Self-talk is the way we speak to and about ourselves. Research has shown us just how influential our self-talk can be on our overall confidence, mental health and respect we give and receive. When we speak highly of ourselves, whether in public or in private, we are harvesting good thoughts and positive messages to our brains.
If you’re anything like me, reducing negative self-talk may be a daily challenge. Learning to speak kindly to yourself and harnessing self-compassion can feel less than automatic to put it lightly. It’s time we start living in a state of self-love and confidence and stop letting our worst critics (ourselves) get the best of us. Let’s talk about five ways you can begin practicing positive self-talk, starting today!
1. Practice Daily Affirmations
A daily affirmation can look like anything from standing in front of the mirror and reciting the same mantra every day, to giving yourself a pep-talk before completing day-to-day tasks. I’ve found it most effective to pick a few things that I currently need to work on the most and talk to myself out loud to reinforce the positive aspects about myself. These can change and grow as you do over time, and they may even differ day-to-day.
You may feel silly at first, and trust me, I was skeptical too, but it’s pretty miraculous to see how much our brains internalize the things we say. You could consider this a “fake it till you make it” kind of technique, but it’s also a “say it until you believe it” strategy as well. You are capable of shifting your own thoughts, and for many, this is the first step in doing so. For anyone wondering, here’s what my current daily affirmation sounds like:
“You are beautiful, you are loved, you are intelligent, you are capable and you don’t exist to be sexy for men.”
It’s quick, simple, and effective. I repeat this as many times as I need to per day.
2. Speak Highly of Yourself Around Others
One of the biggest shifts in my confidence began when I stopped self-deprecating in front of others. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely someone who copes through humor, but even those self-demeaning jokes have to go. Just like I mentioned in our first tip, the things you say out loud will be internalized whether you like it or not.
Instead of saying “I’m so stupid” (whether it’s a joke or serious statement) try something like “looks like I made a mistake” or “wow, I’m just feeling a little flustered today!” This takes the blame off of yourself, and rather than declaring this a character flaw, you’re allowing yourself to recognize the part that other factors could play in the situation as well.
When we continue to tell ourselves that we’re stupid, incapable, lazy, rude or anything else on that mean list of traits that we add to every day, we will begin to believe it and act accordingly. Give yourself more credit than you think you deserve, and you’ll start realizing that you actually do deserve the credit.
3. Congratulate Yourself
Why is it so easy to immediately berate ourselves when we do something wrong, but not to recognize and celebrate small victories? It almost makes sense that we can be so mean to ourselves. Next time you accomplish anything, even just finishing a test or project you’ve been stressed about or completing a daily task/chore, say “good job!” to yourself right out loud. Hearing this from ourselves means just as much to us as hearing it from someone we love. After finishing a hard assignment, difficult workout or task I’ve been putting off for a while, I like to give myself a little high-five or pat on the back.
Once you start doing this, you’ll be surprised just how proud you feel about yourself, and how likely you are to be nicer to yourself when things don’t go so well. When you actually recognize all of the difficult and amazing things you accomplish every day, the mistakes you make won’t seem so glaring. Start recognizing how far you’ve come, because trust me, it’s more impressive than you think!
4. Practice Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is exactly what it sounds like — being nice to yourself! When someone else makes a mistake, we often forgive them quickly and chalk it up to their human-ness. So why do we expect ourselves to be so perfect? I’m guilty of over-analyzing my mistakes and beating myself up over every little imperfection; however, when I take the time to forgive myself, I am practicing self-compassion. Sometimes, we have to tell ourselves that mistakes are inevitable, and they’re OKAY to make.
Some people think that having self-compassion allows us to ignore our mistakes and not grow from them. However, studies have shown that we actually respond better to self-compassion tactics than harsh self-criticism. The most successful people allow themselves to make mistakes and see them as opportunities for our brains and capabilities to grow. We will always be able to recognize our own shortcomings, but it’s the way that we respond to them that makes a difference going forward.
5. Correct Others When Using Negative Self-Talk
Once you begin attacking your own negative self-talk, you begin to observe its presence in others. There’s nothing worse than hearing someone you love or admire talk down to themselves, so don’t be afraid to interject and kindly correct them. If you hear someone say something like “I’m so dumb” or “I’m so lazy,” say the same things that you strive to tell yourself: “you’re not dumb, we all have off days!” or “don’t say that about yourself, you’re always so productive in my eyes!” Helping others correct this negative behavior in themselves can not only serve as a model for them but also provide you with confidence in continuing to implement this in your own life.
Correcting this negative talk also applies to others talking about you or someone else. It’s okay to stand up for yourself and flip their statement from sounding like a character flaw to an extenuating circumstance. Once you begin this journey of positive self-talk, you won’t stand for demeaning comments from or about someone else.
Begin observing the way you speak to yourself on a daily basis, and also how others talk to themselves. You might not even realize how quick we are to put ourselves down, and this often stems from a broken or torn relationship with the self. We are works in progress until the day we die, so you’re not going to change your habits and confidence overnight; however, these five tips can be your first steps in harvesting a healthier relationship with yourself.
Positive self-talk starts with literal, physical self-talk. The way we speak to and about ourselves can make a large impact quickly. You may just begin noticing a boost in confidence after trying these techniques, and who knows, you might learn a little something about yourself in the process!