The Foundation of Self-Talk?
Episode #1 of the course Improving your self-talk by Reed Rawlings
Welcome to the course!
I’m Reed, editor for the Medium publication, Mind Cafe, where we focus on personal happiness and self-improvement. For the past six years, I’ve been studying and writing about psychology, primarily in the field of self-regulation.
Over the next ten days, you’ll learn how self-talk impacts our mental health and productivity. You’ll also learn several exercises to improve your inner monologue and how to challenge negative thoughts.
In our first lesson, we’ll focus on understanding and identifying our inner voice.
Every day, consciously or not, we practice self-talk. It guides our actions, supports our decisions, and occasionally causes us to fixate on the past.
Each of us has a unique way of talking to ourselves, shaped by beliefs ingrained in us as children. Psychologist Lev Vygotsky theorized that at a young age, each of us is only capable of thinking aloud. He called this “private speech.” While it’s often audible, it’s not meant to be a part of a conversation or even responded to. If you’ve ever seen a child quietly narrate their actions, you’re seeing the first stages of self-talk.
Childhood development research shows a positive correlation between private speech and performance. In adult athletes, motivating and instructional self-talk shows similar benefits.
As we age, we gradually internalize our speech, taking with it all the beliefs and perceptions passed to us by our teachers, parents, and life experiences.
This process is what makes our unique styles of self-talk so pervasive. Our internal monologue has been with us for as long as we can remember, and its roots are even older. Even with all this time together, however, it can still be difficult to identify self-talk from other cognitive traits like over-thinking.
To help give us a sound base for improvement, I’d like you to take a moment and start an internal dialogue.
I’ve found the simplest way to do this is by planning out my day, asking how I feel about it, and providing a few details why.
• Will I feel successful by the end of the day?
• Do I think I can accomplish everything?
• Is there anything I’m worried about?
I don’t want you to dig too deep if any of these questions spark a short dialogue that’s good enough. The goal here is to simply listen to yourself. What does your inner voice sound like?
If you’re facing an average day, we’re looking for a neutral to positive tone. The language you use should be supportive and encouraging. If not, that’s perfectly all right. A bit of negative self-talk will always seep through the cracks. Even as I write this, I’m facing self-doubt. What matters is our response and that’s something we’ll talk about later in the course.
This short exercise is the first in stopping our inner voice from acting as a passive participant. We’re prone to taking our thoughts at face value, without questioning their validity. This quickly leads to rumination and self-doubt.
Throughout the rest of your day, whenever you catch your inner dialogue, I want you to focus on its tone and language. In the moments where you’re practicing positive self-talk, think about how it makes you feel. If you’ve got a pen and paper nearby or your phone, jot down your thoughts.
We want to see these types of interactions as a base for how we practice self-talk. Having a reference for them will be a great advantage as we continue.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the importance of self-talk.
Thanks for reading!
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