(read time: 4 minutes)
Self Talk is what we say to ourselves in our heads. We all talk to ourselves.
When we’re having a bad day we all have that critical little voice in our heads that can stress us out. It’s there to tell us we are not good enough. It puts us down. It imagines all the worst case scenarios.
To some self talk may seem unimportant. Our society talks so little about it, it doesn’t surprise me that most people don’t realize how significant it is. But how we talk to ourselves can lead us to feel powerful or powerless in our daily lives. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that illustrates that the right voices in your head can make you more successful.
Type of Voices to Adopt
I want to share with you three voices you should adopt to boost resilience, confidence and performance.
How you should talk to yourself
But first, a word on HOW you should talk to yourself. Apparently using the word “you” when you’re talking to yourself is more powerful than using the word “I”. Research supports the idea that talking to yourself in the second person actually strengthens behavior performance. Keep this in mind when reading the below.
The Voice of Encouragement
One type of voice you should adopt is the voice of encouragement. This voice is designed to make you more resilient. Words of encouragement can go a long way. When we are feeling like we are at the end of our rope, it is very important to tell ourselves we have gas left in the tank.
According to Barking Up the Wrong Tree, “A Navy study revealed a number of things that people with grit do – often unknowingly – that keep them going when things get hard. One of them comes up in the psychological research again and again: ‘positive self-talk.’ Yes, Navy Seals need to be badass, but one of the keys to that is thinking like ‘The Little Engine that Could.’ In your head, you say between three hundred and a thousand words every minute to yourself. Those words can be positive or negative. It turns out that when these words are positive, they have a huge effect on your mental toughness, your ability to keep going.”
As an athlete, this definitely makes sense to me. Whether in the pool or on a run, once that lactic acid builds up, and my muscles start to feel fatigue, a natural reaction is to want to stop and quit especially when I’m out of shape. One method I’ve developed is to tell myself to keep going for a little bit longer. If I want to run at a faster pace, I will trick myself to run for 30 more seconds. I tell myself that 30 seconds is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things and I set my mind to continue for that period. Once I hit the 30 second mark, I challenge myself to keep going for another 30 seconds. Breaking the bigger task into smaller ones, and encouraging myself to push forward helps me to accomplish a lot in one sitting.
The Self Directed Voice
What’s the best way to boost your performance? Talking out loud. If this is your goal you should consider adopting what I like to call the “self-directed” voice.
Studies show that when performing a novel task, talking out loud boosts concentration leading to an improvement in performance.
Talking out loud also helps to improve your memory if you read or study information. This is because hearing our own voice also helps us with visualization. It also helps us to store these concepts in our long term memory.
Talking out loud may make you feel a little crazy, but the real reason it works is that you are in a sense engaging in “self-explaining.” It helps you to reflect about the task at hand and answer questions like “Do I really understand this?”
If you talk to yourself out loud while your studying, you’re on to something! Keep up the good work, you’re not as crazy as they say you are.
The Supportive Voice
You should adopt the “supportive” voice if you want to learn to put an end to self flaggellation and feel better about yourself after a setback.
It may sound cheesy, but we could all learn to be more compassionate toward ourselves.
Being compassionate is different from fostering high self esteem. Many seem to confuse the two. Self esteem is confidence in ones own worth or abilities. Self compassion is being kind to ourselves in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure or general suffering.
The problem with self esteem is that to some extent it can be conditional. Erick Barker explains it best: “To always feel like you’re awesome you need to either divorce yourself from reality or be on a treadmill of constantly proving your value. At some point you won’t measure up, which then craters your self-esteem. Not to mention relentlessly proving yourself is exhausting and unsettling. Self compassion lets you see the facts and accept that you’re not perfect.”
Learning to forgive yourself and move on from mistakes teaches us to bounce back much more quickly.
The funny thing is most of us would treat a friend who is experiencing a setback much more compassionately than we would ourselves.
The next time you make a mistake, ask yourself the following questions: How would I treat a friend who made this mistake? Am I being kind to myself? Am I being understanding to myself? Do I realize that my flaws and failures are experiences shared by everyone? Am I putting into perspective any feelings of inadequacy or failure?
Sometimes a small change in the way that we think can have an huge impact on our lives. Comment below to share how positive self talk has helped you!