What’s Our Self-Talk Saying About Us?

Living Well

I locked my keys in the car one day, with the motor running. It’s not something you want to run around telling everyone, but it’s also not something you can solve by yourself. It happened in a strip-mall parking lot, so I decided to ask for help in the stores, while trying to appear as though this wasn’t a dumb thing I’d done, at the same time that the gas was running out.

The media outlet looked hopeful, so I ran in and asked whether anyone could open a locked car. One of the staff disappeared to the back, and an elderly man came out and followed me to my car. He didn’t say a word, not even to comment on the engine running. In a flash, he pulled a long skinny piece of metal out of his pants, stuck it down the side of the window, and pop! the car door was open. I was so happy, I threw my arms around him and gave him money.

The piece of metal had already disappeared, and he told me not to tell anyone. Clearly, what this old guy had done was sketchy. But neither of us said a word about the other’s actions. I didn’t condemn him for possibly doing something illegal. And he didn’t judge me for possibly being stupid.

There’s no way to get through life getting everything right. We all do goofy stuff. And most important is to stay supportive of ourselves, no matter what.

We believe everything we tell ourselves.

For most of us, there’s a self-talk debate going on inside our heads between the part of us that thinks, “I can save the world!” and the other part that says, “Don’t be ridiculous!”  The first statement sounds like a spontaneous, adventurous child who thinks only in possibilities, and is sometimes reckless. The second sounds like a concerned, protective parent who is trying to maintain control, and is sometimes censoring and punishing.

This nonstop conversation affects everything in our lives and constantly shows us what we believe about ourselves. If it’s positive, it can work well for us. But if it’s negative, it will beat us up. So getting these two to cooperate is the key to positive self-talk.

Parent and child have to play nice.

If our inner child is undisciplined and reckless, and our inner parent is authoritative and critical, our daily lives will reflect the conflict. But if our child is happy and playful, and our parent is responsible and kind, it can serve us well.

One way to manage our self-talk is to identity our unsupportive beliefs – and then to positively reword them into statements that are supportive and believable. Most important is to amplify the self-appreciating statements we’re already telling ourselves, because the more we repeat them, the more benefit we’ll receive.

We’re all capable of replacing negative thoughts with healthy ones. And we need to tell ourselves what confirms our value, and nothing that doesn’t.

We need to like ourselves.

One of my friends was a camp counselor as a teenager. One evening at a campsite, when she was the lone staff member overseeing a dozen young girls, she couldn’t keep the fire going to cook the meal. So she gave up and sent the girls to bed early with candy bars. The next day, feeling ashamed, she went to her supervisor to explain, expecting to be fired for being a failure, especially for handing out junk food. Instead, he said, “What a wonderful story! You’ll tell that story the rest of your life!” And then he added, “When those things happen, you just have to like yourself anyway.”

Supportive self-talk is a cooperative fusion between the positive aspects of our inner parent and inner child: wisdom, responsibility, assurance and safe boundaries, combined with curiosity, creativity, spontaneity and self-love.

Positive self-talk isn’t just motivational affirmations stuck on the bathroom mirror. It’s a healthy lifestyle that shows we care about ourselves 24/7, by consciously choosing which aspect of our self-talk we’ll allow the most broadcasting time each day.

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Pic by Mike Ricioppo
@riciloco

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Author, Blogger, Contributor to Thrive Global, The Good Men Project and HuffPost