Self Talk part 1
An introduction to self-talk
The voices you hear
Welcome to the MYND programme on self-talk.
We all talk to ourselves, some people on a non-stop basis, from the time they awaken to the time that they fall asleep at night. What we say to ourselves will ultimately affect what we think, who we are and what we do.
Many aspects of our day-to-day lives are driven by self-talk.
Our belief systems are shaped by years of experiences and external influences, and our learned patterns of self-talk reinforce such beliefs.
Self-talk has a significant impact on our levels of confidence, our motivation and ultimately our destiny. That is why the self-talk programme is one of the most powerful that you’ll use on the MYND-APP.
Whether you have come to this app for guidance on confidence, happiness, optimism or even dealing with feelings of depression, the quality of your self-talk will ultimately determine how you use the information in the app, and consequently how effective each programme is for you.
There is a well-known maxim in psychology: “As I hear myself talk, I learn what I believe”.
Tell yourself you’re likely to succeed and you will give yourself a much better chance of doing so. The same goes for confidence, self-esteem, happiness and dealing with depression.
It’s imperative that you understand that whatever has happened in the past is not the predictor of what will happen in the future, but what you say to yourself will most likely determine your future.
The great news is you can change and improve the quality of your self-talk. Effective self-talk will have an impact on every part of your life, and this programme will be a great start in changing your mindset to combat low self-confidence or a negative outlook.
We can change our destiny; we can talk ourselves to a better life. That’s what this programme is all about. We are going to look at how you can improve your self-talk to help you to develop confidence, improve your general wellbeing and bring about personal growth.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’. Believe me, the saying, ‘you are what you say’ is just as true. Put another way, the manner we talk about ourselves and how we perform can play a big role in how we actually perform. This particularly holds when our self-talk is well-grounded in our ability to perform.
So what exactly is self-talk?
Self-talk is your inner voice – the part of your mind which says things that you wouldn’t necessarily say out aloud.
Anytime you think about something you are, in effect, talking to yourself.
For example, when you’re thinking about a competition that is approaching, you will have thoughts running through your mind such as:
“I really want to do well”
“I didn’t play well there last time”
“I hope it’s a good competition”
“I don’t want to be drawn against that player again” and so on.
Contemplating giving a business presentation, for example, may also be accompanied by thoughts such as:
“I’m absolutely dreading it”
“I don’t want to mess up in front of the boss” and
“I really don’t want to do this”
The thoughts you have about an event – what you tell yourself about it and how it’s going to go – that is all self-talk.
Although self-talk is essentially what you say to yourself, it will also have a bearing on what you might say to others. So telling yourself you’re going to “mess up” will probably be reflected in the way you talk to a colleague before performing, or before giving a presentation.
Often, self-talk happens without you even fully realising it – it can be a subtle commentary running in the back of your mind. Like the commentary running on low volume on a football game that’s showing on the TV on the other side of the room.
In this module, we’ll discuss the importance of self-talk and how improving your self-talk can help you to flourish.
So what are the benefits of using self-talk effectively?
People often underestimate the power of the language that they use, including when they talk to themselves.
It’s surprising, for example, how often we ask ourselves essentially meaningless and negative questions that can’t be answered in a positive manner, such as “why does this always happen to me?”
Many people also believe that they can’t change themselves, saying things like –
“that’s just the way I am” –
“a leopard can’t change its spots” – or
“nothing can alter that” –
which is quite frankly, a false notion!!
Ultimately, self-talk functions as a mediator between an event and a response.
Crucially, not only does the self-talk you use play a vital role in how you respond to any event, but your responses also affect future actions and feelings.
So for example, a volleyball player’s response after shouting at himself for an unforced error that entailed hitting the ball over the baseline of the court might well be anger, frustration and a loss of focus.
This usually leads to future errors, with the same response, and the downward cycle continues.
This is a form of self-talk – repeating negative reactions and responses to trigger events. Such negative self-talk can be damaging and destructive to your performance.
Among athletes, self-talk is one of the most tried and tested psychological strategies. It is used to optimise concentration and levels of arousal.
In my work with athletes, I use many different types of self-talk. One example is known as task-relevant self-talk and as the name suggests it involves a focus on the task at hand.
A judo player, for example, might use the statement
“wide stance, arms up”
to reinforce her desired posture.
Another type I use is known as emotion-related self-talk and this directly influences how you feel. A female golf player came up with
“I’m the queen of the swingers”
to encapsulate the majesty and serene mental state that characterised her long game.
I also often use positive affirmation statements to boost athletes’ self-confidence. Perhaps the most famous exponent of this type of self-talk was the celebrated heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali. He was famed for his self-affirmation statements and indeed said “I am the greatest” so many times that even his opponents came to believe it.
Whichever of the many types of self-talk that are described in this programme you choose to use, there are multiple benefits to be had and these include:
- enhanced confidence
- curbing anxiety
- improved concentration
- more rapid acquisition of new skills
- regulation of arousal levels
- breaking of bad habits
- improved mental preparation
- sustained effort.
With so many benefits one might wonder why we don’t learn about the use of self-talk at school!
To Summarise this module
We will explore all of these benefits as the self-talk programme goes on, however, I hope you’ve come to realise how incredibly strong self-talk can be.
We’ve started to examine the effect the everyday language you use can have on important outcomes in your life and in the following modules we’ll explore how you can make your self-talk work ‘for you’ rather than ‘against you’.
Remember that “what you say is who you are”.
In the next module
We examine the different types of self-talk.
Your MYND exercise today.
Remember: “as I hear myself talk – I learn what I believe”.
Think about your own patterns of self-talk.
Are you generally happy with life, or do you spend a lot of time telling yourself that things are not going so well?
Imagine a spectrum between an unshakable belief that you can do something and an immovable conviction that you can’t.
Ask yourself where you fall on this spectrum.
As we start to explore the implications of the language you use, think about small changes that might direct you towards a ‘can do’ attitude.
Make the most of the powerful voice that resides within you.
See you tomorrow