Talking to Yourself
Do you ever realize you’re talking to yourself? How often does it happen? What do you say?
Many years ago, one of my friends told me that whenever she was nervous or apprehensive about doing something, she’d say a simple phrase to herself, “Let’s go.” It was one she’d heard me say many times.
I was surprised she recalled this memory. At the time, I hadn’t realized I’d used it so frequently. I’m sure plenty of parents say “let’s go,” numerous times a day when corralling and directing their children. However, in her recollection, I used it about myself when I was not eager to do something uncomfortable or unpleasant. I was happy my apparent mantra was helpful for her. It also made me take another look at what we say to ourselves, both spoken out loud and within our thoughts.
Now I don’t know about you, but I was raised with the understanding that what you say to yourself matters. My family spent many hours listening to motivational tapes, lectures, and sermons about positive visualization and the power of positive thinking. Did I enjoy it as a kid? Not really. Did those seeds of truth make a place in my mind? Probably so.
Now that I’m older, I surround myself with motivational words. My family pokes fun of the signs I have in my home and office. They greet us with slogans, mantras, and more. Things like, “a positive mind finds opportunity in everything,” or “stay positive, work hard and make it happen.”
“I need them,” I tell my family. “I need them to remind me of what I forget in moments of frustration, disappointment, anger, and fear.”
It’s natural for us to forget. It’s natural to be caught up in a moment of exhaustion and flight and think that everyone has suddenly turned into insensitive, incompetent beings. In these types of moments, what do you say when you’re talking to yourself? Your self worth may not be as high as you’d like.
There are authors and researchers all over the world who have documented the importance of and the effectiveness of replacing negative thoughts with more positive and realistic thoughts. It’s what we therapists help clients work on during their sessions and what we write in treatment plans.
In the school settings we help children turn thoughts of “no one likes me” and “I’m terrible at everything” into “you are learning about making friends” and “everyone has strengths and weaknesses”. We repeat these new thoughts, we make little cue cards with these new thoughts, we tape them to desks as a visual cue. Not unlike the signs I have hanging in my house and office.
Some of the phrases that help me are:
“Work Hard, Have Fun, No Drama”
“This Too Shall Pass”
“Today Is a Good Day for a Good Day”
“Let it go”
“One Day at a Time”
“Today’s the Day”
And of course, how this story got started, “Let’s Go.”
So, it really does matter what you say when you are talking to yourself and it does require repeating. Our brain benefits from positive and realistic thoughts. So now that I’ve been vulnerable and shared that I talk to myself. Do you? Maybe it’s time to start! Find a few slogans or phrases that are helpful for you. As you use them, teach them to your children. They might roll their eyes at you as mine do, but I know that they are harboring some of these positive thoughts along the way. So, go ahead and start talking to yourself!
By Sara King, LCSW, School-Based Therapist at Wilkinson Elementary