What is Self-Talk?
Do you know that inner voice that always seems to be going? It is constantly “telling” you
what you should do, what you might do, and reflecting on things you have already done.
It evaluates what you do while you’re doing it, providing opinions and suggesting possible
ramifications and outcomes. This is one type of inner monologue which psychologists
have identified and labeled as “self-talk”.
To get a better idea of exactly what self-talk is, psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne
likens self talk to the “equivalent of sports announcers commenting on a player’s
successes or failures on the playing field.” Unlike athletes that never hear a television or
radio sports commentator’s voice, you definitely “hear” what your self-talk is telling you.
Unfortunately, this voice you seem to have no control over can be negative sometimes.
Think about the last time you did something embarrassing. You may have experienced
self-talk telling you how stupid you were. Sometimes it is critical even if you haven’t done
anything wrong. It reminds you that you are probably going to mess something up,
because you’ve done it in the past.
As it turns out, you can respond with negative and positive self-talk to the same situation.
It all depends on how you lead your thoughts. For instance, pretend that you have just
eaten at a restaurant that all your friends think is amazing. You thought it was overpriced,
the food was average at best, the service stunk and you had to wait too long for your
You find yourself at a party with your friends, when several of them corner you and
excitedly ask you what you thought about the restaurant they recommended. You tell
them your feelings, holding nothing back. They all say you are crazy, that it is the
greatest restaurant of all time.
Your inner dialogue can respond in 2 different ways.
Perhaps you tell yourself, “Why didn’t you just keep your mouth shut!? Now you look like
an idiot.” In response to the exact same situation, you could choose positive, constructive
self-talk instead. You could say, “Good for you, for sticking to your beliefs. You reported
exactly what happened, you didn’t overstate the situation, and it’s okay if your friends
disagree with you about this unimportant topic.”
Psychologists believe that consistently driving your self-talk in a positive, constructive
direction can train your mind to respond that way. At first you will not find yourself able to
redirect your inner voice. It will simply blurt out a subconscious response. However, by
continually appraising dysfunctional self-talk and turning it around, you create less stress
in your life, boost your self-esteem, and feel good about your inner dialogue.
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