets up idealistic standards, the Pusher pushes us to achieve them, and the Critic faults us for never succeeding.

The Perfectionist expects us to be superhuman, ensuring that we’ll fail to meet its unattainable standards; the Pusher is a relentless taskmaster, depriving us of enjoyment of life and pleasure; and the Critic tells us we’re never good enough. Of all three, the Critic does the most damage and can significantly undermine our self-esteem. (See “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human”– How to Beat Perfectionism.)

Most people aren’t even aware they live with the “tyranny of the should’s” and accuse, blame, and deny themselves. Our self-talk can offer comfort and encouragement or make us feel anxious and inadequate. It can provide self-discipline and organization or make us feel overwhelmed and defeated. It can ruin our lives, job opportunities, and relationships, or it can be harnessed to raise our self-esteem, achieve our goals, and uplift our outlook and enjoyment of life.

Changing Our Self-Talk

Although we’ve grown accustomed to these inner voices, they can be changed. There are a number of steps to reform these voices that include gaining an understanding of their motives and standards and learning to modify and counteract them. 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism is designed to succinctly lay out specific steps and exercises to do just that. (Learn more about raising self-esteem in the webinar, How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.) There are several things you can begin doing immediately.

Mindfulness

Until you’re acutely aware of your inner voices, you can’t change them. Write down your negative self-talk on a daily basis. (Watch this Youtube.) Writing down your negative self-talk, including all the “should” and “shouldn’t’s,” will make them more conscious and provide you with choices.

Self-Distancing

Practice positive self-talk by addressing yourself in the third-person. This has the effect of “self-distancing” by shifting the focus away from the self.

Research has shown that by calling yourself by name, you begin to talk to yourself as you would a third person. It helps you regulate your emotions, because you’re less emotionally involved and acquire a larger perspective. In effect, your emotional brain is less triggered, and you become wiser. This small change has a profound positive impact in reducing shame, anxiety, and depression. It provides you with increased clarity and better judgment in dealing with work and relationships.

Affirmations

Build positive thinking habits. Spend time each day and throughout the day repeating positive self-talk. If you say a prayer each morning, but negate yourself the rest of the day, which words do you think will have more impact? Try to make your positive self-talk outweigh any negative self-talk. This way you can develop an improved outlook and attitudes, which can lead to better health and decisions and greater success in your relationships and work. There are tips and guidelines for creating affirmations discussed in 10 Steps to Self-Esteem.

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