By Sierra Aceto
Ah, yes, there it is: your inner voice, back at it again with the criticism. Last week, it barged in while you were trying to write that paper. And when you couldn’t remember the answer to that question on that exam.
And when you were getting dressed and nothing looked good. And when you stumbled over your words while trying to talk to that cute person you just met. And that one time … and that other time …
We are in a nearly constant dialogue with ourselves, and we can’t help but listen.
Self-talk is always in the back seat, waiting to speak up. It can be positive or negative, but the one you pay the most attention to tends to take the spotlight. And if you find that your own thoughts are tearing you down more often than they’re building you up, you need a self-talk reset.
How we speak to ourselves affects our moods, our confidence and how we react to successes and failures. By shifting our self-talk to being more motivational and supportive, we can alter how we treat ourselves and, subsequently, our attitude when facing obstacles.
To further understand how we treat ourselves in self-talk, it’s important to first reflect on what exactly we’ve been saying. There may be consistent themes or threads of discourse.
Unknowingly, you may be in the habit of bringing yourself down when certain setbacks occur. Or you may already be in the practice of supporting yourself for the brilliant boss or queen or (insert appropriate title here) that you truly are.
But if I find myself struggling in the former category, you may be asking, how do I get better at this? One of the first steps to take, according to psychologist Ethan Kross, is switching the language you use to refer to yourself — specifically switching from first-person to second- or third-person pronouns.
Basically, transform the phrase of, “I can’t do this,” into, “you’re struggling right now, but it’ll get better.”
You can try it out by using your own name instead of first-person pronouns (ex. “That was a dumb move, Sierra”). This language separates you from your self-talk, even if it’s not the most positive it could be. In a way, it’s talking to yourself from outside yourself.
Personally, I’ve found that second-person self-talk is a lot easier to compare with how I talk to others. It’s like that quote that goes, “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.” Some of the hurtful things we say to ourselves are things we would never even consider saying to a loved one. So why do we allow it for ourselves?
From start to finish, our longest relationship is with ourselves, and we should therefore be our own best friend and speak to ourselves as such.
Simple, small changes in our vocabulary can completely change how we understand ourselves. So next time you speak to yourself, try substituting negative contractions like, “Don’t do that,” into a more positive statement like, “Try something else next time.”
You’re allowed to make mistakes. There’s no need to bury yourself in guilt over each and every one.
By implementing small and simple changes in our conscious language, we can love and appreciate ourselves more for every quality and flaw, unconditionally. What we don’t often consider is that many of our self-criticisms have been instilled by cultural norms that too often expect us to be something we’re not.
By using gentler language and redirecting our self-talk, we can learn to better support ourselves. Ultimately, we have internalized too many criticisms that have been prescribed by toxic environments, and none of them are truly reflective of the beauty and strength we all possess.
So speak kindly — you deserve it.