The Power of Self-Talk


Have you ever realized you were talking to yourself and then abruptly put a stop to it so the people around you didn’t think you were losing your mind?  Apparently, most people engage in this kind of self-talk.  Some people talk to themselves out loud, causing others to raise an eyebrow and cross to the other side of the street; some people talk to themselves silently and no one else is the wiser.

Whether it’s under your breath or aloud, you can positively affect your mood and behavior with self-talk, but HOW you do it is key.  Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal says there are two types of helpful self-talk:

  • Motivational– pumping yourself up before a stressful task or encouraging yourself to complete a task, such as saying, “Come on!  You can do this.”
  • Instructional– talking yourself through a task, step-by-step so that it becomes ingrained, such as a golfer talking through each component of their swing (“eye on the ball, head down, etc”).

Some tips for constructive self-talk:

  • Keep it short and precise.
  • Be consistent- do it regularly so it becomes automatic.
  • Use third person language instead of first person- addressing yourself by your name or “you” instead of “I” helps you be more kind to yourself, kind of like taking on the perspective of a good friend.
  • Don’t be too confident- Being too confident may cause you to under-prepare or not take something seriously enough.  Instead, say something like, “You worked really hard to get ready for this sermon.  You can do this!”
  • Don’t be too critical- Being too critical may cause a cycle of shame and perceived failure.  Instead, focus on maybe what didn’t go so well and how you might fix it in the future.

To read the whole article and see some illustrated examples of constructive self-talk, click here.

Click here to read The Science of Self-Talk

-Katie Huffman

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About Katie Huffman

Katie is a Wellness Advocate with the Clergy Health Initiative. She has an undergraduate degree in History and French and a Masters degree in Gerontology; prior to her current position, Katie worked as a social worker in a retirement community in Chapel Hill. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors, baking, and hanging out with her husband, Noah, their daughter, Ada, and two kitties, Grady and Gracie.

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