Talking to Yourself
“I am so useless, I’ll never manage to lose weight”, “I’m stupid and pathetic” “I’m never going to be able to do that"
In my Hypnotherapy practice, I hear this sort of self talk from so many of my clients when they first come to see me. I always ask - “Would you talk to a six year old child the way you talk to yourself?". As you would expect, they are usually horrified and wouldn’t dream of being so rude to another human being.
So why do we do it to ourselves? It’s hardly motivating is it? Can you imagine telling another person that they will never ever achieve the thing they are striving for? Would that help them? Actually, for some people it could just work, that sense of “Well, I’ll show you” bloody mindedness kicks in and acts as a real motivator. What happens if we stumble along the way to that goal though? Does this re-enforce the notion that they were right all along and you will never reach get there?
When we do that negative self talk, what we are actually doing is strengthening the idea that we are the under achieving person we say we are, our minds begin to believe it. We can start to live up to that poor vision we have of ourselves.
Wouldn’t it be far more useful to encourage yourself? To make that self talk positive and progressive? At first this can seem a little bit odd, a bit too Pollyannaish perhaps, it can take some getting used to. I suggest to my clients that they use a check - “Would I talk to another person in the way I’m talking to myself? Would you be rude & patronizing to them - if you wouldn’t - and of course you wouldn’t - then don’t talk to yourself that way!
When we use encouraging and caring self talk, our minds start to believe it, we start to change our minds and believe we can do it. And you know, even if we start off not really accepting it, our minds start to question our thoughts. “Hang on a minute - I thought I couldn’t do that and now she’s saying I can”, we quickly start to act AS IF we really can.
Let me give you an example. I love swimming and have taken part in open water swimming events. When you’re an in open water race, you’re usually some way from the shore, you have to wear a swim hat for safety reasons and water deadens sound, water itself is also quite noisy when a mass of swimmer are racing and splashing about in it. So it is really quite unusual to be able to hear any cheering or encouragement from the spectators. It can also be quite scary when you’re in the middle of a lot of swimmers, bit like being in a washing machine I’d imagine! Head down in water, you can’t see the finish line that easily either. You’re on your own out there! Some excellent positive and encouraging Self Talk is vital to get me thorough a such swim. I like imagining I’m a dolphin, sleek and shiny, just cutting through the water. Dolphins always seem be smiling don't they, as I scythe through the water I imagine I have a smile too !
Last year I went to watch the Bournemouth Marathon, it was a glorious sunny October day, marvelous for us spectators on the beach, not such good conditions for the runners! I was on the beachfront just before the 26 mile point, almost the end of the race, and very close to the runners. I've never run a marathon, but I was really struck (and a little envious) at how the runners reacted to the crowds. The winner of the mens race was incredibly focused, it was as if the crowd weren’t even there, the following runners came past in various stages of freshness! Some looked in agony, there were some jesters, joking they were looking forward to going round again, others were running comfortably and a lot running with gritted teeth!
Runners often have their name of their vests and we called out to them “ Well done Lee, Adam, Bert, Sue....” they all reacted and gave some recognition, a thumbs up, a grim smile. Some speeded up, others who had started to walk begun to run again. It was fantastic to feel you’d helped them.
From where I was standing, I could also hear what the runners were saying to themselves out loud. Without exception, their self talk was positive, progressive and encouraging - some language not quite what you’d want a six year old to hear, what ever gets you through! No-one was saying they were useless and weren’t going to make it, no-one said they were pathetic to have to walk. They all urged themselves to keep going, nearly there, the finish is nearer than I thought....It was fantastic to see and hear. Wonderful to see how much they appreciated the encouragement from the crowd.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that same positive and progressive self talk yourself. To give yourself the same encouragement. You don’t need to be taking part in a race, self talk is for anything and anywhere. It’s really quite easy.
Apply the Six year old test! Would I talk to a six year old that way? Am I being encouraging, realistic?
Ask - ‘What is my mind is hearing?” ‘What can I say that will be more beneficial”
Give it a go, I’m certain you’ll find it useful.