How you talk to yourself is even more important than how you talk to others. Think about it. When was the last time you gave yourself a compliment? Yes, I’m being serious. How can you expect others to like you and find the qualities that are good if you cannot, or will not, do the same for yourself?
Take a moment and think of one word you’d use to describe yourself. Now, think about two. Can you add a third? How about a fourth? Now that you’re on a roll, take out a sheet of paper and write down five words or phrases that describe you. Set the paper to the side. We’ll get back to this list in a moment.
First, let’s get one thing straight. Everybody talks to him or herself. We do it every day. I’m willing to bet that right about now you’re asking yourself or talking to yourself about how much you talk to yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking it, saying it out loud, or writing it; it’s all the same. Communication scholars call this “intrapersonal communication,” or “self-talk.”
Self-talk is important because it influences how you feel about yourself and others. It influences your outlook and whether you have a positive or negative expectation of what's happening around you.
Like many women, I look in the mirror every day as a part of my morning ritual. And also like many women, there are times I will struggle with feeling negative about what I see. I have managed to gain 25 pounds over the past year and a half. Twenty-five el bees! My pants are too tight, I have to be careful about what shirt I wear (gotta control the muffin top visibility), my face is fuller, and my wedding ring has placed my finger in what feels like a very strong choke hold.
This is where the self-talk will make or break my day.
It could go something like this, “What a fat ass! I look like a blob. Everybody is going to be looking at my back fat. I feel like crap. I look like crap. This day is going to be crap.”
Do you think it’s possible that my self-talk just sabotaged my whole day? You betcha! Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I carry that bad attitude and all that negativity around with me, of course it’s going to impact my interactions with others. Who doesn’t love hanging out with a negative Nelly?
If I change my self-talk, I will literally feel my attitude shifting. It sounds something like this, “I’ve got some sexy curves going on! Good thing the hubby likes a soft woman (e.g. “boobs”). I read the other day that a few extra pounds will actually make you look younger. They’re right! I do NOT look 41. Smile Jen. You are looking good and feeling good.”
Now, how can I not leave the mirror smiling after having that conversation?
I can hear the naysayers, “Isn’t that a bit over the top? Just a bit conceited?”
Aww! Sounds like someone needs a hug! My question to you is this, why is it so bad to feel good about yourself? And when was the last time you gave yourself a compliment? It sounds like you need it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.
How you talk to yourself does impact your view of yourself and your view of the world. For example, when was the last time you had a conversation with yourself about your goals and how you plan to achieve those goals? What if you hit a roadblock? Do you take yourself to a negative place? Or do you serve as your own coach and pull yourself back up?
Let’s say you bombed that last test you took in school. That one test is hardly an indication of your overall intellectual abilities. You didn’t do so hot on that last speech in your public speaking class? That doesn’t mean all of them will be that way. Live and learn. The next one will be even better.
Positivity starts with the self-talk.
So let’s get back to that list I asked you to write earlier. Take a moment and look at that list. I asked you to start by thinking of one word you’d use to describe yourself and then asked you to continue adding words or phrases. Are your descriptions positive or negative? If they are negative, think about how you just made yourself feel. Feel like crap? That’s your fault.
Let’s start a new list. Write down a word or phrase to describe something positive about yourself. If you want to narrow it down, use one word to describe your body image in a positive way. It must be a positive word! What about a positive word or phrase to describe your personality? Now, write down two. Can you add a third? How about a fourth? Go ahead and go for five! There should be no limit to the good that you can see in yourself.
The bottom line is you are in charge of your attitude and happiness. This all starts with intrapersonal communication, the self-talk. No one can make you happy. That’s your job. You just need to tell yourself that.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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