Unhelpful thoughts are usually cruelly concise creatures that are easy to replay in your mind over and over and over: Everyone needs to love this. This needs to be perfect. I can’t do it. They’ll see right through me. He always gets it right. I should be able to handle all of this. It’s gonna tank. This type of negative self-talk will not lead you to a successful, happy, healthy life. And you deserve to live an excellent life you enjoy. The good news: you have the power to create it.
Transforming your self-talk starts with asking yourself one question: What am I telling myself? Sometimes you might not even realize you are engaging in self-sabotage. So it’s tremendously helpful to start raising your awareness about what kind of thoughts (also referred to as: self-talk, internal monologue) you are thinking.
Next, ask yourself: Is my current self-talk serving me? Basically, are you helping yourself move forward or are you telling yourself something that is needlessly amplifying your stress? How are your thoughts making you feel? If they are contributing to you feeling overwhelmed, stuck, or less confident than you’d like, time for some—new and improved self-talk.
So once you identify a thought that’s not helping you be your best—poke holes in it. Ask the important question: How is my unhelpful thought NOT NECESSARILY true? You can likely identify all the reasons why you think your thought is true, but it’s powerful when you pause and recognize that your unhelpful thought may just be based on an assumption (when you think: I know my speech won’t go well—when the event is still weeks away), or all-or-nothing thinking (when you tell yourself: But she’s perfect. Truth: no human is perfect), or other types of self-talk traps or inaccuracies. So look for the facts of the situation, the evidence, that show you that your thought is not 100% true.
Now you are ready to create new and improved self-talk. Thoughts that are truth-based and that will actually serve you. For example: I’m nervous about my speech and really want it to go well, but it’s still weeks away. I can’t know what will happen yet. All I can control right now is: work hard, prepare, practice, and do my best. These balanced thoughts will help improve motivation and focus—and overcome the energy-zapping effect of assumption-based, unhelpful self-talk.
So I encourage you, especially if you are working towards an important goal or anything you are really attached to what the outcome will be, it’s time for you to ask: What am I telling myself?
AWARENESS: How often do you stop and think about your self-talk? Have you been thinking any thoughts lately that may not be best serving you?
ACTION: Identify one thought that you are currently thinking or that you’ve been thinking recently that is not helping you. Now you know how to strengthen your self-talk and optimize your thinking for success. Use the three questions, recapped below, to help you poke holes in your unhelpful thought and generate some new and improved self-talk. You are worth it to think excellent thoughts and create an excellent life filled with happiness and success.
1. What am I telling myself?
2. Is my current self-talk serving me?
3. How is my unhelpful thought NOT NECESSARILY true?
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”—Marcus Aurelius
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.”—Buddha