Self Talk

Years ago Dr Phil McGraw of the popular television show Dr Phil stated on his program that the most important aspect of a person’s life is how they talk to themselves inside their head.  It is more than the simple process of thinking, which can be remembering events, solving problems, making decisions, and a multitude of other thoughts, that goes on in our minds.

“Self Talk”, however, is the specific words we tell ourselves about our actions; most often to “judge” ourselves. If these words are continually negative, a person can develop, not only poor self-esteem, but out right depression.  It could affect relationships, quality of life, and success.  Negative self-talk can destroy our relationship with God.

So, how does one develop positive self-talk. Since it is a habit, the way to break negative self-talk and replace it with positive is difficult.  If you are a parent and have a child younger than seven years old, recommend doing what my Mother did.

My brother and I were fortunate to have two parents with two distinct characteristics that formed our lives. Our Father demonstrated an incredible work ethic.  Because of that we both have strong work habits.

Our Mother gave us positive self talk. The way she did it was (unless we were misbehaving which we did way too much) when we did anything (color, write, build blocks, draw pictures of things, etc.) she told us it was the best that could ever be done.  It was never, I did this action better than my brother, or better than my best friend, or better than a classmate.  No, it was always “the best that ever could be done”.

After you tell a child that for seven years, it becomes internalized. I felt (and still do) I could do anything very well.  Note, it is not arrogance for I did not then (nor do now) think I am better than anyone else.  I recognized then and now, there are many people who can do things better than I can.  However, I have this internal judgment that I can do things extremely well.

After sinning, making mistakes, having poor judgment, or making bad decisions, my “self talk” goes something like this:

“That was dumb of me … can’t believe I did that. But that is not me.  I don’t do things like that.  That is not who I am.  People will see the next time, I won’t do it that way … I’ll do it right.”

To develop positive self judgment, old habits must be broken and new ones formed. A Google search will bring up many ideas for how to do this, but I will provide a very effective one.

Identify a really negative way you judge yourself internally. As an example, suppose you think you always let your spouse down.  Write a positive sentence on a piece of paper, e.g., “I never let my spouse down”.  When the thought comes to mind that you know you will let your spouse down, read from the paper aloud (if possible) the positive sentence five times.  Then, close your eyes and imagine how good it will feel when the spouse praises you for not letting them down.  If possible, think back to a time when you did not let your spouse down and remember how good that made you feel.

This technique can actually work for replacing any bad habit with a good one.

The Bible puts it this way in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things”.