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Like most people, self-deprecating talk/humor is and has always been a form of coping mechanism for me, as a way to mask my own feelings of inadequacy. I cannot count the number of times where I called myself stupid or joked about myself being stupid whenever I feel embarassed about my inability to do something. Such talk allows me to point out my own flaws before others do and in turn gives me a sense of control. In essence, it has become my security blanket, one that is so second nature that I did not realise how often I talk negatively about myself. It was only when I was having a heart-to-heart talk with my close friends that they pointed out to me this bad habit of mine. 

It is common for most of us to have self-deprecating views and talk negatively about ourselves, but we need to realise how powerful words are and how such self-talk can impact us negatively. Just imagine if someone were to constantly criticise and verbally attack  us  — I am sure most of you will agree that it will have a huge impact on our confidence and how we view ourselves. Over time, we will believe that the negative terms that we use to describe ourselves are true. Admittedly, it is not easy to break this cycle of negativity, but we need to try to practice positive self-talk. 

When we talk about positive self-talk, what comes to mind are the motivational quotes that can be easily found on the internet. For many of us, we may scroll through such words or quotes without much thought or even sparing them a glance. However, positive self-talk goes beyond being Instagram-worthy. Such positive words can play a huge role psychologically. They are essential in building and maintaining one’s confidence and self-worth. Moreover, positive self-talk does not mean that we view ourselves as perfect beings who breeze through life without making mistakes or having any hiccups. Rather, it is an indication of our ability to bring ourselves up even though we are flawed. For example:

“I have indeed done my best, despite not meeting my expectations”

“I will work harder and smarter”

“I may be lacking in certain areas, but I can bring … to the table”

“I will improve on my flaws”

“I am enough”

There is no one way to talk positively about yourself; given that everyone leads different lives, positive self-talk looks different for everyone. What is important is that we try to do it consistently. As mentioned, it is not easy to change the way we talk about ourselves, especially when it has become a habit and coping mechanism for us. Negative talk can also be an indication of deeper issues and even childhood trauma. In this case it would be best to seek professional help (and if you need to, there is no shame). Remember this journey to talk more positively about yourself means that you will have to unlearn years of habits of thinking, so do not expect such change to happen overnight, and nor should you feel frustrated if you relapse from time to time. Ultimately what matters is that you are to take steps to talk about yourself more positively, and be your own cheerleader.

Lee Ann Foo

Nanyang Tech '22

A Year 4 English Literature and Art History student, Lee Ann relies on black coffee as well as listening to crime podcasts to finish assignments. On a really bad day, she can drink up to 4 cups of iced black coffee.
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