The effect of that internal voice, of that constant chatter, has been researched and discussed in the past extensively. It is common knowledge that our self-talk has a great impact not just how we feel, but also on how we behave and perform. On a very high level, we distinguish self-talk into positive and negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is characterised by doubts, anxiety, notions of failure, and gloomy predictions. Even though this doesn’t strike us as very pleasant, we all have negative self-talk. That is just how our brains are hardwired and how biology has made us realise dangers and uncertainties.
On the other side of the coin is positive self-talk, which is of course much more desirable. It is characterised by feelings of self-compassion, a can-do attitude, and empathy for your past, current and future situation. Research has proven that positive self-talk can have a beneficial impact on our emotions. What you tell yourself about your capabilities and restrictions also greatly influences your behavior and boosts your performance. Top athletes even have a self-talk plan or strategy in place to make sure that their internal chatter is being utilised to the fullest for a positive outcome and is not hindering great performances.
But how is it that self-talk is so effective in boosting our performance? Even if we are not professional athletes and “only” think about our performance at work or even how well we “perform” as a happy individual? In general you can say that positive self-talk has two functions: it impacts your cognitive abilities and increases your motivation. That is also why there are two distinct types of self-talk:
- INSTRUCTIONAL / COGNITIVE
Research suggests that the two different types of self-talk have a different effect on task performance depending on the nature of the task. That also means that the two different types of self-talk serve different benefits. Those benefits can be listed as follows:
- Being able to learn new skills;
- Being able to evolve and develop;
- Being able to see what needs to be / have clarity;
- Being able to come up with strategy;
- Being able to concentrate as interfering thoughts are reduced.
- Being able to relax or hype yourself up in necessary;
- Being confident in abilities;
- Being mentally prepared as our attention is directed more effectively;
- Being able to control your effort;
- Being able to discard undesirable actions as anxiety is reduced.
But where to start with positive self-talk? If this is a new concept to you, then you might be a bit lost on the implementation and actionability of the concept. Here is a simple 3-step plan for you to benefit from the advantages of positive self-talk as described above:
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
First of all you need to identify your triggers. Those can be varied and individual so you need to be aware of your thought processes (consciously and unconsciously) to find the right cues. Negative self-talk often manifests itself as one of the following 4 patterns:
The Blame Game – whenever something goes wrong or not according to plan, you directly search for the cause within your own behavior or even your own being. Thoughts like “What have I done?” or “How could I have let that happen?” come up as naturally as breathing.
To the Extreme – you have a tendency to magnify the issues at hand and totally and utterly inflate the underlying problem. You are not only totally unable to see any positive aspects but also your sense of reason gets disturbed by your focus on the negative.
Worst Case Scenario – Going one step further, you not only judge actual present or past situations as much more severe as they actually are, but you also expect the worst from any upcoming event or situation.
50 shades of black and white – Even if things are not going wrong, you have a hard time identifying the grey area with certain issues. For you it’s either black or white, one of the extremes. Finding a nuanced view on challenges and especially on your contribution to them is hard for you.
Whenever you identify one or more of those negative self-talk patterns, you can choose to replace those thought patterns with positive one.
STEP 2: BE PREPARED
What can positive self-talk look like? If this is indeed a rather new concept, then maybe you want to get prepared with a list of affirmations that you can use whenever you realise you are in need of switching up your internal chatter. Here is a list to get you inspired:
I can keep myself safe.
I deserve love.
I am a good and loving person.
I can do it.
I can trust myself.
I am in control of my life.
I now have choices.
I have intelligence.
I am okay just the way I am.
I can get what I want.
You can find even more affirmations in our free intentional journaling guide which you can download via the following link:
STEP 3: FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
Whenever you are aware of negative self-talk, it can feel fake and strange to consciously counteract this critical voice with positive thoughts. And that is okay. Check in with your feelings and acknowledge them. Make sure to not start a war with your negative thoughts and feelings as I can guarantee you that you will lose it. Those feelings are there with a reason, to protect you from harm and to make sure you’re safe. Be grateful for them, recognise them, and then let them go. That way, you create mental head space for all the positive self-talk you want to introduce. And as said before. This will feel unfamiliar in the beginning but the more you practice and the more time and permission you give yourself to make this positive self-talk part of your daily thought pattern, the more that voice will feel like your own as well.
There you have it, our simple (but not easy) 3-step approach to implement more positive self-talk in your life. You will see that the benefits outweigh by far the struggle of actually switching from negative to positive chatter. But let’s be real, being able to fully embrace your affirmations and not feeling fake with the positivity towards yourself takes time. Be kind to yourself and don’t expect any changes overnight. A consistent change of your thinking patterns can take weeks and months and is nothing to take lightly. In the end however, it will be worth it for sure. Don’t forget to download our Intentional Journaling Guide for even more inspiration on the topic of affirmations: