My mother always says, “Don’t put yourself down. The world will do a very good job of this without your help.” Unfortunately, she is right. The voices and images we encounter each day can make us feel inadequate.

Frequently I hear clients say things like, “I’m never going to get this place in order!” or, “I’m so scattered, I can’t remember anything.” The truth is, if you tell yourself that you are incompetent or unable, you are sabotaging your success.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about accurately assessing our limitations. I could tell myself that I’m going to be a star in the WNBA, but at 5’3”, this is highly unlikely. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these actually facilitates good decision-making. In contrast, sometimes we have the tendency to automatically shift into unwarranted self-criticism. Perhaps we believe that because we struggled with something in the past, we will be unable to succeed in the future. Or, we compare our current circumstances to someone else’s and decide that we simply don’t – and won’t ever – measure up.

The good news is, the one voice we listen to more than any other is our own, and this one we can actually work on. The messages we allow to repeat in our minds are largely habitual, and habits can be changed. If you believe you may have fallen into a pattern of putting yourself down, consider making a concerted effort to change the way you talk to and about yourself.

Here are some phrases to write down, post in a visible place, and internalize:

✓ I am capable

Think you can’t get through the day? I bet you’ve had that feeling before, and yet, here you are! When you are tempted to quit, remind yourself that you have made it through rough patches before, and you will again.

✓ I can achieve my goals

Many tasks look impossible from a distance, but once you start, it gets easier and easier. Identify a bite-sized step, and celebrate having taken it. If you encounter a hurdle, set a new, more realistic goal. There are multiple paths to a final destination.

✓ I will begin right now

Waiting to “feel” ready is often a procrastination technique. Don’t let this be an excuse.

✓ I make good decisions

Most people make hundreds of decisions every day. Don’t allow the fact that you wrestle with a few tough ones, or have made a few bad ones, to cause you to doubt your abilities. Learn from any mistakes, apply this new wisdom, and move on.

✓ I don’t have to do everything myself

Asking for help (or hiring it, when necessary) is not a weakness. Successful people know how to employ external resources in a way that allows them to be their best.

✓ I can start fresh

We all have lousy days. Sometimes we make mistakes. But we shouldn’t waste time bemoaning the past, and we certainly shouldn’t project a previous experience onto the rest of our lives. Learn what you can, make reparations if necessary, and move on.

*     *     *     *     *

Life is too precious to spend it under a cloud of self-denigrating thoughts. What positive affirmations do you replay to yourself?

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33 thoughts on “Self-Talk”

  1. Thank you for remind us the self-talk as a powerful tool to achieve our goals. As you said, our own voice is stronger than the others so we need to make sure it says things that lift up our confidence, our strength, our mood.
    Great post Seana.
    Nacho Eguiarte recently posted…Tips De OrganizaciónMy Profile

  2. When I find myself unfavorably comparing myself to others, I remind myself that things aren’t always what they seem. Someone might appear to be more successful or better at something simply because they’re better at tooting their own horn, or they may have had help accomplishing what they have.
    Janet Barclay recently posted…Will I see you at the POC Conference?My Profile

    1. Excellent perspective, Janet. We really never know another person’s story, and that is why it is “dangerous” to compare our internal struggles with someone else’s public persona!

    1. I so agree, Nina. What a fun though to hold onto. I recently heard that very point from a girl who became a camp counselor, after attending for many years. She explained that all the times the counselors had seemed in control, they really were just figuring it out behind the scenes. Great to remember this!

  3. I use that saying a lot about how we can do anything we want, but I probably won’t play in the NBA! Sorry, tangent. I loved that.
    It’s amazing how much my self-talk dictates my actions, and NOT always for the better. No way.
    I love positive affirmations and positive self-talk.
    Tamara recently posted…Teaching a Love For Giving Back.My Profile

    1. I can see the damage that negative self-talk has done in my own life, and in the lives of those I love. We really can’t afford to be our own enemy!

    1. It is a good question – we do seem quick to put ourselves down. And the habit isn’t harmless… it actually does damage. In contrast, telling ourselves that we are capable, sufficient, strong, and up to the task can work a wonder!

  4. I love your last point about starting fresh. It reminds me of that saying, “It’s just a bad day, not a bad life!” I needed these reminders this week. Thanks for the boost! 🙂

    1. I love that quote about a bad day as well, Sarah. We all have them, and it is tempting to catastrophize them on a large scale. But this only makes things worse. Glad these few words delivered a boost!

    1. Hang in there, Gingi. A low time can zap our energy, but usually things do turn around, so always be hopeful!! Wishing you a better day today:)

  5. Excellent motivating post for us all Seana! I’m doing exactly what you suggest about I will being right now on all of the things I’ve been putting off or waiting for the right time for. 🙂

  6. Great advice Seana! I just listened to a podcast on this very same topic and when I’m feeling overwhelmed and self sabotaging myself with negative self-talk I’ve started to write out what I’m feeling and the listing what the truth is. Our thoughts create our actions. Cheers to more positive thoughts!
    dawn@joyfulscribblings recently posted…My One and Only Glow From RunningMy Profile

    1. That’s a terrific idea, Dawn, because so often our self-talk just isn’t based in truth. We listen to the lies and often start believing them. Anything we can do to keep ourselves in a positive state of mind and moving forward is worth the effort:)

  7. Truly self talk is one of the most powerful ways to be successful. No matter the challenge, give yourself the perspective that you more than capable of the task with a little help, a little skill and a little tenacity.

  8. Truly self talk is one of the most powerful ways to be successful. No matter the challenge, give yourself the perspective that you more than capable of the task with a little help, a little skill and a little tenacity.

  9. I’ve been experimenting with affirmations also and I think it’s something I definitely need. I get stuck in old patterns – like if something didn’t work last time and the time before, it’s hard to believe it will work for me in the future. It’s a very pervasive problem in many areas of my life. The thing I was wondering is if you have several different issues you want to work on – say weight loss, being a better parent, and getting out of debt, should you pick just one to work on for a period of time and only say those affirmations or should you say a variety of them related to each different issue? I’m interested to know what you think.
    adrian recently posted…How to Get Your Family to HELP With HouseworkMy Profile

    1. If you have several areas to work on, the self-talk needs to be positive about who you are, your worth, your value, the fact that you can improve, that there is hope, etc. At the same time, I think it is rough to try and “fix” too many areas at once. I would extend grace to myself in all things, and focus on one area at time to execute change. Also, I always focus on starting new habits, not “breaking” old ones. If you just try and stop something, there is a void. Rather, put something new in place, and affirm yourself when you stick to the plan. Just a few thoughts off the top of my head:)

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