Words Matter: The Power of Practicing Positive Self-Talk

One of the very first lessons we learn as children is that “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  And we get this.  We take this with us into adulthood as we continuously try to treat others kindly, respectfully, and empathetically.  Everyone except for ourselves, that is.  When it comes to the way we speak to ourselves, we often fall far short of kindness.  In fact, most of us are pretty darn mean to ourselves.  Negative self-talk is a true barrier to happiness.  Happiness is built on a foundation of self-love, and self-love requires us to develop healthy, positive, and productive communication--not only with others, but with ourselves.  Basically, words matter.

Let’s start by identifying and understanding our negative self-talk.  It is simply this: that nagging little voice in your head that tells you “you’re so dumb,” when you make a mistake, or “this is too hard, I can’t do it,” or “ugh, you look so fat today.”  For some reason, adults seem to be hard-wired to talk to ourselves this way.  We strive to be our best, and when we inevitably fall short sometimes we rarely do so with grace.  We beat ourselves up over mistakes when we should be learning from them.  We blame our perceived inadequacies when we should be relying on our strengths.  So we must understand that negative self-talk not only hinders happiness, but growth as well.  

So how do we fix it?  The simple answer is, practice.  We have to make it a daily practice to reframe our negative thoughts.  We can start by creating awareness.  We need to be aware of our toxic self-talk before we can begin to replace it with positive self-talk; journaling is a great way to help identify and understand patterns of negative self-talk.  Next, we can work on reframing our thoughts.  We need to substitute the negative messages and words for positive and empowering affirmations.  Here are a few examples:

  • Negative: I’m terrible at this / Positive: I’ve never done this before, and challenges help me grow
  • Negative: this is too hard / Positive: I am still learning how to do this and I believe in my capabilities
  • Negative: I’m a failure / Positive: this didn’t work so I’ll have to try another way
  • Negative: I’m a mess / Positive: I showed up today

We can’t stop at just reframing our negative thoughts, though.  We need to consistently practice positive self-talk, too.  In other words, make it a daily habit to compliment yourself--you deserve it, by the way.  Here are few examples:

  • I get better every single day
  • There is no one better to be than myself
  • I am perfect just the way I am
  • I have people who love and respect me
  • I am capable of so much
  • I believe in myself
  • I deserve love and happiness
  • I can do anything

Consider this-- the way you talk to yourself creates your reality.  What you say and how you say it is bound to manifest itself; the Universe hears everything your mind says.  Self-talk can completely shape your life.  So yeah, words really matter.  Here’s your challenge:  the next time you speak to yourself, if you don’t have something nice to say...think harder until you do!  To quote the inimitable Brene Brown, “talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”